2001.5 Volkswagen Passat
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by Greg Wilson

Atlanta, Georgia – The winding, two-lane blacktop roads that snake up and around the
mountains and canyons of Chatahoochee National Forest Preserve near Atlanta, Georgia offered the perfect venue to test the new 2001.5 Volkswagen Passat, a car that’s remains a true driver’s sedan. VW invited a group of American and Canadian journalists here to drive the updated Passat which should be arriving in dealerships now.

Officially, the new Passat is designated a 2001-and-a-half model to differentiate it from the previous-generation 2001 models. This may prove confusing to some new car buyers when the identical 2002 Passat arrives this Fall. As well, I think ‘two thousand and one and a half’ has way too many syllables. The car’s offical name is ‘New Passat’, like New Beetle, New Jetta, etc. – however, I refuse to call it the ‘new New Passat’.

Though it looks similar to the current Passat which was last updated in 1997, the new Passat’s styling is all new with the xception of the roof and the doors. It also gets a revised interior, a more powerful 1.8T turbocharged four cylinder engine on base odels, a
stiffer body structure, new side curtain airbags, and a few other new features.

The 2001.5 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices are as follows: Passat GLS sedan $29,950 (up $450); Passat V6 GLX 4Motion sedan $43,305 (up $805); Passat GLS Wagon $30,725; and Passat GLX Wagon 4Motion $44,480.

Sportier styling

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2001.5 new Passat GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat GLS 1.8T sedan
2001.5 new Passat GLS 1.8T sedan
2001.5 new Passat Wagon GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat Wagon GLX V6 4Motion
2001.5 new Passat Interior
2001.5 new Passat

Though it’s profile is similar and its overall size is about the same, the new Passat has a sportier, more distinctive look than the current model. The grille is more sharply raked and integrates better with the front bumper; covered headlamps with projector beams look sportier; and standard projector beam foglights are built into the lower front bumper. Prominent wheel flares add to its sporty stance, and at the rear new red and white taillights with twin round brake lights add detail to what used to be a plain red taillight lens.

Inside, the Passat has the same high-quality look and Audi-like quality with a new centre console, new gauges with chrome rings, a new centre armrest storage bin, and cupholders relocated from the dash to the centre console where they don’t get in the way of the controls. GLX models now have stereo and cruise control on the steering wheel, and a new Homelink garage door opener on the driver’s visor.

In addition to standard front and side airbags, all Passats now come with standard side curtain airbags which protect the head and torso of both front and rear passengers.

More powerful 1.8 litre four cylinder engine

Horsepower on the standard 1.8 litre four cylinder engine in the Passat GLS has increased from 150 to 170 while torque has increased from 155 lb-ft to 166 lb-ft. This standard turbocharged, intercooled 1.8 litre four cylinder engine includes five valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts. GLX models continue to offer the previous 190 horsepower 2.8 litre V6 engine with five valves per cylinder, dual overhead camshafts, variable intake valve timing, and variable intake manifold.

As before, 2001.5 Passats offer standard four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS – the latter works in harmony with standard EDL (electronic differential locking) and ASR (anti-slip reduction) to provide traction control in front-wheel-drive models. 4Motion, VW’s full-time four-wheel-drive system is offered only only on GLX V6 models with the optional 5 speed automatic Tiptronic transmission.

Driving impressions

I’ll be honest, there’s not a heck of a lot of difference between the old Passat and the new one. The 1.8T model has about 12% more horsepower which translates into a time of 7.9 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. That’s pretty close to the time of 7.3 seconds
for the slightly heavier V6 Passat. The V6 engine is smoother and quieter though with more torque and low-speed esponsiveness.

Handling, as before, is exemplary for a front-wheel-drive family sedan, with minimal lean, minimal understeer, good control, and little dive during braking. This is a family sedan you can enjoy driving.

I felt the new Passat was quieter overall, and offered a more refined driving experience, probably due to its stiffer body structure. At a steady 100 km/h, the V6 engine did 2500 rpm while the 1.8T engine did 2500 rpm – both comfortably quiet. The manual transmission offers smooth and more precise throws than before, and the 5-speed Tiptronic is so smooth you barely notice it. In manual mode, shifts are as quick as they get in an electronic transmission, and adds to the fun of driving on a twisty Georgia backroad. The power-assisted steering seems to offer a little more feel than before, and I was quite happy with it.

Inside, I was disappointed with the new armrest/storage bin which is too far back to rest your arm on and has a rather small storage compartment. And the third rear head restraint restricts rear visibility slightly.

Overall, the new Passat is more of the same – with refinements. The 1.8T models seem like the best buy, with almost as much horsepower and similar handling for a lower price.

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