Reviews

2001 Volkswagen Passat GLX Road Test

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Car enthusiasts consider Volkswagen to be one of the top manufacturers of competent automobiles in the low to mid price range. But for many baby boomers, especially those who pay no attention to cars until necessity forces them into a showroom, the name “Volkswagen” conjures up the image of the buzzy, ubiquitous Beetles that dotted the landscape of the sixties and seventies. This image may keep them out of a VW showroom and leave them”playing it safe” with a Camry or Accord, or maybe an American make like a Ford Taurus or Buick LeSabre. And that’s a shame because VW builds excellent cars.

Source: CarDomain
Category:$25,000 – $30,000 Sport Sedan
Who
should buy
this car:
Anyone looking for a front-wheel drive European sedan that steps out from the crowd.
Comparable
cars in
this class:
Acura TL,  Audi A4, Buick Regal GS,  Chrysler 300M, Honda Accord V6, Infiniti I30, Mazda Millenia,

Mitsubishi Diamante, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Camry V6

With the Passat, Volkswagen has pulled out all the stops and is tackling the mid-sized sedan market with a take-no-prisoners attitude. The 2001 Passat is a mid-year update to a very competent sedan that was introduced in 1997 as a ’98 model. This update adds over 2,300 improvements, most of them under the skin, but a few very significant ones that are visible. While the new model looks similar to the old,Volkswagen says that only the roof and doors remain the same as the previous generation.

Some of the more visible changes include: a restyled front end with a more pronounced rake, sprinkled liberally (but tastefully) with thin chrome accents. There is a more prominent VW logo in the center of the grill and new ultra-clear headlight covers that blend gracefully into the body, New, larger transparent rear lamps round out the exterior 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 a well thought out design. This is one of the best-looking mid-sized sedans in its price class and, unlike most cars in this category that try to be all things to all people, this one has a distinct personality; even a touch of arrogance designed to make you feel special to be seen behind the wheel. It defines you as a person that doesn’t necessarily go with the flow. It also makes you look like you spent more money than you actually did!

A few of the 2300 changes went to stiffening the body structure which in turn allowed for tighter, more precisely aligned gaps between body panels. A more rigid body structure also enabled engineers to recalibrate ride and handling for a more balanced feel, not to mention improved crashworthiness.

Inside, I found the driving position to be ideal. The steering wheel had a nice grip to it and was manually adjustable for both height and reach with a single lever. There were buttons for cruise control, radio volume and station select on the wheel that illuminated at night.There was a small button on the back of the steering wheel that turned the steering wheel lighting off if you found it distracting. A nice touch.

The speedometer and tach were fairly readable, but I found the dials for temperature and fuel level to be downright tiny. They were hard to see at a glance due to the grayish numbers and dark red needles on a black background. They were somewhat better when the lights were turned on, even in the daytime. Nighttime dash illumination was quite interesting with a kaleidoscope of blue and red light extending across the panel and into the doors. Numbers and LCD displays were in blue, while buttons and labels were red. Over the week that I had the car, I grew to like the effect and found it easy on the eyes during extended nighttime driving.

Genuine wood trim adorned the dash of our top-of-the-line GLX model and also comes standard with the less expensive GLS equipped with the V6. The wood theme carried over 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 lower dash panels were molded of colored, grained plastic (a compromise needed to keep prices in line), but they blended so well with the rest of the interior that they did not detract from its quality. Rear seat legroom was downright extravagant for a mid-sized sedan with plenty of comfort for two and room for three; but while the center position was tolerable,you would not want to ride there on a long trip.

Out on the road, I found the steering sharp and responsive, inspiring confidence. Directional stability on the highway was dead-on accurate. The ride was definitely European which gave it a substantial,solid feel, that was in no way uncomfortable. I appreciate a European ride that keeps me “in touch” with the road by allowing me to feel some pavement irregularities, rather than floating over everything like some softer-riding cars in this class.

With 190 hp on tap, engine performance was not lively, but acceptable. The engine was reasonably quiet during most normal driving and emitted a muted growl when accelerating at full throttle. When pushed hard, there was not a hint of torque-steer which is common on other front-wheel drive cars with powerful engines. Torque-steer results when a front-wheel drive car tries to seek its own direction during hard acceleration, causing the steering wheel to tug left or right. Because the power is applied to the same wheels used for steering, this is a tough engineering challenge to overcome and still maintain 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. You can forget the technical mumbo-jumbo and still enjoy the end result: an engine that delivers strong, smooth acceleration over a wide RPM range without compromising on good gas mileage.

On our test car, all this smooth power is delivered through an equally smooth five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic that powers the front wheels. Tiptronic allows you to override the automatic and shift manually by sliding the shifter into a special gate, then pushing it forward to upshift and back to downshift. The Automatic is one of the two major options for the GLX, replacing the standard 5-speed stick at a cost of $1,075. The other option is the 4MOTION All-Wheel-Drive system which adds $1,750 to the sticker.

The standard engine for the less expensive GLS is a 1.8 liter four-cylinder that is turbocharged and intercooled to produce 170 horsepower at 5,900 rpm as well as 166 lbs. ft. of torque from 1,950 to 5,000 rpm. The base GLS starts 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, like rain-sensing windshield wipers that watched for raindrops on the glass and automatically activated the wipers when needed for anything from a single pass to full-on high, depending on how hard it was raining. For cold days, there were heated windshield washer nozzles that could quickly clear frost from the windshield.

Other standard features on the GLX include: leather upholstery;heated eight-way power front seats with 3 memory positions for the driver; an eight-speaker Monsoon sound system; a fully automatic climate control system; a multi-function, two-program trip computer; split-folding rear seat; a power glass sunroof; 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 and rear passengers on all Passat models. Driver and front passenger side airbags are also standard across the board. There are three height-adjustable head restraints for the rear seat passengers as well as three-point seat belts for all.

It may be a nightmare for repair shop owners, but Passat customers will sleep easy with the excellent powertrain warranty which covers repairs to the engine and transmission 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 first two years. The only downside is that the bumper-to-bumper warranty on the rest of the car is a low 24 months or 24,000 miles.

Dateline 7.2.2001: Volkswagen just announced that they are changing their warranty for the 2002 model year. The new plan will increase the bumper-to-bumper warranty to four-years/50,000 miles (whichever occurs first) and reduce the power train coverage to five years or 60,000 miles. The old 10 year/100,000 mile plan was not transferable when you sell the car (except for a sale to a family member) but the new 5/60 plan will be fully transferable. The roadside assistance program also increases to four-years/50,000 miles while the corrosion warranty remains at the industry-leading 12 years/unlimited mileage.

The $28,750 Passat GLX is Volkswagen’s attempt at knocking on the near-luxury segment door, but they won’t be stopping there. Expect to see a Passat with a new W8 engine in the near future that will sticker near$40,000. A little further down the road there are rumors of a full luxury boat with a W12 engine and a price-tag that places it up against the big Mercedes and BMW’s. What’s a ‘W8’ engine you ask? It’s two narrow V4’s connected to a common crank so that in effect you have 4 banks of 2 cylinders (or 4 banks of 3 cylinders for the W12). I’ll bring you more info as I get it.

Yes, Volkswagen has come a long way from the multi-hued beetles of the Flower-Power generation that proliferated on college campuses back in the ’70s.

Hmmm… I wonder how many students you can squeeze into a Passat? Peace, man.

How would I improve this car?

How does the Passat fit your driving 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.

Specifications

Engine Type90 degree V6,  Double overhead camshaft, 5 valves per cylinder,
Cast iron block, Aluminum heads
Horsepower190 @ 6000 RPM
Torque206 @ 3200 RPM
Fuel RecommendedPremium 91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission (std.)
Transmission (opt.)
5-speed manual transaxle
Electronically controlled 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic
Tires – StandardP205/55 R 16 H all weather tires
Overall Length185.2″
Wheelbase106.4″
Width68.7″
Steering turns2.80 Lock to Lock
Turning Diameter37.4 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight3,333 lbs. (Manual), 3,452 lbs. (Automatic)
Fuel Tank16.4 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 20, hwy 29 (Manual), city 18, hwy 26 (Automatic)
Acceleration 0 to 608.8 Seconds
Base Sticker Price (GLX)$28,750

2001.5 Volkswagen Passat GLX 2.8L V6

Standard Equipment

Major Available Options

For more information on the Passat, visit vw.com.

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Author

Charles Ofria

Automotive Expert

Charles Ofria was an automotive journalist who was active in the automotive industry for over 40 years. During the '70s, he was owner-operator of Ofria Automotive, a thriving auto repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. During that time he became involved with auto mechanic training when he set up courses to help prepare mechanics to take the then new A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic certification exams.

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