For 2007, the Volkswagen Passat wagon returns, based on the sixth-generation sedan introduced in 2006.

Changes to the sedan include an auxiliary input jack in place of a glovebox light, a new front cupholder design, and a new available White exterior colour.

The Passat is available with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, mated to a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual mode; or with a 3.6-litre V6 with six-speed automatic. The V6 can be ordered with 4Motion all-wheel drive, featuring a front-wheel-biased Haldex system that transfers torque when it detects wheel slippage.

Features on the 2.0T include 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors with integrated signals, variable intermittent wipers, single-zone climate control, anti-theft alarm, cruise control, trip computer, keyless entry, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack, side and curtain airbags, eight-way manually-adjusted heated “leatherette” seats, 60/40 folding rear seat, tilt and telescopic wheel, and power windows.

The 3.6 adds 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, power sunroof, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, six-CD/MP3 stereo, ten-way partial power driver’s seat, garage door opener, and leather-wrapped multifunction wheel.

Wagon models are equipped similarly, but with a rear wiper/washer (the 2.0T receives heated washer nozzles).

The Passat remains a popular contender in the near-luxury midsize market, with a firm but pleasant ride, seats that offer long-distance comfort, attractive styling, and numerous features, including brakes that periodically wipe themselves dry, an auto-hold feature that prevents rollback on hills, and “keyless” ignition where you push the key fob into a slot in the dash to start the car. The return of the wagon is most welcome, offering all of the sedan’s attributes with cargo-hauling capacity.

Both engines work well, with broad torquebands and smooth operation, but the hefty price jump to the 3.6-litre will probably make the 2.0T more attractive to many pocketbooks, especially since, as nice as it is, the 3.6 feels like it should really start well under $40,000.

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