2006 Volkswagen Passat
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The much improved 2006 Passat promises to help Volkswagen make a recovery in America, where a lack of new models has caused VW dealers grief as they've watched rivals introduce new models seemingly every hour on the hour.
Not so with Volkswagen. That automaker's slicker Volkswagen Jetta arrived last spring as a late 2005 model, but the new hot rod Golf GTI doesn't arrive until February 2006, and the redesigned regular Golf won't reach America until next summer.
Moreover, an all-wheel-drive Passat sedan doesn't arrive until 2006, and neither does a Passat station wagon, which will have front- or all-wheel drive.
The Passat has been the perennial best-selling German auto in the tough U.S. midsize sedan market, with sales averaging about 75,000 cars annually through 2004. The 2005 Passat sales haven't been a bright spot, partly because VW fans knew a new Passat was coming.
The 2006 Passat replaces Volkswagen's fifth-generation midsize model that traces its roots back to the Dasher and Quantum of the 1970s and 1980s. The last-generation Passat that began with the 1998 model year in America was the most successful of any midsize Volkswagen.
Worth the Wait
While the Passat should make Volkswagen a more serious player in the tough midsize market, it's a little soft to be a genuine sports sedan such as the Audi A6 or BMW 5-Series. However, it's still fun to drive and is rock-solid during high-speed cruising.
Fortunately, the Passat doesn't have the confounding control setups found in other German midsize sedans. Instead, it has advanced but simple items such as an electronic parking brake activated by a dashboard button and available "adaptive" headlights. Those headlights turn in the direction of the front wheels to allow superb visibility when, say, taking curves during the darkest of nights. Also, the engine is started by just pushing a keyless key fob that slots into the dashboard.
Better Ride and Handling
The wheelbase is virtually unchanged at 106.7 inches. But the Passat is 3 inches longer and 3 inches wider. Its stance also is wider, with a front-rear track increased 1.5 inches for better stability and a more purposeful look. Height has been reduced nearly half an inch to 58 inches.
The Passat is one of the best-looking Volkswagens in a long time, and the interior has a high level of refinement.
Fast V6 Acceleration
Precise electromechanical steering varies steering assist based on the car's speed and other driving factors to give the Passat driver a connected-to-the-road feeling. The redesigned suspension provides a rather soft but well-controlled ride and good handling. Stopping distances are good, but the brake pedal is too soft.
The Passat line begins with a Value Edition version with the 2.0-liter engine. It costs $22,950 with a 6-speed manual gearbox and $24,025 with a 6-speed automatic.
Even this base model has a fair number of comfort and convenience items. They include air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and the usual power accessories. Leatherette upholstery is standard, with leather optional.
Lots of Safety Items
In the middle of the Passat line is the 2.0T with the 4-cylinder engine. It lists at $23,900 with the manual gearbox and at $24,975 with the automatic.
Other Versions Coming
The V6 comes only with the automatic transmission because it's felt that few would order the top luxury-oriented Passat with a manual gearbox.
The automatic in the 2.0T and 3.6L has a manual shift feature, but the transmission sometimes takes a long moment or two to figure out what gear it should be in when left in "drive" mode during spirited motoring.
Upscale Nameplate Missing
Options include a $2,750 No. 1 Luxury Package with leather upholstery, wood trim and heated front seats. A $5,250 No. 2 Luxury Package includes items from the No. 1 Luxury Package and adds the adaptive headlights, park distance control and a premium sound system.
A $3,050 Sport Package aimed at car buffs includes leather sport seats, lowered and stiffened sport suspension and aluminum interior trim. However, it seems out of place for the new Passat.
The interior is quiet, except for some road rumble noise. All doors have storage pockets for small items and easily reached cupholders.
Large Cargo Area
There's no need to fool with a manual hood prop because the hood raises on a hydraulic strut. The neatly designed engine compartment has easily reached fluid filler areas.
The new Passat's wide range of rivals include the top-selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord sedans. But, as always, it will appeal to many Americans who feel that Germany makes the best cars.