There is no question about it: Family sedans make up a huge portion of automobile sales in the U. S. Unlike smaller economy cars, sedans can easily accomodate up to five people in comfort without compromising fuel efficiency as the larger Sport Utility Vehicles have been known to do. I purchased a brand new Volkswagen Passat in May, 2007 and thought I’d share some insight on my ownership experience.
As the Overview to this piece suggests, the Passat is quite often overlooked when the time arrives for families to replace their aging cars. Volkswagen’s flagship model sits in the shadow of Honda’s Accord and Toyota’s Camry. This is really quite a shame, and this author is here to tell you that the Passat is an excellent alternative to these other popular makes. The discerning car buyer out there may not know it, but this model has been around for over thirty years; albeit a couple of name changes. In the 1970’s, it was known as the Dasher and was one of Volkswagen’s first water-cooled, front-engine offerings. In the 1980’s it was called the Quantum. Since the early 1990’s, it has carried the Passat badge as it has in Europe since its inception in 1974. The latest upgrade to this model occurred in 2006 for the U.S.market and remains in production today in 2008.
While the Accords and Camrys out there have proven themselves to be worthy family sedan choices, the Passat is far more fun to drive. The characteristic European handling and road manners make its Japanese counterparts seem stoic by comparison. If you get a chance to talk to one who prefers cars made and designed in Europe, you will indeed be likely told that Asian cars serve as reliable appliances that will take you from Point A to Point B. One cannot deny the exemplary dependability of Asian cars; most notably those from Japan, but at the same time I would like to stress that the typically poorer reliability reports of European makes in publications such as Consumer Reports and J.D. Powers are grossly exaggerated. American drivers are extremely nitpicky over minor issues such as cupholder placement, light bulbs that burn out, or ever-so-slight onboard computer glitches that rarely have anything to do with the vehicle becoming immobile, and thus stranding one miles from nowhere. Indeed, if you were to travel across the Pond, the reviews of European makes are quite different.
For starters, European cars are built with far superior sheetmetal. As a result, a much longer span of time will pass before they begin to rust. In the part of the country where I live, we experience about 6-7 months of winter weather annually. This is a big selling point when the time comes for me to shop for cars. I can confidently say from experience; anecdotal or not, that Asian and Domestic cars will rust a lot faster if you happen to live anywhere north of, say, Kansas. In fact, Volkswagen and Audi have the best Corrosion warranty in the business: 12 years and unlimited mileage.
The Passat currently has 2 engine choices; a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 3.6 liter V6. For 2009, the V6 will be dropped. This is nothing to cry about, for the 2.0T, as it’s called, provides more than adequate power. When you punch the accelerator, the torque will pull you back into your seat as if you’re driving an 8-cylinder muscle car. Transmission choices are a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic with a manual mode. The automatics make up over 90% of Passats that you will see on a lot. I would have preferred a manual, but they are very difficult to find. No matter. The automatic shifts very smoothly, and once you’ve reached cruising speed, the tachometer will rest in the 2000 RPM range; unlike many 4-cylinder cars whose engines scream for mercy once the speedometer reaches 70-75 mph.
There are 2 minor issues I’ve had with my 2007 Passat. I had the entire power window control board replaced under warranty because the left rear side would not function although the control from the rear seat continued to do so. Also, at times, my key is difficult to remove from the ignition slot. But I think as a German does and these issues are quite insignificant in the big picture. Let me put it another way: If given the choice, would you rather buy a car that will easily go 250,000 miles with a occasional small glitch or a completely trouble-free car that will either be shot or rusted out before you attain half of that mileage?
If you answer this as I do, pay a visit to your nearest Volkswagen dealership. You won’t be disappointed.