It's been more than one year with our Passat 3.6 4Motion and is now past due to bid her goodbye. Volkswagen was kind enough to let us keep the car until our latest VW steed, the '08 Jetta TDI, arrived in our stables-and then some. Believe me, we weren't pushing the issue. The Passat is, holistically, one of the best cars we've seen roll through here.
Honestly. It does everything well, a brilliant multi-tasker. First, speed. A big V6 means big power. Not full-blown sport sedan power, mind you, but definitely more than adequate. Pair that with the luxury of 4Motion all-wheel drive and you've got one deceptively fast automobile. Power goes down smoothly and efficiently every time you drop lead on the accelerator. The downside to this practice is, of course, somewhat lackluster fuel economy. Keep your foot hard in it and the 3.6-liter mill will drink petrol heavily. Then again, driven with restraint the Passat can return economy figures in excess of 25 mpg highway, not bad considering when you do put the hammer down you're seeing just 20 horses shy of an honest 300hp peak, and all of 265 lb-ft of torque. That's a lot of torque, no mistake.
The Passat also holds its own in the corners. Here once again is where you really come to appreciate 4Motion. The big sedan stays relatively flat even on long, sweeping bends, your local freeway onramp perhaps, and with all four tires digging into the pavement it holds the road aggressively even on tighter, back-and-forth mountain sections. The steering is decent, maybe a bit detached at low speeds, but tightens up nicely the faster you get moving.
Next, utility. This is a deceptively big car, with all the benefits that go with big cars. It will fit five people easily, comfortably. There's even room for your knees in the back seat. The trunk is cavernous, so much so that I frequently found myself simply using the rear-seat footwells for my groceries during my solo bachelor trips to the supermarket. It seemed a shame to waste all that open space.
And the car is comfortable. In its time with the magazine it's been back and forth from the Bay Area, Las Vegas, and the California high desert in all manner of weather conditions, barring tornadoes or ice storms. We opted for the "Package 1 Sport" option bundle. At $4,030 it isn't what you'd label cheap, but does include a lengthy list of amenities: leather-wrapped sport seats, a multi-function three-spoke steering wheel, brushed aluminum trim, rear window shades, sport suspension-which also helps in the corners-and 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season rubber that actually seemed quite grippy. My one gripe with the sport package is with the long aluminum strip running the length of the dash-pretty, but prone to blinding the driver depending on how the sun strikes it. The six-speed Tiptronic R automatic transmission came at no charge, and the aforementioned sport steering wheel includes integrated paddle shifters for do-it-yourself gear selection. While not as snappy as a true dual-clutch gearbox like the DSG, it's reasonably responsive so that manual gear selection can be real option on hooliganistic excursions like the odd canyon run. And the opportunity to easily shift the gears on your own is always a welcome option, regardless of what car we're speaking of.
Last, looks. This Passat looks pretty darn hot, even if we say so ourselves. Black paint was something of a leap of faith when we ordered the vehicle, but the Passat wears it well. The baller look, though, is mostly due to the dealer-installed Hi-Def body kit we were offered when we took delivery. While the factory-issue panels leave the standard Passat looking a little, hmm, shall we say boring, the Hi-Def panels add an ideal amount of visual tension. The rear bumper interfaces with a new rear exhaust section that also adds a distinct yet subtle element of aggression. During our stewardship with the car, more than one person approached us to find out exactly what kind of car, nevermind VW, they were looking at.
Possibly the biggest downside for this Passat as equipped was a rather hefty price tag. All told, including the sport pack ($4,030), bi-xenon lamps ($950), rear side airbag supplemental restraints ($350), navigation with iPod adapter ($1,800), the body kit ($4,600), and destination ($640), this example rings the bell at $44,500 compared with the starting MSRP of $32,130. A little heavy maybe, considering you can buy a base Passat (albeit with a four-cylinder and front-drive) in the low 20s. But considering the breadth of options present on ours, it still seems a pretty good bargain, particularly when you start comparing a like-equipped Mercedes E-Class or BMW 5 Series. We'll be missing it, no mistake.
At A Glance
+ More than adequate power, solid build, a plethora of options for a reasonable price
Aluminum dash trim tends to catch the sun and throw it in your face
Total mileage: 22,565
Fuel economy: 21.6 mpg