Volkswagen Passat Review

Walter Pabst
by Walter Pabst
volkswagen passat review

Slide into the snug, over-bolstered leather seat. Push the chunky key fob into a slot labeled “start/stop.” Tune an ear to combustion as smooth as a baby’s backside. Grab hold of the three-spoke leather-wrapped helm. Engage first gear. Mash the throttle and drop the clutch. Brace for wheel hop, snick through the gears to triple digit speeds, then slam on the brakes. Escape through the heavy driver’s door and slam it shut. Glance back at the Volkswagen Passat 2.0T.

Not bad. And then a realization dawns: the Passat is one seriously dorky looking car. Although it isn’t the sine qua non of dork (a.k.a. the Saturn Ion), the VW’s sporting wedge shape and windswept lines are completely undermined by its odd proportions and clunky overhangs. A prominent swage line fails to conceal a bulky butt, while the V-shaped chrome plastic grill’s braces-with-headgear aesthetic needs immediate unpimping.

Fortunately, for 2007, Wolfsburg offers the 2.0T (two liter turbo) with a six-speed manual and sport package. Buyers ticking these boxes ditch the Passat’s bo-bo wheel covers for 18” Samarkand alloys that could make a Tracer Trio look cool. The sedan’s 15mm lowered ride height and low-profile Pirelli’s deliver a vast improvement to the car’s basic stance and overall demeanor.

Although it’s not so much modern as style free, the Passat’s relatively plain looking interior goes a long way to restoring the brand’s reputation for high quality, high touch, OCD-informed interiors. Notice the umbrella holder inside the door panel that allows water to drain out above the rocker instead of inside the car. A button on the left corner of the dash operates the parking brake, making room for cup holders– yes, finally– in the center console. Four front visors block the sun in all directions.

A large semi-circle encompasses the Passat’s dash, flowing neatly into the doors. The dash’s charcoal-colored top tier contrasts with a control panel trimmed in brushed aluminum. While the Passat’s patented blue and red electroluminescent dials hark back to the days when Rabbits played Golf, at least the gauges are elegantly presented, set deep within individual cylinders. Best of all, the Passat’s sport seats would feel at home in an Italian grand tourer, with a ribbed stitch pattern reminiscent of a 365 GTB/4.

The Passat’s transversely mounted four cylinder engine delivers thrust with a muffled baritone exhaust note. Some pistonheads will mourn the loss of the old model’s high-pitched turbo whistle, but few will mind the lag-free power delivery. The Passat’s oomph builds steadily from 1800 before losing its breath at around five grand. Two hundred horsepower a bit more twist propel some 3500 pounds of laser-welded steel from rest to 60 in a sedan-respectable seven seconds.

There’s no need to slap an auto-stick to do the deed; the Passat’s manual clutch action is light. The Passat’s shifter sits tall in hand, but slides through the gate without the rubbery sloppiness endemic to VW boxes. The clutch’s clean uptake and engagement allows for quick, aggressive shifting. If not, the Passat 2.0T ekes out well over 30 brand-faithful miles per gallon.

To add a little panache to the new Passat, Vee Dub’s boffins dialed in 60 percent more chassis rigidity than ye olde B5 Passat. With a four-link independent rear suspension, the Passat feels comfortably composed over the roughest roads. At speed, the Passat is a serene cruiser. So yes, you really do get that German big car feel that the hecho en Mexico Vee Dubs lacked.

And just in case you thought this was a love letter instead of a Dear John, the handling [s]sucks[/s] lacks dynamic satisfaction. Despite the sport pack’s stiffer springs, the car rolls in the corners like Cheech and Chong at a Hollywood wrap party. In hard cornering, the Passat’s comfort bias will have considerate drivers calling out “hard aport” and “hard astarboard.” Push the Passat into true sports sedan territory and the front [driven] wheels give up the ghost faster than Scooby Doo’s human cohorts.

Driving the Passat 2.0T is like dating an unattractive woman with a great personality who’s not great in bed but is always ready to give it the old college try. You have a good time together, you know, generally, but would you take her home to the folks? What if there are better looking alternatives available? Like the old Beetle, the Passat is a kind of automotive litmus test. Just how sensible are you? Pssst. How about a four year warranty?

And then the argument falls apart (literally). While the ’07 Passat is a new model, the “old” car earned an unenviable reputation for lousy reliability. Coolant leaks, rough idle, window stress cracks, six major recalls in seven years— and that list doesn’t include anecdotal evidence from plenty of pissed off Passaters. If VW has ironed-out the kinks both at the factory and at the dealer level, the Passat makes perfect sense. If not, not.

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  • Banker41 Banker41 on Jul 07, 2007

    thunter77, I will agree that your Accord is a great ride. If you think the Passat's 0-10mph acceleration was slow, I'm sure you were experiencing turbo lag. Lag is hard to manage with an automatic transmission. Try it with a manual transmission. Changes the whole character of the car, and let's the engine do what it was meant to do: rev and boost.

  • Passat2008 Passat2008 on Nov 14, 2007

    I have just purchased a 2008 Passat Station Wagon. I bought it because I really loved my Jetta but needed a bigger car. Edmunds.com said it was a good car. I do enjoy it yet it does have that feeling like the CV joint is going to fall off on the passenger side. My service writer said it is just the way the car drives because it has the CV joints that are plunger type. Does anyone know about this?

  • Wjtinfwb Over the years I've owned 3, one LH (a Concorde) a Gen 1 300 and a Gen 2 300C "John Varvatos". The Concorde was a very nice car for the time with immense room inside and decent power from the DOHC 3.5L. But quality was awful, it spent more time in the shop than the driveway. It gave way to a Gen 1 300, OK but the V6 was underwhelming in this car compared to the Concorde but did it's job. The Gen 1's letdown was the awful interior with acres of plastic, leather that did it's best imitation of vinyl and a featureless dashboard that looked lifted from a cheaper car. My last one was a '14 300C John Varvatos with the Pentastar. Great car, sufficient power and exceptional highway mileage. The interior was much better than the original as well. It was felled by a defective instrument cluster that took over 90 days to fix and was ultimately lemon law' d back to FCA. I'd love one of the 392 powered final edition 300s but understand they're already sold out and if I had an extra 60k available, would likely choose a CPO BMW 540i for comparable money.
  • Dukeisduke Thanks Cary. Folks need to make sure they buy the correct antifreeze, since there are so many OEM-specific ones out there nowadays (Dex-Cool, Ford gold, Toyota red and pink, etc.).And sorry to hear about your family situation - my wife and I have been dealing with her 88-yo mom, moving her into independent senior living, selling her house, etc. It's a lot to deal with.
  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
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