|Car enthusiasts considerVolkswagen to be one of the top manufacturers ofcompetent automobiles in the low to mid price range. But for many babyboomers, especially those who pay no attention to cars until necessity forcesthem into a showroom, the name "Volkswagen" conjures up the image ofthe buzzy, ubiquitous Beetles that dotted the landscape of the sixties andseventies. This image may keep them out of a VW showroom and leave them"playing it safe" with a Camry orAccord, or maybe an American make like a Ford Taurus or Buick LeSabre. Andthat's a shame because VW builds excellent cars. |
With the Passat, Volkswagen has pulled out all the stops and istackling the mid-sized sedan marketwith a take-no-prisoners attitude. The 2001 Passat is a mid-year update to a very competent sedan that was introduced in 1997as a '98 model. This update addsover 2,300 improvements, most of them under the skin, but a few very significantones that are visible. While the new model looks similar to the old,Volkswagen says that only the roof and doorsremain the same as theprevious generation.
Some of the more visible changes include: a restyled front end with a more pronouncedrake, sprinkled liberally (but tastefully) with thin chrome accents. There is a more prominent VW logo in the center of the grill and new ultra-clearheadlight covers thatblend gracefully into the body, New, larger transparent rear lamps round out theexterior styling treatments.
On my initial walk-around,I was impressed by the obvious quality of this car, from the impeccable fit and finish of the body to the clean lines of awell thought out design. This is one of the best-lookingmid-sized sedans in its price class and, unlike most cars in this category that try tobe all things to all people, this one has a distinct personality; even a touch ofarrogance designed to make you feel special to be seen behind the wheel. Itdefines you as a person that doesn't necessarily go with the flow. It alsomakes you look like you spent more money than you actually did!
A few of the 2300 changes went to stiffeningthe body structure which in turn allowed for tighter, more precisely alignedgaps between body panels. A more rigid body structure also enabledengineers to recalibrate ride and handling for a more balanced feel, not tomention improved crashworthiness.
Inside, I found the driving position to beideal. The steeringwheel had a nice grip to it and was manually adjustable for both height and reachwith a single lever. There were buttonsfor cruise control, radio volume and station select on the wheel that illuminated at night.There was a small button onthe back of the steering wheel that turned the steering wheel lighting off if youfound it distracting. A nice touch.
The speedometer and tach were fairly readable, but I foundthe dials for temperature and fuel level to be downright tiny. They werehard to see at a glance due to the grayishnumbers and dark red needles on a black background. They were somewhat betterwhen the lights were turned on, even in thedaytime. Nighttime dash illumination was quite interesting with a kaleidoscopeof blue and red light extending across the panel and into the doors. Numbers and LCDdisplays were in blue, while buttons and labels were red. Over the weekthat I had the car, I grew to like the effect and found it easy on theeyes during extended nighttime driving.
Genuine wood trim adorned the dash of our top-of-the-line GLX model andalso comes standard with the lessexpensive GLS equipped with the V6. The wood theme carriedover to a slick shifter handle for the 5-speed automatic transmission.
The seats were comfortable, even on long, stressful rush-hour drives. The console and lowerdash panels were molded of colored, grained plastic (a compromiseneeded to keep prices in line), but they blended so well with the rest of the interior that they did notdetract from its quality. Rear seat legroom was downright extravagant for a mid-sized sedanwith plenty of comfort for two and room for three; but while the center positionwas tolerable,you would not want to ride there on a long trip.
Out on the road, I found the steering sharp and responsive, inspiringconfidence. Directional stability on the highway was dead-onaccurate. The ride was definitely European which gave it a substantial,solid feel, that was in no way uncomfortable. I appreciate a European ride thatkeeps me "in touch" with the road by allowing me to feel some pavementirregularities, rather than floating over everything likesome softer-riding cars in this class.
With 190 hp ontap, engine performance was not lively, but acceptable. The engine was reasonably quiet during most normal driving and emitteda muted growl when accelerating at full throttle. When pushed hard, there was not a hint of torque-steerwhich is common on other front-wheel drive cars with powerful engines. Torque-steerresults when a front-wheel drive car triesto seek its own direction during hard acceleration, causing the steering wheel totug left or right. Because the power is applied to the same wheels usedfor steering, this is a tough engineering challenge to overcome and stillmaintain good steering feel.
The"V6 30V" on top of the engine stands for a V6 with 30 valves. That means 5 valves per cylinder, a layout formerly found only on GrandPrix race cars. Other features of this 2.8 liter V6 include dual overhead cams, variable intake valve timing and a variable geometry composite intake manifold. Youcan forget the technical mumbo-jumbo and still enjoy the end result: an engine that delivers strong, smooth acceleration over a wideRPM range without compromising on good gas mileage.
On our test car, all this smooth power is delivered through an equally smooth five-speedautomatic transmission with Tiptronic that powers the front wheels. Tiptronic allowsyou to override the automatic and shift manually by sliding the shifter into aspecial gate, then pushing it forward to upshift and back to downshift. TheAutomatic is one of the two major options for the GLX, replacing the standard5-speed stick at a cost of $1,075. The other option is the 4MOTION All-Wheel-Drivesystem which adds $1,750 to the sticker.
The standard engine for the less expensive GLS is a 1.8 liter four-cylinderthat is turbocharged and intercooled to produce 170 horsepower at 5,900 rpmas well as 166 lbs. ft. of torque from 1,950 to 5,000 rpm. The base GLSstarts at a very reasonable $21,750. The GLS V6 starts at $ 24,250
Our top-of-the-line GLX had lots of interesting stuff to play with, likerain-sensing windshield wipers that watched forraindrops on the glass and automatically activated the wipers when needed foranything from a single pass to full-onhigh, depending on how hard it was raining. For cold days, there were heatedwindshield washer nozzles that could quickly clear frost from thewindshield.
Other standard features on the GLX include: leather upholstery;heated eight-way power frontseats with 3 memory positions for the driver; an eight-speaker Monsoon sound system; a fully automaticclimate control system; a multifunction, two-program trip computer; split-folding rear seat; a power glasssunroof; newly styled 16 alloy wheels;a pull-up sun shade for the rear window and a self-dimming rearview mirror.
New this year, Side Curtain Air-bags add head protection for the front andrear passengers on all Passat models. Driver and front passenger side airbagsare also standard across the board. There are three height-adjustable headrestraints for the rear seat passengers as well as three-point seat belts forall.
It may be a nightmare for repair shop owners, but Passat customers will sleepeasy with the excellent powertrain warranty which covers repairs to the engine andtransmission for ten years or 100,000 miles. And because the Passat body is now fully galvanized, the corrosion warranty is a full 12 years with no mileage restrictions. You also don't have to pay for maintenance or roadside assistance for the firsttwo years. The only downside is that the bumper-to-bumper warranty on the restof the car is a low 24 months or 24,000 miles.
Dateline 7.2.2001: Volkswagen just announced that they are changingtheir warrantee for the 2002 model year. The new plan will increase the bumper-to-bumper warranteeto four-years/50,000 miles (whichever occurs first) and reduce the power traincoverage to five years or 60,000 miles. The old 10 year/100,000 mile planwas not transferable when you sell the car (except for a sale to a familymember) but the new 5/60 plan will be fully transferable. The roadsideassistance program also increases to four-years/50,000 miles while the corrosion warrantyremains at the industry-leading 12 years/unlimited mileage.
The $28,750 Passat GLX is Volkswagen'sattempt at knocking on the near-luxury segment door, but they won't be stoppingthere. Expect to see a Passat with a new W8 engine in the near future thatwill sticker near$40,000. A little further down the road there are rumors of a full luxury boat with a W12engine and a price-tag that places it up against the big Mercedes and BMW's. What's a 'W8' engine youask? It's two narrow V4's connected to a common crank so that in effect youhave 4 banks of 2 cylinders (or 4 banks of 3 cylinders for the W12). I'llbring you more info as I get it.
Yes, Volkswagen has come a longway from the multi-hued beetles of the Flower-Power generation that proliferated oncollege campuses back in the '70s.
Hmmm... I wonder how many students you can squeeze into a Passat?
Do you have any feedback on the Passat? Any opinions or experiences ofyour own? We would love to hear from you. Clickhere to send us your comments
Clickhere for more pictures of the Passat
How would I improve this car?
- Larger fuel and temperature gauges would be nice
- Add automatic headlights. I'm surprised that they weren't included in this package.
- Add another 20 HP and I may buy one. This is my kind of car.
How does the Passat fit yourdriving style?
Conservative drivers This is a good riding car that gives you the feeling of being connected with the road. This is a difficult combination to achieve and inspires confidence.
Sporty drivers will enjoy the European feel and smooth power delivery that does not compromise the comfortable ride. You'll also enjoy shifting the 5-speed automatic for yourself when the mood strikes.
Fast drivers will run out of tire grip early on. Aftermarket 17" wheels and fatter rubber will help, but at the expense of the ride.
|Engine Type || 90 degree V6, Double overhead camshaft, 5 valves per cylinder, |
Cast iron block, Aluminum heads
|Horsepower ||190 @ 6000 RPM |
|Torque ||206 @ 3200 RPM |
|Fuel Recommended ||Premium 91 Octane Unleaded. |
|Transmission (std.) |
|5-speed manual transaxle |
Electronically controlled 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic
|Tires - Standard || P205/55 R 16 H all weather tires |
|Overall Length ||185.2" |
|Wheelbase ||106.4" |
|Width ||68.7" |
|Steering turns ||2.80 Lock to Lock |
|Turning Diameter ||37.4 ft Curb to Curb |
|Curb Weight ||3,333 lbs. (Manual), 3,452 lbs. (Automatic) |
|Fuel Tank ||16.4 Gals. |
|Miles Per Gallon ||EPA city 20, hwy 29 (Manual), city 18, hwy 26 (Automatic) |
|Acceleration 0 to 60 ||8.8 Seconds |
|Base Sticker Price (GLX) ||$28,750 |
2001.5 Volkswagen Passat GLX 2.8L V6
- Power glass sunroof
- Rain sensor, automatic wipers
- Heated windshield washer nozzles
- Automatic climate control Air Conditioning
- Multi function trip computer
- Genuine wood decor
- Monsoon Sound System 8-speakers with amplifier
- Driver and front passenger side airbags
- Side Curtain Air Bags
- 8-way driver and front passenger power seats, driver with 3 memory positions
- Heatable front seats
- Homelink with sun visor extension
- Leather seating surfaces
- ABS (anti-lock braking system)
- ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation)
- EDL (Electronic Differential Lock)
- 10 year/100,000 mile (whichever occurs first) Limited Powertrain Warranty.
- 2 year/24,000 mile (whichever occurs first) Limited New Vehicle Warranty.
- limited corrosion warranty of 12 years with no mileage restrictions.
- 2 year/24,000 mile (whichever occurs first) no charge scheduled manufacture's maintenance
- 2 year/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance provided by AAA..
Major Available Options
- Electronically controlled 5-speed Automatic Transmission with Tiptronic $1,075
- 4MOTION permanent all-wheel drive system $1,750
- In-dash single CD player (dealer installed)
- 6 disc CD-changer, trunk mounted (dealer-installed)
For more information on the Passat, visit vw.com
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