February 21, 2001

2001.5 Volkswagen Passat
Click image to enlarge

First Drive
2001.5 VW New Passat

by Greg Wilson

Atlanta, Georgia – The winding,
two-lane blacktop roads that snake up and around the
mountains and canyons of Chatahoochee National Forest
Preserve near Atlanta, Georgia offered the perfect
venue to test the new 2001.5 Volkswagen Passat, a
car that’s remains a true driver’s sedan. VW invited
a group of American and Canadian journalists here to drive the
updated Passat which should be arriving in dealerships now.

Officially, the new Passat is designated a
2001-and-a-half model to differentiate it from the
previous-generation 2001 models. This may prove
confusing to some new car buyers when the identical
2002 Passat arrives this Fall. As well, I think ‘two
thousand and one and a half’ has way too many
syllables. The car’s offical name is ‘New Passat’,
like New Beetle, New Jetta, etc. – however, I refuse
to call it the ‘new New Passat’.

Though it looks similar to the current Passat which
was last updated in 1997, the new Passat’s styling is
all new with the exception of the roof and the doors.
It also gets a revised interior, a more powerful 1.8T
turbocharged four cylinder engine on base models, a
stiffer body structure, new side curtain airbags, and
a few other new features.

The 2001.5 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices are
as follows: Passat GLS sedan $29,950 (up $450); Passat
V6 GLX 4Motion sedan $43,305 (up $805); Passat GLS
Wagon $30,725; and Passat GLX Wagon 4Motion $44,480.

Sportier styling

Click image to enlarge
2001.5 new Passat GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat GLS 1.8T sedan
2001.5 new Passat GLS 1.8T sedan
2001.5 new Passat Wagon GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat Wagon GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat Interior
2001.5 new Passat

Though it’s profile is similar and its overall size is
about the same, the new Passat has a sportier, more
distinctive look than the current model. The grille is
more sharply raked and integrates better with the
front bumper; covered headlamps with projector beams
look sportier; and standard projector beam foglights
are built into the lower front bumper. Prominent
wheel flares add to its sporty stance, and at the rear
new red and white taillights with twin round brake
lights add detail to what used to be a plain red
taillight lens.

Inside, the Passat has the same high-quality look and
Audi-like quality with a new centre console, new
gauges with chrome rings, a new centre armrest storage
bin, and cupholders relocated from the dash to the
centre console where they don’t get in the way of the
controls. GLX models now have stereo and cruise
control on the steering wheel, and a new Homelink
garage door opener on the driver’s visor.

In addition to standard front and side airbags, all
Passats now come with standard side curtain airbags
which protect the head and torso of both front and
rear passengers.

More powerful 1.8 litre four cylinder engine

Horsepower on the standard 1.8 litre four cylinder
engine in the Passat GLS has increased from 150 to
170 while torque has increased from 155 lb-ft to 166
lb-ft. This standard turbocharged, intercooled 1.8
litre four cylinder engine includes five valves per
cylinder and dual overhead camshafts. GLX models
continue to offer the previous 190 horsepower 2.8
litre V6 engine with five valves per cylinder, dual
overhead camshafts, variable intake valve timing, and
variable intake manifold.

As before, 2001.5 Passats offer standard
four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS – the latter works in
harmony with standard EDL (electronic differential
locking) and ASR (anti-slip reduction) to provide
traction control in front-wheel-drive models.
4Motion, VW’s full-time four-wheel-drive system is
offered only only on GLX V6 models with the optional 5
speed automatic Tiptronic transmission.

Driving impressions

I’ll be honest, there’s not a heck of a lot of
difference between the old Passat and the new one.
The 1.8T model has about 12% more horsepower which
translates into a time of 7.9 seconds from 0 to 60
mph. That’s pretty close to the time of 7.3 seconds
for the slightly heavier V6 Passat. The V6 engine is
smoother and quieter though with more torque and
low-speed responsiveness.

Handling, as before, is exemplary for a front-wheel-drive family
sedan, with minimal lean, minimal understeer, good
control, and little dive during braking. This is a
family sedan you can enjoy driving.

I felt the new Passat was quieter overall, and offered
a more refined driving experience, probably due to its
stiffer body structure. At a steady 100 km/h, the V6
engine did 2500 rpm while the 1.8T engine did 2500 rpm
– both comfortably quiet. The manual transmission
offers smooth and more precise throws than before, and
the 5-speed Tiptronic is so smooth you barely notice
it. In manual mode, shifts are as quick as they get
in an electronic transmission, and adds to the fun of
driving on a twisty Georgia backroad. The
power-assisted steering seems to offer a little more
feel than before, and I was quite happy with it.

Inside, I was disappointed with the new
armrest/storage bin which is too far back to rest your
arm on and has a rather small storage compartment. And
the third rear head restraint restricts rear
visibility slightly.

Overall, the new Passat is more of the same – with
refinements. The 1.8T models seem like the best buy,
with almost as much horsepower and similar handling
for a lower price.

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