The 2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon came in today and, on our initial spin, proved to be a capable, fun car with tons of room inside. VW sent us one with the Value Edition trim level and one option package that includes a power sunroof, a six-CD in-dash changer, and XM radio. This edition keeps the price down to $28,430, but we would have really liked to see a more teched-up car. Two options that VW offers that didn't come on our test car were navigation and the premium Dynaudio sound system. I'd love to try out the Dynaudio stereo, although the standard version that came with the car sounded very strong. The base system has eight speakers, with three in each front door, and gave a nice, full sound. When cranked up, with the bass at the max as well, it did start to distort but was overall impressive for a standard system. As in other VWs we've seen, the bass, treble, balance, and fader controls are simple knobs at the bottom of the stereo, allowing for quick and easy adjustment. The CD player also handles MP3s, and the standard stereo LCD has enough room to show artist and track information. In fact, the stereo interface is well designed to handle both XM Satellite Radio and MP3 CDs. Two rocker switches on the sides make it easy to navigate through folders/categories and tracks.
Our test car didn't come with navigation, which isn't even an option for the Value trim, but it did have the red LED multi-information display between the tachometer and speedometer, a nice feature that VW brought over from Audi. Without the navigation, this display is relegated to showing compass directions and trip computer info. The car also uses VW's characteristic keyless fob, which has to be pushed into a slot in the dash to start the engine.
I was impressed with this car's get-up-and-go. It uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo that puts out 200 horsepower. A 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter, six-cylinder is also available. The turbo boost kicks in seamlessly. The engine works very well with the six-speed automatic, giving adequate acceleration when punched in normal drive mode. In Sport mode, the tires make a satisfying squeal on a fast launch. There's also a manual selection mode, which actually holds the gears pretty high up through the revs. The engine uses VW's FSI direct-injection technology, which sprays fuel directly into the cylinders. Gas mileage is rated at only 22mpg in the city, which is probably due to the turbo, but it goes up to 31mpg on the highway.
For a wagon, it corners pretty well. The car looks reasonably small on the outside, but the inside is capacious. The cargo area behind the rear seats is very big, but fold down the rear seats down and it's positively huge. As a surprising touch, the rear hatch is power-operated, even at the Value trim level. Although the power hatch is neat to operate, I think VW could have put that money into something else on the car, such as a standard sunroof, Bluetooth, or even to lessen the price of the navigation option. I mean, it's not hard to open the hatch on a small wagon. The car feels well built, as if VW is seeking to combat past quality problems by overbuilding hinges and hatches. The hood and doors all close with a satisfying solidity, while plastic interior hatches and drawers also feel like they're in it for the long haul.
So far, I like this wagon quite a bit. It would work great for an all-around car, with plenty of room to haul people and cargo. It also offers a fun, sporty feel for ripping around town. On our first spin, I thought it felt almost like an Audi.