Late last year I had the pleasure of helping my father choose his new vehicle, and after determining that he wanted a diesel sedan, we quickly narrowed the possible options - BMWs, the 300C, Audis, Peugeots, Mazdas, Fiats, Alfas and VWs - down to the Volkswagen Passat. Offering a great blend of size, comfort, features, diesel economy and price, he picked the Passat up in late November last year. Having helped pick it, I am biased about this car. But that said, let's look at why it worked for my father and me.
The 2007 Volkswagen Passat TDI leads VW's car line-up in Australia as their largest model apart from the Touareg luxury SUV. The 2007 Passat offers three models each in a sedan and wagon format ranging from AUD$42,990 (US$34,056) for the Passat 2.0 TDI Sedan 6 Speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission, through AUD$44,990 (US$35,641) for the Passat 2.0T FSI Sedan 6 Speed Automatic and topping out at AUD$54,990 (US$43,563) for the Passat 3.2 V6 FSI Sedan 6 Speed DSG. The wagon equivalents of each adds $2,000. Frankly I don't understand this pricing scale because the TDI delivers better fuel economy and good performance via VW's outstanding DSG 6-speed gearbox, in which the clutch and gearshift are controlled electronically, for a lower price than the equivalent automatic petrol model.
Despite the array of standard features in the Passat, there are still a good dozen options that you can play with if your wallet allows including sunroofs, sat nav, bi-xenon headlights with dynamic cornering, leather upholstery etc. My father however had a limited range of options due to the fact that multiple Volkswagen dealers in our area quoted delivery times of over six month and as high as nine months due to a global shortage. So, when he was presented with a silver model kitted out with black leather upholstery, he signed up straight away.
Continue reading part one of the review after the jump.
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With the styling of the Passat, VW was looking to create a car worthy of this position at the top of the range which would, "embody a spirit of confidence, refinement and performance". Featuring a standard, yet attractive VW face, the Passat looks the goods from the front as an exclusive German import with its chrome highlights around the grill, large, shiny silver VW logo front and centre. Below this, black vents and a matte dark grey underskirt helps the Passat appear well connected to the road and ready for business.
At times you do have to look twice however to tell the difference between a Passat and its slightly smaller sibling, the Jetta. The trick is to look at the lights as the Jetta has more rounded, almond-shaped "eyes", and Passat has sterner, square eyes with a tear-drop below the halogen headlights. The Passat also has a muscular, upright, filled-out form whereas the Jetta's front grill slopes off quickly which links it more firmly back to the Golf's styling.
Following the edges of the grill's chrome highlights up the bonnet to the corners of the windscreen are two creases, a styling cue which is continued on via another crease from the back edges of the headlights, horizontally along the car's side, above the door handles, all the way through the fuel flap on the driver's side to smoothly terminate at the tail lights. A further protection chrome ridge runs lower, above the bottom of the doors, right from the front wheels and wrapping around to the license plate at the rear. This effectively gives the Passat a series of horizontal lines designed to offer it a taught, agile appearance. Chrome accents are also to be found around the circumference of the side windows. Standard 17" alloy wheels running on 235/45 R17 rubber give the car a firm presence inside of subtly flared arches.
A smart inclusion down the side are the two yellow indicator LEDs in each wing mirror to help make sure those around you know where you're headed. Another simple, yet truly effective feature of the driver's side wing mirror is a vertical dotted line across the mirror towards the outside beyond which the mirror itself becomes convex. In effect, its bend outwards to allow you to see more of your blind spot. No, make that it eliminates your blind spot! Despite distorting the reflection in the convex section of the mirror, the increase in safety by not having to check back over your shoulder when changing lanes in traffic is fantastic. Mirrors like this should be made compulsory.
Continuing around the back, the Passat's rear is quite squared off with the top of the boot forming almost a slight rear wing to offer the car an aerodynamic appearance while also maximising boot space. Like the head lights, the tail lights also have a stylish tear-drop and incorporate more yellow LEDs, this time in a circular pattern, to form the indicator lights which truly looks 21st century from behind in traffic. One design oddity about the Passat from behind though is the single reversing light which appears only on the left. I think this is a strange decision for VW to have made as it reduces the chance that drivers behind you can tell that you're reversing and could prove to be dangerous. As a consolation, front and rear parking sensors will help you know that you're about to hit something even if those behind you don't.
Again the rear has a similar appearance to the Jetta, but the boot wing, more accentuated tear-drop tail lights, chrome accents and bumper-mounted license plate as opposed to the Jetta's boot-mounted plate will make spotting the somewhat more rare Passat an easy task for the keen VW observer.
VW has cracked the top ten list of most popular auto manufacturers in Australia during the last twelve months, no doubt on the back of the excellent Golf model. The latest Golf arrived at just the right time as higher fuel prices drove the Australian buyer to down-size from the traditional full-sized family car like the GM Holden Commodore (think upcoming Pontiac G8), or Ford Falcon to medium and compact models. This has led to the Toyota Camry now vying for the title of Australia's most popular car. Likewise the hot hatch market has virtually caught fire over the last year. There seems to be both standard Golfs and Golf GTIs everywhere on the roads these days, followed by fewer Jettas and the occasional Passat and Touareg.
Unlike the diesel Golfs and Jettas, the TDI Passat's tail pipes are visible from behind. Unfortunately, the current TDI Passat does not come fitted with a particulate filter, but this is set to change with the upcoming Passat BlueMotion. The boot release is another quintessentially Volkswagen design detail with the way that the large, shiny VW logo on the boot pivots across the centre to form the latch. This endearing detail is also shared across the current range. You need not even use the latch though because the remote boot release button on the key fob is matched by a self-opening boot to give you a completely automated opening experience. I wonder how long it will be before the Passat will also close by itself like the sliding doors on the Honda Odyssey EX?
Inside the boot, a generous sized space greets you without compromise - unlike a host of other sedans on the market, the Passat comes with a full-sized spare on an alloy rim. The boot lid arms are completely enclosed to maximise usable space, which can be increased via the 60/40 split-fold lockable rear seats. A handy "load-through" feature allows the centre rear armrest to fold down without having to completely fold down either rear seat for longer items like skis. Not that too many people living outside of the high country need skis in Australia; perhaps it could come in handy for carrying your didgeridoo around with you though?
VW has incorporated a couple of very smart ideas which I haven't seen elsewhere in the boot of the Passat including storage boxes in the side lining, a 12 volt socket and my favourite, a shopping bag hook. This is literally a simple hard plastic hook and spring that folds down from the ceiling of the boot to latch the handles of your shopping bags onto. Folding away when not required, this shopping bag hook ensures that your shopping bags don't roll around in the back on the drive home from the supermarket and makes such perfect sense that I couldn't believe I hadn't seen something similar on other cars before.
Further examples of the Passat living up to its extensive TV, magazine and billboard marketing campaign of "full of unexpected pleasures", are to be found inside. The leather pack our vehicle came with is comfortable and looks good in the black and brings along with it heated front seats, although considering the climate here in the "sunshine state", that's probably a feature we could have done without. The driver's seat also has 6-way electric adjustment for backrest and lumbar and feels good on longish journeys.
Stay tuned for part two of the AutoblogGreen 2007 Volkswagen Passat review tomorrow available here.