Volkswagen Passat Wagon 4Motion

The Passat 4Motion is one of a handful of intermediate cars that offer full-time four-wheel-drive. VW’s system includes an Electronic Differential Lock and Anti-Slip Regulation which allow the vehicle to move if only one wheel has traction.

A superb 4WD wagon – but is it worth $43,000?

Earlier this year, VW made full-time four-wheel-drive available on the Passat sedan and wagon. This makes the Passat one of the few intermediate-sized cars available with all-wheel-drive, the other ones being the Subaru Legacy/Outback, Audi A4, and the new BMW 330Xi.
All-wheel-drive is a real safety asset in areas that have a lot of snow or rain – hm, I guess that would include the whole of Canada. It not only improves traction on slippery surfaces, but also improves directional stability and steering control. Unlike part-time four-wheel-drive systems that can only be engaged on slippery or loose surfaces, all-wheel-drive is fully automatic and never needs to be engaged or disengaged.

Volkswagen’s 4Motion system is more sophisticated than some: it includes an automatic-locking Torsen centre differential that distributes engine torque to the front and rear axles in a 50/50 split in normal driving conditions – but on slippery surfaces, the wheels with more traction receive more of the power: front or rear wheels can receive up to 67% of engine power.

In addition, an Electronic Differential Locking (EDL) system distributes power from side to side. This feature limits individual wheel spin and redistributes the power to the side that needs it most. 4Motion coupled with EDL makes it possible for the car to move if only one wheel has traction.

On top of this is a computer-controlled anti-skid system called ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation). While EDL functions as a form of traction control at speeds up to 40 km/h, the ASR system uses sophisticated electronics to control the throttle and maximize traction and stability at higher speeds. ASR can be deactivated with the push of a button on the dashboard.

4Motion only on V6 automatic models

The 4Motion system is available only on Passat GLS and GLX sedans and wagons with the 2.8 litre V6 engine and optional 5-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission. (Front-wheel-drive Passats are also available with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 150 horsepower 1.8 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine.)

Tiptronic, an automatic/manual transmission developed by Porsche, allows clutchless manual shifting by pushing forwards on the gear lever to change up gears, and by pulling back on the gear lever to change down gears. In automatic mode, this ‘intelligent’ transmission will change down automatically when going downhill, and hold in 4th or 5th when climbing a slight grade.

In my opinion, the 2.8 litre V6 engine is one of the best V6 engines in the world – it’s extremely smooth, powerful, quiet, and free-revving. It develops 190 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 206 ft.-lb. of torque at 3,200 rpm. Technically sophisticated, it features five valves per cylinder, dual overhead camshafts, variable intake valve timing and a variable geometry composite intake manifold.

The only drawback with this engine is a lack of torque at lower engine speeds, a condition common to almost all sub-3.0 litre V6 engines. In addition, fuel consumption isn’t very good for a car of this size. With the Tiptronic transmission, the Passat Wagon offers 13.1 l/100 km (18 mpg) in the city, and 8.3 l/100 km (26 mpg) on the highway. And it uses Premium gasoline.

Top-notch suspension and brakes

The Passat is based on a stretched Audi A4 platform, and has a fully independent suspension. In particular, the front four-link suspension uses a design which eliminates torque steer – a condition where steering feedback from the driveline can be felt under hard acceleration. The Passat’s front wheels are steered directly from their centre points, rather than at the end of lever arms like other front-drive cars.

At the rear, Volkswagen employs a fully independent double wishbone suspension with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.

Other notable technical features on the Passat are power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes with the latest anti-lock braking system.

Driving impressions

As wagons go, the Passat is a joy to drive. I’ve driven both the Wagon and the Sedan, and I was quite impressed with the Wagon’s handling. It seemed even more balanced than the sedan, and – I’m theorizing here – it might be because there’s more weight in the rear of the Wagon. The Sedan’s front to rear weight ratio is about 60/40, but the Wagon’s is probably more evenly balanced. Still, the wagon, especially the 4Motion Wagon, is heavier than the sedan, and it’s acceleration suffers slightly.

The Passat 4Motion’s driving dynamics are excellent, the ride is superb, and the cabin is very quiet – it really feels like a luxury car. There is no sense of being in four-wheel-drive – its operation is completely transparent to the driver. Outward visibility is excellent – all the windows are large, and the rear pillars aren’t too thick. Braking is excellent, and overall control is superior to other cars in its class. The steering is well-weighted, though not speed-sensitive, and its turning circle of 11.4 metres (37.4 feet) is a bit wide, but OK for a 4WD vehicle.

If there’s one word to describe the Passat, it’s ‘refined’. Its quiet ride, solid body, refined drivetrain, and quality fit and finish make it feel more like a ‘near luxury’ automobile rather than a standard family car.

Safety above-average

The Passat includes standard frontal and side airbags – the latter are positioned in the front seats so that they move in relation to the passenger when the seat is moved. Side protection also includes special reinforcements and structural members in the doors, including anti-intrusion tubes and foam padding.

All Passats have five three-point seatbelts, five adjustable head restraints, seatbelt tensioners, shoulder height adjustments, and rear automatic locking retractors to install child seats, as well as emergency locking retractors. For 2000, Volkswagen added new rear child seat tether anchorage points for child seats.

Passat’s have a rigid body structure that includes energy absorbing crumple zones. In a severe crash, these deformation zones crumple like an accordian, absorbing the energy to spare the passenger compartment. Passats also have a collapsible steering column and an interior with recessed door handles and control switches, crushable sun visors, a foldable rear-view mirror, and an absence of sharp edges.

Roomy cargo area

The Passat Wagon has a very practical cargo area with a flat floor, a low hatchback height, and rear seats which fold down for a flat loading surface. With the rear seats up, there is 450 litres (15.9 cu. ft.) of space, and with both rear seats folded down, there is 1545 litres (54.6 cu. ft.). There are four tie-down hooks and a sliding privacy cover for the cargo area. The rear hatch, which is easy to open and close, has a hand-grip in the door for an easier grip.

Lengthy list of features

Wagons with 4Motion come in two well-equipped trim levels, but the asking price is quite steep. The Passat GLS V6 4Motion wagon starts at $37,905, and includes the 2.8 litre V6 engine, 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette with 8 speakers, foglamps, analog tachometer and digital clock, a multi-function trip computer, anti-theft alarm, cruise control, central power door locking, a full-size spare tire, and front centre storage compartment (in armrest).

The GLX 4Motion Wagon, which starts at $43,075 adds leather seating, a powerful 200 watt 8-speaker Monsoon Audio System, heatable eight-way power fronts seats, walnut wood trim, automatic climate control, remote keyless door locks, CD preparation, a more advanced trip computer, a power glass sunroof and heated windshield washer nozzles.

Options on the GLX include a trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer, (no-charge) metallic paint, and the Tiptronic 5-speed automatic transmission. New for 2000 is a dealer-installed in-dash CD player.

All Passats come with a 2 year/40,000 km warranty which includes emergency Roadside Assistance and a 5 year/80,000 km powertrain warranty. In addition, all scheduled maintenance is included at no charge for two years or 40,000 km.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for Passat Wagons are as follows: GLS $30,275; GLS V6 $33,925; GLS V6 4Motion $37,905; GLX $39,095; and GLX 4Motion $43,075.

Though the Passat Wagon 4Motion is more expensive than its main competitor, the Subaru Legacy Outback, my impression is that it is a higher quality vehicle. Whether consumers are willing to pay more for a high quality Volkswagen is another question.

Technical Data:

2000 VW Passat Wagon GLX 4Motion
Base price $43,075
Type 4-door, mid-sized station wagon
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.8 litre V6
Horsepower 190 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 206 ft-lb. @ 3200 rpm
Transmission 5 speed Tiptronic automatic
Tires P205/55 R 16
Curb weight 1535 kg (3603 lb.)
Wheelbase 2703 mm (106.4 in.)
Length 4669 mm (183.8 in.)
Width 1740 mm (68.5 in.)
Height 1499 mm (59.0 in.)
Trunk space 450 litres (15.9 cu. ft.)(rear seat up)
  1545 litres (54.6 cu. ft) (rear seats down)
Payload 457 kg (1008 lb.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.1 l/100 km (22 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.3 l/100 km (34 mpg)
Warranty 2 yrs/40,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/80,000 km

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