SAN FRANCISCO: Volkswagen
built its reputation on the noisy, old-fashioned, economy-oriented Beetle, but today the
company is flourishing by offering just the opposite. The new VW Passat is much closer to
a Mercedes-Benz than it is to basic transportation.
Since 1997, the previous edition of the midsize Passat has impressed buyers and the
automotive press alike. Scribes from Automobile magazine have named it an "All
Star" for best family sedan, and even stodgy Consumer Reports made it a "Best
Pick" for a family sedan.
Volkswagen claims there are more than 2,300 changes in the new car, but it looks a lot
like the old one. That's because the doors and roof are retained.
The most obvious change in the new model is the treatment of the front and rear ends.
The grille is larger and more raked back, with a great big VW logo in the center. Striking
projector halogen headlights peer out from behind clear covers. The tail lamps have
incorporated twin circles into the lenses. The car wears more chrome and appears more
Inside, generous rear legroom creates a mini-limousine quality. The gentle curves of
the dashboard remain from before, with vents that can be closed flat. A tiny third
sunvisor protects tender eyes from glare. Like other Volkswagens, the instrument panel
glows blue at night, with fiery red needles.
The Passat covers a $10,000 range of midsize buyers. The standard GLS sedan, with a
four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, starts at $21,750. The top of the line GLX
sedan, with V6, automatic transmission, and 4MOTION all-wheel drive, comes to $31,575. In
that continuum are numerous combinations and permutations, including a four-door sedan and
The base four-cylinder engine is no slouch. The 1.8-liter powerplant, thanks to
turbocharging and intercooling, puts out 170 horsepower this year, up 20 from before.
Torque grows from 155 lb.-ft. to 166, too. The efficient four cylinder gives the
3,200-pound GLS mileage of 24 city, 31 highway with the manual, 20/29 with automatic. Zero
to sixty comes in just 7.9 seconds with the stick, 8.8 seconds with the automatic.
The 2.8-liter V6 gives but it also takes away. It adds 20 horsepower and 40 lb.-ft. of
torque, and also adds 133 pounds. What it takes away is acceleration and fuel efficiency.
Surprisingly, the manual model takes .7 seconds longer to get from zero to 60 than the
four-cylinder car, while the automatic version adds 1.1 second. If anything, that tells
you how quick the turbo four is. The V6 subtracts fuel efficiency, with figures of 20/29
for the manual and 18/26 for the automatic. I averaged 19.3 mpg in my test GLX. Both
engines, by the way, consume premium fuel.
The Passat sedan has also been offered in a convenient wagon configuration for years.
Now, some sport utility buyers are realizing they will never go camping and are
rediscovering the station wagon. Volkswagen is more than happy to oblige.
The GLS boasts an impressive list of standard features, including a theft immobilizer
key, air conditioning, trip computer, folding key with remote locking, power heated side
mirrors, eight speaker stereo with cassette, height adjustable and telescoping steering
wheel, and more.
The GLX adds leather upholstery, genuine walnut trim, eight-way power front seats,
automatic climate control system, power glass sunroof, stunning six-spoke alloy wheels,
self-dimming rearview mirror, and more. It even provides heated windshield washer nozzles
(less of a thrill in balmy California, admittedly).
My personal favorite was the eight-speaker Monsoon sound system. This popular and
remarkable entertainment machine pumps up your favorite music to lifelike proportions.
Specially tuned for each model of car in which it appears, it takes the pain out of
After a steady diet of crowded weekday freeways, the Passat makes you wish for a
vigorous Saturday morning jaunt along curving back roads. With its power-assisted
rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock (ABS), and front and rear
stabilizer bars, the big VW holds its own. Electronic ABS also provides standard traction
control, a sophisticated way to keep you on the road in a wide range of road and weather
For further peace of mind, the optional 4MOTION system continuously distributes power
to all four wheels all the time at all speeds. Normally power is divided evenly between
front and rear axles, but when things get slippery, the wheels with more traction are
parceled out more of the engine torque, up to two thirds of it.
The Passat, reinvigorated for 2002, puts German engineering, style, and performance
within reach of people who are shopping Camrys and Accords. To help the Passat compete
against those worthy cars, VW provides a two-year/24,000 mile new vehicle limited
warranty, and a limited powertrain warranty of ten years/100,000 miles. Then, they add on
a 12-year limited corrosion warranty, and two-years/24,000 miles worth of free scheduled
maintenance and emergency roadside assistance. Just feed it, insure it, and enjoy it.
By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Volkswagen Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
Column Name: An "All Star" for Best Family Sedan
Topic: 2002 Volkwagen Passat
Word Count: 881
Photo Caption: 2002 Volkswagen Passat
Photo Credits: Volkswagen Internet Media
Series #: 2001 - 35
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