When you think German luxury sports sedan, you usually think BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi --
and a big buck sticker price. Volkswagen offers a more affordable choice, the Passat. For
starters, the Passat shares its chassis and powertrain with the highly acclaimed Audi A4,
but costs about $5000 less. The Passat is a bit larger than the Audi both inside and
The first thing that
strikes you is the Passat's unique styling. Many will like it; others may find its lines a
bit too radical for their tastes. However, the aerodynamically efficient design results in
an impressive drag coefficient of only 0.27 and very low wind noise even at high speeds.
The Passat comes in three
versions, the GLS, GLS V6 and GLX V6. Both GLS versions come as a four-door sedan or
station wagon. The GLX V6 comes only in four-door sedan. The GLX V6 and GLS V6 wagon
feature Volkswagen's syncro all-wheel drive as standard fare with syncro optional on the
GLS V6 sedan. Note that syncro models are to be introduced later in the 1999, but should
appear in dealers' showrooms soon.
The four-cylinder engine's
specifications include a displacement of 1.8 liters, a dual overhead camshaft,
5-valves-per-cylinder and an intercooled turbocharger. The engine produces 150-horsepower
at 5700 rpm and 155 ft-lbs. of torque at 4600 rpm. The 2.8 liter V6 also has a DOHC and
5-valves-per-cylinder. Output is 190-horsepower at 6000 rpm and 206 ft-lb. at 3200 rpm.
Two transmissions are
offered, but not on all models. Four-cylinder GLS and the GLS V6 sedan come with a 5-speed
manual and a 5-automatic optional. The five-speed automatic features Porsche-developed
Tiptronic, the same transmission found on Audis and Porsches that cost at least three
times as much. Tiptronic can either be operated either as normal automatic or can be
shifted manually, though there is no clutch. The GLS V6 wagon and GLX V6 come only with
Tiptronic and syncro.
four-wheel disk brakes and traction control are standard equipment on all models. This is
the first Volkswagen to feature side airbags, which are installed on the outboard side of
the front seats.
The Passat's interior is
cavernous and classed as a mid-sized sedan. There is lots of headroom and legroom for all
five adult passengers, especially those in the rear. The trunk has a very large 15 cubic
foot capacity and there is a 60/40 folding rear seat for even more carrying capacity.
I was able to test a GLS V6
sedan with a 5-speed, probably the "most fun to drive" of the lot. On the road,
the Passat's handling was definitely up to expected German sport sedan standards. Engine
performance was outstanding. Handling was taut and firm without any compromising of ride
quality, a tribute to the rather sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension system it
also shares with the Audi. The five-speed manual shifted with snick-snick precision. I
have also tested an Audi A4 with Tiptronic and found it gave the best of both worlds -
smooth, automatic shifting for stop-and-go traffic conditions and fun shifting when you
want to do some "serious" driving.
Prices for the GLS sedan
start at $21,700 and $22.250 for the station wagon version. Even the base Passat comes
with lots of standard features. These include air-conditioning, power windows and door
locks, keyless entry, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, alarm system and a
premium AM/FM cassette stereo with CD capability. About the only major options are a
sunroof, trunk-located CD-changer and leather upholstery. The GLS V6 I tested stickered
out at $25,000 and included a sunroof and heated seats.
The Passat also lives up to
its German heritage with its efficient, but somewhat spartan interior. Of special note are
the plastic components that do not look like they are made of plastic. There is full
analog instrumentation and both the climate control and radio have very easy to use
Like all Volkswagens, the
Passat comes with an excellent warranty which includes a 10-years/100,000 miles limited
powertrain warranty and a 12 year warranty against corrosion without any mileage
If you don't need the
"image" of driving a Bimmer or a Benz, take a closer look at the Passat. You
will be pleasantly surprised. By Bill Siuru © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: By Bill Siuru © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: Affordable German Autobahnsturmer
Topic: Volkswagen Sport Sedans
Word Count: 703
Photo Caption: '99 Volkswagen Passat Sports Sedan
Photo Credits: VW Public Relations
Series #: 1999 - 12