One of the first things you notice when you climb into the new Volkswagen Passat is its vast interior space. The previous-generation Passat shared its platform with the Audi A4 and A6; by extension, it shared those cars' longitudinal engine configuration. This latest Passat, however, is based on the Golf/Jetta chassis and as such uses a transverse engine layout that grants more interior room, especially for rear-seat occupants. The new platform also allows front-wheel-drive Passats to use an independent rear suspension that is as sophisticated as those on the all-wheel-drive 4Motion examples. (Previously, front-wheel-drive cars made do with a torsion-beam rear setup.) The choice of a six-speed manual transmission for our shadow blue Passat 2.0T Four Seasons car precluded options such as a sunroof, satellite radio, and leather upholstery, all of which are available only with the automatic transmission. There is, however, an electric, push-button-operated parking brake in the Passat, which is an unusual feature for this segment. It frees up space in the center console but will take some getting used to.
250 miles Road test coordinator Marc Noordeloos makes a beer run to Canada. "It's no sport sedan, but it is comfortable and spacious. I achieved an indicated 32 mpg at an average speed of 80 mph. Combine that with the 18.5-gallon fuel tank, and this car has road trip written all over it."
270 "I was happy to find heated seats, as the leatherette upholstery was awfully cold in the morning," writes managing editor Amy Skogstrom. "The interior is typical Volkswagen--nicely put together with logical, easy-to-decipher controls. All in all, a good package for a mid-size sedan."
2320 miles According to technical editor Don Sherman, "the Passat does well with its 2.0-liter engine, and it's as strong as any V-6 in this class. The car's deco-plastic interior trim is not great, but at least it's not faux walnut."
2809 miles Copy editor Adrienne Newell notes that her parents' fourth-gen Passat wagons "have better interiors and more precise handling" than this fifth-gen sedan, and both do without the fiddly electric parking brake.
5500 miles Lorio notes that "the manual gearbox really wakes up" the Passat's 2.0-liter turbo. "The shifter is a pleasure to use. I wish VW offered this transmission in the wagon version of the Passat."
6752 miles On a weekend getaway to Toronto, a friend of the magazine who owns a last-generation Passat decides that he likes the new styling, but explaining the electric parking brake and push-in-key-fob ignition functions to valets gets old.