2003 Passat New Car Test Drive
Volkswagen Passat is the refined member of the mid-size class. It offers a high-quality interior and a high-quality driving experience.
Passat is a true midsize car, competing against the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima. Arguably, Passat offers more style and character than any of them, without sacrificing midsize practicality.
Its innovative, sophisticated engines are smooth and powerful. Passat is now America's best-selling German-built car. Six years ago, Volkswagen sold about 15,000 Passats annually; in 2002 Volkswagen sold 96,142 of them.
Volkswagen freshened up the Passat last year, with bolder contours and new lights front and rear. A stiffer chassis improved ride and handling as well as body panel fit. For 2003, VW has further expanded the Passat line, with a new base model called the GL; while the GLS now comes with alloy wheels and a power sunroof.
Volkswagen Passat is available as a four-door sedan and a station wagon. Prices range from $21,750 to $38,700. Three engines are available: the turbocharged four-cylinder 1.8 T, the 2.8-liter V6, and the innovative W8. Passat is available with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
GL sedan ($21,750) and wagon ($22,550) are well-equipped bargains. Powered by the 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four shared by Volkswagen and Audi, the GL models come standard with air conditioning, cruise control, rear window and side mirror defrosters and a multi-function trip computer. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a five-speed automatic with Tiptronic control is optional ($1,075).
GLS 1.8 T sedan ($22,885) and wagon ($23,685) add fog lamps, 15-inch alloy wheels and a power tilt-and-slide glass sunroof. GLS models also offer a few options not available on the GL, such as a Homelink garage-door transmitter ($130), and a leather upholstery package ($1,615) that includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
GLS V6 sedan ($25,385) and wagon ($26,185) get the 2.8-liter V6 rated 190 horsepower. They come with five-speed manual or the optional Tiptronic automatic. V6 models come with real wood trim.
GLX sedan ($28,750) and wagon ($29,550) add leather upholstery, electronic climate control, Monsoon audio, heated and powered driver and passenger seats with memory, heated washer nozzles, rain-sensor automatic wipers, power flush-folding side mirrors, and 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55HR16 all-season tires. Five-speed manual gearbox is standard, Tiptronic automatic is optional ($1,075). GLX buyers can also choose Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel drive ($1,750), but only with the automatic transmission.
W8 sedan ($37,900) and wagon ($38,700) come with the 4.0-liter eight-cylinder engine rated 270 hp and virtually all amenities. Tiptronic automatic and 4Motion all-wheel drive are standard. An Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) is standard. W8 also adds 215/55HR16 tires, a more comprehensive trip computer, and a self-dimming rearview mirror as standard equipment. More lavish interior brightwork, special grille badges and four chrome-tipped tail pipes help the W8 stand out. Rear brake discs are vented rather than solid. An optional Sport Package ($1500) includes firmer shocks and springs and 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/45HR17 tires.
Major options include a Cold Weather Package ($325) that includes heated seats and washer nozzles to Passat GL and GLS. An upgraded Monsoon audio system is available ($325). ESP ($280) is available for all models.
Passat is covered by a four-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 last year to five years/60,000 miles, but is now fully transferable. Passat owners are also covered by a four-year/50,000-mile 24-hour roadside assistance program.