A few days into the test of the Passat Wagon and it hits me. I'm driving home from work with the windows down, sunroof open and blasting out some tunes from the stereo and realize that this will probably be my mode of transportation in the not too distant future. I can't drive a coupe forever. And because I'm not a fan of most SUVs, a nice wagon like the Passat might be a viable kid hauler. Of course the pitifully underpowered, 4-cylinder diesel engine our tester is equipped with would never be my first choice. I mean we're talking 134-horsepower here. Even though it gets excellent gas mileage (27/38, city/hwy) a diesel engine has lots of issues, mainly the noise and pollution. Yesterday, USA Today posted their review of the Passat TDI and revealed the engine won't be making it to the US in the 2005 model. So this really might be a last gasp for diesel lovers.
The automatic transmission is sluggish and doesn't offer a single thrill. Luckily the tiptronic feature (sometimes called an auto-stick) gives much more control and allows for smooth transitions out of first gear that adds some needed oomph over the automatic mode. Even with the low horsepower numbers the car does excel in the torque arena, 247 ft-lbs. Still the performance doesn't really match the competition or even the V6 engine offered in the same model. In the end it's very hard to feel sporty at all in this wagon. But for most buyers of wagons that isn't the first priority.