2002 Passat New Car Test Drive
The Volkswagen name was once synonymous with the ultimate in economy, the least expensive cars to buy and operate. A lot has changed since the original Beetle, however. VW’s are still efficient, but they are not the cheapest cars on the lot.
Now, with the introduction of the Passat W8, Volkswagen is competing with established luxury marques with a base price flirting with 40 grand. One thing that’s the same, however, is VW’s innovative spirit. There was nothing like the Beetle, and no one has ever made an engine like the W8’s.
The entire Passat line was completely redesigned for 2002, with bolder contours and new lights front and rear. Its chassis is 10 percent stiffer for an improved ride and better handling.
The Passat W8 went on sale in April as a 2002 model. The W8 model is named after its unique eight-cylinder engine, a compact engine with its cylinders in a double V, hence the W8 designation. This results in a midsize sedan with a 4.0-liter eight-cylinder engine, where all its competitors have at best a V6. Indeed, Volkswagen boasts that it’s the only eight-cylinder European sedan priced under $50,000 on the market today.
Volkswagen’s Passat is available in a wide range of models and prices, from $21,750 to $38,700. Two body styles are available, a four-door sedan and a station wagon with a 39 cubic foot cargo capacity.
Three engines are available: four-cylinder turbo, V6, and W8. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is also available. Two trim-levels are offered, GLS and GLX. Naturally, you can’t order a la carte, and the menu allows only certain substitutions.
GLS sedan ($21,750) and GLS wagon ($22,550) come standard with the 1.8T turbocharged four-cylinder engine used by Volkswagen and Audi. It’s a well-equipped bargain. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, rear window and side mirror defrosters and a multi-function trip computer.
GLS is also offered with 190-horsepower V6. It comes with a choice of five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift control. The automatic is required to get Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, currently offered only with the V6. So equipped, the GLS lists for $27,075. GLX equipment listed below is available as options on GLS.
GLX trim is the top V6 model. It comes standard with leather upholstery, wood trim, electronic climate control, Monsoon audio, heated power driver and passenger seats, a power glass sunroof, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive, the base price for the GLX is $31,575. The equivalent wagon retails for $32,375. The only options available for the GLX are the automatic transmission, no-charge metallic paint, and a dealer-installed six-disc CD changer and in-dash CD-player.
W8 comes with its namesake engine as well as virtually all amenities. In addition to the goodies on the GLX, the W8 adds heated windshield washer nozzles, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a self-dimming rearview mirror as standard equipment. The W8 sedan lists for $37,900, and the wagon for $38,700. A optional Sport Package includes sportier suspension tuning (presumably firmer shocks and springs and a lower ride height) and 17-inch alloy wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is planned for the 2003 model year.
Volkswagen extended its warranty coverage for 2002. Passat is covered by a 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that includes wear-and-tear items and adjustments for the first 12 months or 12,000 miles. The powertrain warranty was reduced to 5 years/60,000 miles, but is now fully transferable. Passat owners are also covered by a 4-year/50,000 mile 24-hour roadside assistance program.