2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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Over the past decade or so, mid-sized station wagons have been gradually replaced by SUVs and crossover vehicles. Honda and Toyota for example, no longer make wagon versions of the Accord and Camry. Ford dropped the Taurus wagon and did not introduce a wagon version of the new Fusion. Chevrolet doesn’t sell a wagon version of the Impala and their Malibu Maxx is more like a large hatchback than a wagon. Hyundai and Kia did not introduce wagon versions of their new Sonata and Magentis. The only new mid-size wagons to enter the market recently were the funky Dodge Magnum, the sporty Mazda6, the enduring Subaru Legacy/Outback wagons, and now the redesigned 2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon.

Based on the recently-redesigned Passat sedan, the new wagon is slightly bigger and roomier than the previous wagon and is available with two new engines, a 200-hp 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder, available with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission; and a 280-hp 3.6-litre narrow angle V6 (VR6) available only with a six-speed automatic ‘Tiptronic’ transmission. Europeans also get a 140-hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that might be coming to Canada too.

In North America, only the V6 model is available with Volkswagen’s full-time four-wheel-drive system called 4Motion – but in Europe, the four-cylinder Passat Wagon is also available with 4Motion. Too bad: that model would have been much more affordable.

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
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While base MSRPs for the 2007 Passat Wagon range between $31,425 and $33,995 for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder model, the V6 Wagon starts at $44,115 for the front-wheel drive model and $47,015 for the V6 Wagon with 4Motion. In addition, options can easily boost the price over $50,000. My test vehicle had over $8,000 worth of options bringing its as-tested price to over $56,000. That seems like a lot of money to pay for a mid-sized Volkswagen station wagon. Both the Dodge Magnum and Subaru Outback wagons offer V6 engines too, albeit with less horsepower, for lower base prices: The 2006 Dodge Magnum SXT AWD is $35,440 and offers a 250-hp 3.5-litre V6; the Subaru Outback 3.0R VDC is $45,995 and offers a 250-hp 3.0-litre horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder.

However, if you look at luxury makes with similar engines and equipment, the Passat Wagon 4Motion is cheaper – for example: Audi A4 3.2 Avant Quattro $49,335 (255-hp 3.2-litre V6); BMW 325xiT Touring $44,400 (215-hp 3.0-litre inline 6); Cadillac SRX AWD $51,400; (255-hp 3.6-litre V6), Jaguar X-Type Sportwagon $53,235 (227-hp 3.0-litre V6); and Volvo V70 T5 AWD $49,120 (257-hp 2.5-litre turbo 5).

Conclusion? If the Passat was an Audi instead of a Volkswagen, it would seem like a better value!


Many standard features

Certainly, the 2007 VW Passat Wagon with 4Motion does have a lot of standard features, but leather seats is not one of them. In addition to the V6 engine and automatic six-speed transmission with Tiptronic manual shift function, it offers standard ‘leatherette’ upholstery with heated front seats, dual zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with 6-disc in-dash CD changer with steering wheel audio controls and eight speakers, walnut dash trim, electronic parking brake, power moonroof, power windows, power door locks with remote, power tailgate with remote opening, manual tilt/telescopic steering wheel,

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
Click image to enlarge

power lumbar for the driver’s seat, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks with a separate folding centre armrest and pass-through, rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers, rear wiper, compass, outside temperature display, and low tire pressure warning system.

In addition, standard safety features include four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, and electronic traction and stability control – in addition to the full-time all-wheel drive system on the 4Motion model. Six airbags are standard (two front, two front-side, two curtain) and two rear-side airbags are optional. As well, there are ‘active’ front head restraints to reduce whiplash, five height-adjustable head restraints, seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters, rear child locks and LATCH anchors for child seats, and breakaway pedals for crash emergencies.

My test vehicle had most of the available options: a Sport Leather Package ($3,495) which includes leather seats, 12-way power driver and passenger seats with 3-position memory, multi-function steering wheel with Tiptronic controls, stiffer sport suspension, rear and side sunshades; DVD satellite navigation ($2,700); Bi-xenon headlights with swivelling headlights and headlight washers ($1,600); and rear side airbags ($450).

With Freight and A/C tax, my test wagon came to $56,075.


Interior impressions

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
Click image to enlarge

Longer and wider than the previous Passat wagon, the new model offers more rear legroom, hiproom, and cargo space. Front and rear passengers have generous legroom and headroom, even with the standard sunroof. The driver has a height adjustable seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and the seats are well bolstered and firm with good support for long journeys.

Typical of Volkswagen interiors, the Passat’s is well-finished – but I had some quibbles. The black interior of my test car had metal-look trim on the centre console, faux carbon fibre trim, chrome trim on the gauges and HVAC controls, and a chrome gate for the floor shift lever. The chrome-rimmed round gauges ahead of the driver look attractive, but I found the smaller fuel and coolant gauges difficult to read at a glance. A red backlit information display between the tachometer and speedometer is easier to read, and includes a compass, odometer, radio station and transmission gear indicator.

To the left of the steering wheel is a button for engaging and disengaging the parking brake. I found this easier (and less space-consuming) than a footbrake or handbrake, as soon as I learned to stop pulling on an imaginary handbrake. As well, a handy flip-down storage tray near the door provides easy access to parking meter and toll change.

The Passat’s centre instrument panel has a couple of handy slide-out coin trays on either side of the triangular hazard button – they’re so nicely integrated into the dash, you don’t realize they’re there.

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
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Below that, the optional colour screen for the radio and navigation system sits squarely in the middle of the dash. It’s not a large screen by today’s standards and I found it difficult to read at times. It’s not a touch screen: users flip between menus for the radio, CD player, telephone, and navigation system by using buttons below the screen, and by pressing buttons on the sides of the screen which correspond to individual functions like radio stations or other selections. The navigation DVD contains directions to thousands of shopping centers, banks, restaurants, hospitals, gas stations, hotels, and businesses, and the system will give you directions simply by clicking on the location. Any destination can be inputted from a memory file, by spelling the destination, or by scrolling to the place on the map where you want to go, and pressing enter.

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
Click image to enlarge

Overall, I found the Passat’s screen-based radio and navigation systems easy to use without having to read the owner’s manual, and I liked the fact that it’s possible to operate the radio without switching off the navigation map while driving.

Below the screen are conventional dials for the air conditioning/heater system with separate driver and passenger temperature controls and digital readouts. But I found the buttons below the round dials for ventilation too small to be seen or used easily. Note that the ‘Economy’ mode disables the air conditioning, even if you set the temperature very low.

Between the front seats, a centre armrest includes a roomy storage box for valuables, but there isn’t a 12-volt powerpoint for charging phones and PDAs in there.

For carrying cargo, the split rear seatbacks fold down flat to form a flat cargo floor, but it’s a three-step process. First you must pull up the rear seat cushion, and flip it up against the front seatbacks. Then you must remove the rear head restraints and place them in the holes provided for them on the top of the seat cushions. Then you release the seatbacks and pull them straight down. I kept thinking there must be an easier way.

Below the privacy cover, the Passat Wagon’s cargo area is 603 litres (21.3 cu. ft.) (the Passat sedan’s trunk has 402 litres (14.2 cu. ft.). With both rear seats folded down, there is a total of 1731 litres (61.1 cu. ft.) in the wagon, including the 90-litre spare wheel well under the cargo floor. The cargo floor length is 106 cm (42 in.) to the back of the rear seats, and 190 cm (75 in.) with the rear seats folded down. The cargo area has carpeted floor and walls to prevent scratches, and includes a 12-volt powerpoint. Payload capacity is 638 kg (1406 lb.)
A feature I liked was the power hatch door which can be opened remotely by pressing a button on the key. This is much easier than fumbling for the lock with one hand while holding grocery bags with the other. But to close the tailgate, you must press a button on the tailgate.


Driving impressions

Volkswagen’s ‘switchblade’ ignition key has been replaced by a stubby, rounded key with large buttons for remote locking and unlocking. To start the Passat, the driver inserts the stubby key into a slot in the dash. To stop the engine, the key is simply pulled out. While simple, I’m not sure I like this key better than the old one – it seems bigger in your pocket.

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
Click image to enlarge

Ingress to the driver’s seat is easy, and the driver has great visibility – the wagon’s greenhouse of windows, tall roof and vertical tail provides excellent outward vision.

The new 3.6-litre DOHC 24-valve VR6 engine starts easily and rumbles quietly. The new engine and transaxle are now mounted transversely rather than longitudinally in the engine bay. This frees up more space in the cabin, but doesn’t improve vehicle dynamics – more in a minute.

The VR6 engine, which has a narrow 10.6 degree angle between the cylinder banks, features variable valve timing, variable intake length and direct gasoline injection and develops 280-hp @ 6200 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at just 2750 rpm. Volkswagen says the front-wheel drive Passat VR6 sedan will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.6 seconds, but the heavier 4Motion Wagon probably adds a second to that. Still, this is a quick wagon with lots of useful torque, and a very smooth drivetrain. I recorded an engine speed of just 2000 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear, allowing the Passat Wagon to offer up to 8.0 L/100 km (35 mpg Imp.) on the highway. City fuel consumption is estimated at 12.8 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp.).

The Passat Wagon is very quiet at highway speeds, and the six-speed automatic is so smooth you really aren’t aware of it changing gears. However, I found the throttle was slow to respond under certain situations, such as when turning right at an intersection and accelerating away. My car had the optional Tiptronic transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. This Tiptronic tranny can be shifted manually with the floor shifter (tap up to shift up, tap back to shift down) or with the paddles (pull left to shift down, pull right to shift up). But paddle shifters aren’t really appropriate for this type of vehicle, and I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra money for it – except that it’s part of the comprehensive Leather Sport Package, and you can’t delete it.

With a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson strut/rear multi-link), new electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering system that offers responsive, low-effort steering, and sticky Michelin Pilot 235/45R-17-inch radials, the Passat has both a great highway ride and balanced, competent handling – but in my opinion, the previous Passat was more fun to drive. Perhaps it’s the new transverse engine, or the Passat’s larger size and weight, but dynamically, the new Passat is less nimble.

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
Click image to enlarge

As well, the optional sport suspension is a bit stiff on rough roads, and the handling gains come at the expense of ride comfort.

You’re certainly less likely to get into trouble on a slippery road though. With standard four-wheel discs with ABS with Brake Assist, traction control and stability control – plus all-wheel drive, the Passat Wagon 4Motion is a very capable car for driving in poor weather. Even the new electro-mechanical steering automatically adjusts for side winds.

What exactly is 4Motion? Let me quote a couple of paragraphs from Volkswagen’s media information kit because they probably do a better job of explaining the technical bits than I do:

“The Passat comes equipped for the first time with a 4Motion system featuring Haldex coupling. The coupling, which is fitted directly in the rear axle, is considerably more compact and the system works quickly, sensitively, and quietly. The central element of the 4Motion system is a multi-plate wet coupling (in an oil bath). It is called the Haldex coupling as it was developed together with Swedish systems partner Haldex who have worked with Volkswagen for many years. The Haldex coupling has the major advantage of being electronically controlled and having a very fast response. This allows it to work very effectively in conjunction with the anti-lock braking system (ABS), the traction control system (TCS), the electronic differential lock (EDL), and the electronic stability programme (ESP) – all these assistance systems are fitted as standard in the Passat.”

2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion
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“As soon as differences in the speeds of rotation between the front and rear axles occur two annular piston pumps are activated which build up pressure in the multi-plate coupling (Haldex system) thus “coupling” the two axles to each other. The transmitted torque can be varied by adjusting the pressure on the coupling plates, thus controlling the flow of power between the front and rear axles. The coupling provides an infinitely variable torque transfer between the front and rear axles. In extreme cases up to 100 percent of the available torque can be transmitted to the rear axle. In the normal case with the vehicle travelling in a straight line at a constant speed with no differences in the wheels’ grip, 90 percent of the available torque is transmitted to the front axle and ten percent to the rear axle.”

One more thing about the Passat: the optional adaptive headlights ($1,666) offer excellent night-time illumination in both low beam and high beam settings. The two low beam HID headlights turn independently in the direction the car is steered, swivelling up to 15 degrees. For example, when turning left, the left headlight turns left at a sharper angle than the right headlight. In addition, a light on the side of the car illuminates the roadside when making a sharp turn, up to 35 degrees. I found these bright swivelling headlights increased visibility significantly at night, and I would recommend them as a worthwhile safety feature.


Verdict

A comfortable, roomy, well-equipped, and powerful mid-sized station wagon with above-average safety features, the redesigned 2007 VW Passat V6 Wagon 4Motion is nevertheless quite expensive.


Pricing: 2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion

  • Base price: $47,015
  • Options: $8,245 (Sport Leather Package $3,495: leather seats, 12-way power driver and passenger seats with 3-position memory, multi-function steering wheel with Tiptronic controls, sport suspension, rear and side sunshades; DVD satellite navigation $2,700; Bi-xenon headlights with swivelling headlights and headlight washers $1,600; rear side airbags $450)
  • Freight: $695
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $56,075 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


Crash test results


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Competitors

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Subaru Legacy AWD
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Subaru Outback AWD
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Dodge Magnum SXT AWD


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