Volkswagen Passat
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by Russell Purcell

4Motion Inspires Confidence
For the 2001 model year, Volkswagen equipped the Passat sedan with a full-time all-wheel-drive and traction control system in a package similar to corporate sister Audi’s famed ‘Quattro’ system. In fact, the system is so similar that Audi executives probably feared that customers would bypass their dealerships and get Quattro Passats instead of the pricier Audi brethren. As a result, VW named this innovative system 4Motion. For 2002 this system is available in the Passat Wagon, offering this attractive people mover a new level of surefootedness.

Already a very capable car, the Passat equipped with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is outstanding. The combination of all-wheel-drive, EDS (an Electronic Locking Differential), and four-wheel ABS brakes ensures that you and your passengers will be ready to tackle the most extreme driving conditions as well as stops. The 4Motion system delivers power to all four wheels, but adjusts the amount front or rear depending on road conditions and wheel slippage. The EDS component detects slippage from the individual ABS sensors and applies the brakes to counter the spinning wheel(s).

If you consider that Canadian drivers are often faced with wet and slippery road conditions, the 4Motion Passat may be the perfect car for those consumers who are reluctant to follow the masses and purchase a SUV. Unless you really feel the need to go off road, the Passat 4Motion is definitely a car to consider.

My test took place during a period of extra nasty weather so I had the opportunity to put the 4Motion to the test. Slick road surfaces after a light snowfall, driving rain and even heavy winds failed to unsettle the car. Handling was crisp and tight as steering is predictable and the car tracks very well. The car likes to be tossed through twisty sections, as the added weight and surefootedness of all-wheel-drive make this wagon handle like it is on rails. The OEM rubber did protest a little bit, as a faint squeal could be detected as the car reached the outer limits of adhesion, but I am sure that a stickier rubber would transform this vehicle into a real dynamo. The added weight and full-time operation of the 4Motion system does present one major drawback however, that being it has a detrimental effect on fuel consumption, and as this car sips premium gasoline, the costs add up.

Volkswagen Passat W8
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Volkswagen engineers sought to make the Passat one of the most dynamically solid cars in the world, and after spending the week behind the wheel of a couple of examples this year I must admit I was impressed. Volkswagen is laying claim to class-leading dynamic body stiffness, a trait responsible for giving the vehicle competent handling, a quiet ride, outstanding crashworthiness and superior body fit and finish. This was accomplished by employing advanced reinforcing measures incorporating strategic laser welding techniques. Continued advancements like this will go a long way to ensure that Volkswagen will maintain its market share and identity in the highly competitive automotive marketplace.

The Passat Wagon, as with all Passat models, was exceptionally quiet at cruising speeds, but under acceleration from a stop you are made aware of the fact that this car has the heart of an athlete. The 190 horsepower 2.8-litre V6 seemed more than ample for passing, and power came on very smoothly, but if you have a need for more ponies, the Passat 4Motion Wagon can be ordered in W8 configuration. Either way, everyday commuting would be a pleasure in this well thought out package.

It should be noted that the Passat has a different 2.8 litre V6 engine to the Golf, Jetta and Eurovan. The Passat’s V6 has a 90 degree angle between the cylinder banks while other VW’s have the more compact ‘VR6’ engine with 15 degrees between the cylinder banks.

The Passat 4Motion features all of the niceties one expects from a near luxury car. Power windows and locks, heated mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning, an upscale Monsoon 8-speaker sound system (with optional trunk-mounted CD changer), attractive trim details and very supportive seats are all present. My GLX tester featured the optional leather seating surfaces as well as the power glass moon roof and stylish 16-inch alloy wheels. A very slick 5-speed Tiptronic transmission allowed me the option of either choosing my own shift points or to settle back and let the car make the decisions.

Volkswagen Passat W8

Volkswagen Passat W8
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The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and exceptional handling can’t protect you from everything, so in addition to front driver and passenger airbags, Volkswagen offers side units mounted directly into the front seats as a standard feature. This configuration guarantees that the occupant will benefit from the full protection offered by these airbags when deployed, as they are always properly lined up with the subject’s body. The same cannot be said for door-mounted bags. Side-curtain airbags are also available as a low cost option, and offer passengers effective protection from flying glass and debris if involved in a side-impact crash. Their presence may put you more at ease if the car is destined to be the primary family hauler

How does it fit? My tester had more than enough head and legroom for my 6’2″ frame, even when equipped with the optional moon roof. All of the controls fell readily to hand and at night, every single one of them is illuminated. Even the individual vents controls! It is amazing how something as simple as this added to the pleasure of driving this car on a day-to-day basis. The gauges become a vibrant blue when the lights are activated at night, giving the cockpit a very classy look. The power-operated driver’s seat was very comfortable and supportive, but I would have liked a little more side bolster. A matching unit is standard for the front passenger on the up-market GLX.

The 4Motion package enhances the safety of a car already recognized for being on par with the best. Front and side airbags, headrests all around and an excellent crash rating reveal that Volkswagen would like to steal some ‘thunder’ away from safety king Volvo.

The only option on the GLX-trimmed Passat Wagon 4Motion is VW’s Electronic Stabilization Program ($430) an anti-skid system that helps prevent losing control while cornering on slippery surfaces.

The Volkswagen Passat 4Motion Wagon may be one of the best automotive choices on the market for Canadian driving conditions- An agile and luxurious wagon for the city-based executive, as well as a confidence inspiring safety capsule for getting the kids to hockey practice on an icy morning. Add to this the fact that Volkswagen offers this model in either sedan or wagon form makes it even more worth a look.


Technical Data:

Base price $44,650 (2003 MSRP)
Options ESP $430
Type 5-Passenger mid-size wagon
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.8 litre DOHC 90 degree V6, five valves per cylinder
Horsepower 190 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 206 lbs-ft. @ 3,200 rpm
Transmission 5-speed Tiptronic automatic
Curb weight 1,704 kg. (3757 lbs.).
Wheelbase 2,702 mm (106.4 in.).
Length 4,682 mm (184.3 in)
Width 1,746 mm (68.7 in)
Height 1,498 mm (59.0 in)
Cargo capacity rear seat up: 1.019 m³ (36 cu. ft.)
  rear seat folded: 1.546 m³ (54.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.0 l/100 km (23 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg).
Warranty 4-year/80,000 km – includes 24-hour roadside assistance)
Powertrain warranty 5 year/100,000 km

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