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2006 Volkswagen Passat

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San Francisco: Volkswagen has been hurting lately, and it's not because their cars aren't good. Until this model year, they were just old. The last Passat debuted in 1997 as a 1998 model, so it was overdue for a redo. And that's what VW has done, and brilliantly I would say.

The new Passat looks completely different inside and out, but it has the same quality that made it a favorite of midsize sedan buyers who wanted something more than Toyota or Honda could provide. It's fun to drive, and provides the German engineering and road presence that the sedans from Audi, Mercedes, and BMW offer, but at a more affordable price.

While the previous generation car had a clean, straightforward look, the new Volkswagen design language calls for more art. The nose carries VW's chrome goatee, part of a growing design trend throughout the industry now. Character lines in the hood follow down, across the bumper, with a bold VW logo floating in the main grille trapezoid. The wavy shape of the clear headlight units reveals a pupil like lamp inside staring forward. The roofline rises up and falls back gently, as in the old model, while the rear door glass cuts back in the style of a BMW. The taillamps echo the pupil-in-the-eye look of the headlamps, set into a contemporary tucked-in trunk lid.

The Passat is bigger than its predecessor. The wheelbase increases by just a fraction of an inch, but the car is three inches longer and three inches wider than before. The track grows by an inch and a half, too. Rear passengers now enjoy nearly 2-1/2 inches of extra legroom.

Inside the Passat is all-new too. The colors are sophisticated and the detailing remains precise. The entire dash assembly seems to float in front of the windshield and between the doors, and the top half appears to sit separately on top of the bottom. More metallic surfaces gleam in this model than in its predecessor. Everything is meticulously laid out, but I was surprised at how small the markings were on the low mounted heat and cooling buttons. They are hard to read at night and at speed.

The left and right front door panels are different in the Passat. The driver's door sprouts a peninsula with the window and mirror controls embedded in it. Both doors feature deep bins and comfortable, wide armrests. The center armrest is adjustable for angle. The dash lighting remains blue, and is a Volkswagen specialty.

You can order your Passat with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 3.6-liter V6. My Shadow Blue test car had the turbo, and, hallelujah, a six speed manual transmission. You won't find that in many Camry’s or

Accords. The 200 horsepower 2.0-liter is powerful enough to move the Passat along briskly, while still earning fuel economy ratings of 23 City, 32 Highway.  My car averaged 25.3 mpg over 2,877 miles of its 2,893-mile life.

My tester was loaded with things to make travel pleasant. The air conditioning worked well, but even though the temperature knob was marked with numbers, the system was not automatic. My car had power windows (down and up), cruise control, heated outside power mirrors, power central locking, and front and rear reading lamps.

Volkswagen is joining the trend to keyless ignition. With VW's system, you slide the key unit (plastic, with no traditional key showing) into a slot and then push it to start the car. Another 21st century feature was the tiny push button parking brake, which eliminates the typical central tunnel lever or left foot pedal.

Safety has been a big selling point for the Passat over the years, and the new car continues that tradition. There are eight airbags, as well as crash active front headrests and crash optimized foot pedals that descend during severe impacts. Of course, the best thing is to avoid accidents completely, so VW gives you standard four-wheel disc brakes with antilock, along with the Engine Braking Assist System. The car's precise electro-mechanical power steering, along with independent front and rear suspension components, should help the driver zip around troubles safely.

All of this beauty, performance, and quality must surely cost a lot, doesn't it? The answer is no. My test vehicle priced out at just $24,530, including the destination charge. The Passat Value Edition starts out at $950 less, with a few less goodies, and the V6 model begins at $30,580.

Volkswagen wants you to be happy and to keep being their customer in the future, so they offer a four year / 50,000 mile warranty and free emergency roadside service for the entire four years as well. Overall the Passat is a great car for the price.

With the new Jetta gaining traction, this new Passat, a fresh new GTI, the popular Touareg SUV, an updated Beetle, and the upcoming Eos convertible, Volkswagen is poised to have a great year. There will be Passats with 4-Motion all wheel drive and a wagon version soon. And wait until VW pulls a Rabbit out of its hat this summer!  By Steve Schaefer   © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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 Overall the Passat is a great car for the price
 The 2006 Volkswagen Passat
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 The 2006 Volkswagen Passat
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