2014 Expedition New Car Test Drive
The Volkswagen Passat is a mid-size European sedan similar in size to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Passat benefits from precise steering, with effort that automatically adjusts to the situation. Its optional six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive, and its brakes are excellent.
The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 200 horsepower that should satisfy most needs, while returning 23/32 mpg according to EPA City/Highway estimates when equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission. The optional 3.6-liter narrow-angle V6 growls when pressed and delivers robust torque, allowing the Passat to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.6 seconds.
The Passat boasts mid-size sedan practicality. It offers plenty of interior room, particularly for back-seat riders, so a six-foot passenger can sit behind a six-foot driver. It boasts generous standard content and a beguiling mix of high-tech and haute couture. And while the previous model was among the safest cars in America, the structure of the latest Passat is substantially improved.
Buyers can choose a sedan or station wagon. The Passat Wagon offers 35.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity, and returns an EPA-estimated 18/26 mpg City/Highway even though it is equipped with all-wheel drive.
The current-generation Passat was introduced for the 2006 model year and is longer, wider, and more mature than the previous-generation. The Passat Wagon followed for 2007. For 2008, there are no mechanical changes and no styling changes, aside from new wheels and colors. There have been revisions to the lineup for 2008, however: Base models are better equipped for 2008, base wagons can be ordered with manual transmission. For 2008, all V6 wagons come with all-wheel drive. The 2008 Passat lineup is divided into more trim levels with fewer options and packages than previously. The Volkswagen Touareg (TOO-r-egg) is a luxury sport-utility with a rare blend of highway composure, refinement and off-highway capability.
For 2008, the Touareg gets new front and rear lamps and appendages, and while the wrapper looks familiar, there are a couple of thousand new parts within. This represents a major upgrade for 2008, and it's officially dubbed the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2.
Like the Infiniti FX and Mercedes-Benz ML, Touareg eschews a third row of seats for generous five-passenger space in compact packaging. Touareg 2 offers a choice of V6 or V8 gas engines and a diesel, as with the Mercedes ML and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Volkswagen's diesel is the the fastest, the most fuel efficient, and the most expensive. All Touareg models use a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive.
Protected by a rigid structure and full suite of airbags and electronic safety systems, the Touareg cabin is at once inviting, involving, and efficient. There are more thoughtful touches than you'll notice at first glance, yet the learning curve is quick, the controls not daunting, and comfort remains high even after hours on the road, or off it.
Touareg 2 is a genuinely capable four-wheel-drive, and it takes to trails like Letterman to a politco's faux pas. Its combination of clearance angles, gearing, fording depth and suspension travel compares to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover LR3, Hummer H2, and Lexus GX470, and none of those offer the massive thrust of Touareg's diesel and the Jeep and Hummer don't have its adjustable air suspension.
Back on the highway the Touareg has a Teutonic feel, with smoothness imparted by precision and not softness. It cruises effortlessly regardless of road condition, and belies its heft on winding roads. A sports car it isn't, but you could make a dynamic argument for an inclement weather Grand Touring vehicle.
If you like the Volkswagen Touareg 2 but need a third row of seats at the expanse of some off-road capability, check out the Audi Q7; it uses a stretched version of the same structure. A halo car is an automaker's most desirable model. It's meant to bring new customers into dealerships with the hope that they'll buy another car in the lineup. It's often a test bed for performance technology, and it's usually inserted at the top of the company's lineup. A halo car shows what a company is capable of, and it can change an automaker's overall reputation.
With the release of the 2008 Volvo C30, Volvo is offering what one company executive calls a reverse halo car. Although this two-door hatchback comes in at the bottom of Volvo's lineup, Volvo hopes it can bring new people into its dealerships and give the company a sportier reputation.
The C30 is a new model for Volvo, but it shares most of its mechanicals with Volvo's compact S40 sedan and V50 wagon. While similar to these cars, the C30 has considerably less standard equipment, allowing Volvo to make it its lowest priced car.
That value pricing doesn't make the C30 a typical economy car, though. Instead it's more similar to the Audi A3 and Volkswagen GTI class of sporty hatchbacks, a fun-to-drive car aimed at younger buyers.
And fun to drive it is: The C30 is Volvo's best handling car. It has good steering feel, stays flat in corners, and is nimble enough to slice through traffic. The 227-hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine provides plenty of punch to keep the fun coming. Ride quality is generally good, though it can become a little hard with the available 18-inch wheels.
Inside, the C30 offers a pleasant, fairly roomy cabin for four. The standard cloth upholstery is a unique fabric that resembles wetsuit material. Room up front is plentiful, and the controls are easy to spot and use. The two-door body style makes getting into the backseat a bit of a hassle, but the rear seat is comfortable for two passengers, provided they're not NBA players. Those rear seats fold down to create a large rear hatch area with lots of carrying capacity.
As Volvo's lowest priced car, the C30 is a bit raw. The five-cylinder engine is powerful, but makes coarse sounds. The cabin isn't as well insulated from exterior sounds as other Volvos. Road noise is especially noticeable on rough pavement, a problem exacerbated by the open hatchback body style.
Overall, the Volvo C30 is good looking, fun to drive, and offers the easily accessible cargo utility of a hatchback. Volvo's value pricing makes it affordable, but it also means that the standard equipment list is light (cruise control isn't standard). Volvo offers numerous Custom Build Options, so buyers can personalize their C30s, much like the Mini Cooper. With a few well-chosen options, the C30 can be a fine choice.
The 2008 Volkswagen Passat is offered as a four-door sedan or five-door wagon. Both are available with a 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 280-hp, 3.6-liter narrow-angle V6 Volkswagen calls the VR6. Base four-cylinder sedans or wagons can be ordered with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Upmarket models and VR6s come with the automatic only. VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive is available on the VR6 sedan and standard on the VR6 wagon.
2008 Volkswagen Passat lineup: 2.0T ($23,990), automatic ($25,065); 2.0T Wagon ($25,200), automatic ($26,275); Komfort sedan ($27,900); Komfort Wagon ($29,100); Lux sedan ($30,100); Lux Wagon ($31,300); VR6 sedan ($36,050), 4Motion ($38,000); VR6 Wagon 4Motion ($39,200).
The Passat 2.0T comes with leatherette-upholstered front bucket seats that are power-adjustable 12 ways on the driver's side and manually adjustable 8 ways on the passenger's. Increasing interior utility are 60/40 split/folding rear seats, in the sedan as well as the wagon. Climate control and a pollen filter are standard, along with power windows; an electronic parking brake; central locking; heated outside mirrors; an eight-speaker stereo with in-dash CD player, MP3 capability, and an auxiliary input jack; three auxiliary power outlets; and 215/55HR16 all-season radials on 16-inch alloy wheels.
The Komfort models add a power sunroof; premium audio with 6CD changer, satellite radio, and controls on the steering wheel; compound sun visors; ambient lighting; and 235/45R17 tires on 17-inch alloy wheels. Automatic transmission is standard.
The Lux models upgrade to real leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, 12-way power passenger seat, three-position memory for driver's seat and exterior mirrors, auto-dimming inside mirror, HomeLink, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and Park Distance Control.
V6-powered models are called VR6 or 3.6L, and now come in a single, flagship-grade trim level. All come with all Lux features plus leather sport seats, Dynaudio premium sound, bi-xenon headlights, heated washer nozzles, sport suspension, and 235/40R18 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels.
Options include heated front seats ($225) for the Turbo and Komfort. Dynaudio premium sound ($1,000) is available on Lux. DVD navigation ($1,800) is optional on Lux and VR6 (depending on other equipment, the navi may displace the CD changer or eliminate MP3 capability). An iPod adaptor ($199), replacing the stereo's auxiliary input, is optional on all models.
Safety features that come standard on all models include front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, speed-variable electromechanical steering, electronic stability control (ESP), tire-pressure monitor, and a security system. Rear-seat side-impact airbags ($350) are optional on all models. The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 comes in three levels: 3.6 VR6 FSI ($39,320); V8 FSI ($48,320); and V10 TDI Twin Turbo ($68,320).
The 3.6 VR6 comes with a full slate of features, including dual-zone climate control, power moonroof, power windows and locks, heated front seats, power driver's seat, leather shifter and steering wheel with redundant controls, alarm/immobilizer, cruise control, split-folding rear seat, alloy wheels, fog lamps, trip computer, outside and oil temperature displays, aluminum accents, heated power mirrors with synchronized adjustment and right-side reverse tilt, front and rear park assist, rain-sensing wipers and heated washer nozzles, 10-speaker audio system with Sirius Satellite Radio (three-month service included), power liftgate, and six power points, including one 115-volt outlet.
The 4.2 FSI adds a 350-hp V8 engine, leather upholstery and walnut woodwork, bi-xenon curve-following headlights, more chrome trim, 19-inch wheels and more sporting suspension calibration, power passenger seat, driver memory system, power folding auto-dimming outside mirrors, rear seat side sunshades, and sliding center dual-bin armrest.
The V10 TDI comes with the twin-turbo diesel engine, power tilt-and-telescoping heated steering wheel, larger brakes and adjustable air suspension with continuous damping control.
Options include a tow hitch ($500), a rear differential lock ($700), 19-inch wheels and tires ($1200) for the VR6, and the air suspension package ($2750). Option packages start with the Lux ($2900), which brings many of the V8 upgrades (leather, wood trim, power passenger seat, AFS2 bi-xenon headlamps) to the VR6. Lux Plus ($3400) adds four-zone climate control, heated rear seats, Dynaudio sound, and keyless operation. The Technologie package ($3350) adds DVD-based navigation, upgraded 11-speaker sound system with CD changer, rear view camera, expanded instrument panel multifunction display, and auxiliary input.
Safety equipment includes rollover-sensing ESP-plus stability control, ABSPlus brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, tire-pressure monitors, Hill Descent Assist, and adjustable seatbelt anchors front and rear. Also standard are front airbags, side-impact airbags, and curtain airbags. The 2008 Volvo C30 is offered in two trim levels, both with front-wheel drive and a 227-hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is a $1250 option.
The C30 1.0 ($22,700) comes standard with cloth upholstery; air conditioning; keyless entry; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls; height-adjustable manual driver's seat; outside temperature display; power windows, locks and mirrors; 50/50 split-folding rear seat; 160-watt AM/FM/CD stereo with eight speakers and MP3 player connectivity; and 205/50R17 all-season tires on alloy wheels. Options include the automatic transmission, sunroof ($1,200), leather seating surfaces ($1,200), and Sirius satellite radio ($625). The Climate Package ($675) includes heated front seats, headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers.
The C30 2.0 ($25,700) adds painted wheel flares, side skirts, and spoiler; 215/45R18 summer performance tires; a 650-watt Alpine stereo with Sirius satellite radio with six-month subscription and 10 Dynaudio speakers; sport suspension; and aluminum dash inlays. In addition to the 1.0's options, the 2.0 offers a power driver's seat ($450), a DVD-based navigation system ($2,120), and all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels (no cost).
Volvo encourages customers to personalize their C30s by offering several Custom Build Options. There is a one-time $300 charge for any car ordered with one or more Custom Build Options. These items include cruise control ($185), fog lights ($295), trip computer ($100), bi-xenon headlights with washers ($700), heated front seats ($450), power-retractable rear-view mirrors with puddle lamps ($250), alarm ($200), automatic climate control ($250), keyless starting ($450), power driver's seat ($450), power driver and passenger seat ($900), the Alpine/Dynaudio stereo ($800), interior air filter ($200), Homelink universal garage door opener ($225), and auto-dimming rear-view mirror ($150).
Safety features include the mandated dual front airbags plus side-curtain airbags for head protection, and side-impact airbags for torso protection. Active safety features consist of anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control (ESC), Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. Rear obstacle detection is a $400 option and Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) is a $695 option. Both are part of the Custom Build Options list.