Like much of VW’s line-up, the Passat will be undergoing a major restyling, and so changes to the 2005 version are minimal. The most noticeable difference is that 2004’s eight-cylinder W8 model has been discontinued.

Both the Passat sedan and wagon are available in GLS trim, or in upscale GLX that starts at $41,280. GLS models come with a choice of a 1.8-litre turbocharged gasoline engine, a fuel-miserly 2.0-litre diesel, or a 2.8-litre V6. The 1.8 can be ordered in two-wheel-drive or with 4Motion four-wheel-drive.

The GLS comes very well-equipped, with standard features that include air conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, power heated mirrors, 15-inch wheels, cruise control, power locks with keyless entry, CD/cassette system with eight speakers, and power windows.

As with all Volkswagens, the Passat puts the fun into driving, with nimble steering and a suspension that’s keenly balanced between performance and luxury. The five-speed manual is smooth and it’s a shame it’s not available on the diesel.

The available 4Motion is a permanent four-wheel-drive system, seamlessly and electronically splitting its torque when necessary, while always retaining a minimum of 10 per cent power to the rear wheels. It’s an excellent system that provides extra confidence when cornering or on bad roads.

The Subaru Legacy 2.5i also offers permanent four-wheel-drive, but there are slight differences. Volkswagen’s electronically-controlled 4Motion is available on the five-speed manual. Subaru’s AWD comes with a viscous coupling on the five-speed; its electronically-controlled multi-plate transfer clutch is on the four-speed automatic only, which starts at $29,195. Still, that puts it $3,895 under VW’s manual shifter, and $5,295 under the Passat’s automatic.

The Passat is built in Mosel, Germany and Emdem, Germany.