When we drove the latest Volkswagen Passat sedan last year, we praised it for its performance, build quality, interior room, even luggage space. And this year, the Passat V6 sedan won our MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Award. Well now, Volkswagen has gone one better, with its new Passat wagon. They claim it’s everything that the sedan is, and then some.
To the literal minded, Volkswagen’s claim is a statement of fact, since the 1999 Passat Wagon is everything the sedan is and then some by virtue of its additional cargo space alone.
Our pre-production tester also came with Volkswagen’s V-6 engine and automatic all-wheel drive Syncro system, a combination that Volkswagen won’t put on public sale until the 2000 model year. And one that should catapult the Passat wagon to the upper reaches of the desirability charts, where its sedan counterpart, our 1999 Drivers’ Choice Winner, has also just unseated the stoic Toyota Camry as Consumer Report’s top family sedan pick.
The mid-size Passat wagon rides on a 106.3 inch wheelbase and a stable 59-inch track at the front and rear. Tight body gap tolerances give the Passat wagon a solid, Rock of Gibraltar appearance. A look that’s carried throughout the VW lineup.
That solidity transcends the superficial, however, as the Passat drives as substantial as it looks. When pushed to the limits through our low speed slalom, the Passat’s suspension, a four link design up front, and a double control arm set up at the rear, with coil springs and shocks at all corners, kept the wagon firmly planted. Although body roll and tire rollover are somewhat pronounced, they’re not unnervingly so. And the forthcoming syncro all-wheel drive system, with its Torsen differential and electronic traction control, does a seamless job of keeping the power directed to the wheels with the most traction.
Although wheelspin is definitely not a problem when launching this 3,653 pound beast through the quarter mile. Equipped with the 5-speed, self-shift, Tiptronic, automatic transmission, 60 was reached in a yoeman 9.8 seconds. The quarter mile passed in 17.3 seconds at 84 mph. That effort comes from this 2.8 liter, 90 degree, V-6. Loaded with advancements like 5 valves per cylinder, dual overhead cams, and variable valve timing, this little workhorse kicks out 190 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. Standard Passat Wagon power is VW’s punchy 1.8-liter inline-4 turbo with 150-horsepower and 155 pound feet of torque.
While reining in that power is left up to 4-wheel disc brakes fitted with the latest Bosch ABS system. Both are standard, and stops from 60 were achieved in a stable and uneventful 130 feet.
The Passat’s interior, however, is an event worth noting. With a host of safety features and top drawer amenities usually found on more expensive cars, the Passat is very capable of coddling its passengers. The front leather buckets in our test car are manually adjustable, but include height and are heated. Side impact airbags are integrated into their seatbacks. The driver faces a thickly padded, leather-wrapped steering wheel that is adjustable for both rake and reach. Climate controls to the right are clearly marked and easy to use. Not so the AM/FM/Cassette below. Several on the staff felt it set too low in the dash and the buttons too small for easy use.
But there’s plenty of room in the rear quarters for two adults, plus 38.4 cubic feet of their stuff. In fact, the Passat’s interior dimensions are comparable to Volvo’s popular, and larger V70 wagon in all areas except shoulder room.
And it costs less. Suggested retail price for today’s Passat Wagon GLS starts at $22,250. The V-6 Syncro, with Tiptronic, should boost it to around $31,000 when it finally arrives.
There’s no question the front-wheel drive 1999 Passat Wagon is a solid and very desirable piece of work right now. And for those searching for a wealth of value, comfort and utility, coupled with the sure-footedness of all-wheel drive, the 2000 Passat Syncro wagon will be well worth the wait.
Engine: 2.8 Liter 90 Degree 30-valve V-6
Torque: 206 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 9.8 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 17.3 Seconds @ 84 MPH
60-0 MPH: 130 Feet