For a very long time, the Passat sat on the sidelines of the American family-sedan playing field. It was seemingly content, in mid-1990s fourth-generation guise, to dangle its optional, gutsy VR6 engine in front of Volkswagen devotees and to snag a few four-cylinder buyers who got lost on the way to the Honda showroom. The mid-size-sedan segment belonged to the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry, and the Ford Taurus, while the Passat was little more than a charming anachronism from Wolfsburg, all but invisible.
But then, in the fall of 1997, Volkswagen unveiled the fifth-generation Passat, and a star was born. Based on the highly regarded Audi A4, this Passat's elegantly understated exterior launched many an imitator and still looks good today. Its cabin reeked of quality and made BMW and Mercedes-Benz owners feel inferior.... Read full article