This is one station wagon that has exceeded my expectations. The Volkswagen Passat Wagon V6 3.2-litre 4Motion is a mouthful, but a brilliant piece of well balanced, good-looking German machinery. At under $60,000 – though our press car exceeded that because of the comprehensive list of extras – you get a lot of bang for your buck.
The 2007 Passat Wagon is certainly solid, but it is anything but no-frills, as VWs of the past have been. In fact, VW is pushing the Passat to the near-luxury class. From its slightly bulbous nose to its gently rounded back, the Passat Wagon is a great looking package. If a wagon can be sleek, the Passat is sleek. Overall the Passat has superb paintwork, fit and finish. It’s a gorgeous car, with visual interest from every angle.
Inside it is tastefully luxurious. The seats are great, supportive and easily adjustable, and the leather surfaces are supple. When you are sitting in the driver’s seat, the Passat’s cabin wraps around you with an ergonomic layout that just plain works. Everything’s right where you expect it to be. A great instrument cluster sits above the steering wheel under a slight eyebrow in the dash. Big rotary analogue gauges display the important information and smaller LCD readouts toggle less pressing info. The centre stack houses the audio, navigation and climate controls. VW’s excellent DVD-based navigation system will set you back $2,990 and, together with a Dynaudio 600W Premium Audio System another $2,000, you have a full-on audio and navigation event happening. However, I’m not sure whether it is worth the close to $5,000 as an option.
Rear seat accommodation is good for two adults, too tight for three full-sized humans. Like the exterior, fit and finish are superb throughout the interior of the Passat. Material selection and quality rivals the luxury brands in every respect.
The Passat has always been a pleasant car to drive with adequate handling and manoeuvrability. The 4Motion package ups the ante, delivering full-time power to all four wheels through a special computer-controlled coupling. Independent suspension controls the body roll without making the ride too harsh, and power steering makes the Passat a blast in the curves. The 3.2-litre V6 under the bonnet blasts you where you want to go with 184kW and 330Nm of torque pulsing through the 6-speed DSG transmission. Four-wheel ventilated power ABS disc brakes haul you down from speed, and traction control keeps everything on the road. The Passat Wagon is rated for a combined cycle 10.1 litres per 100km, a very respectable performance.
Volkswagen has been struggling with an identity crisis for a while now. Are they a value brand? A workhorse? A luxury marque? With the Passat, VW stakes a claim on near-luxury, undercutting the other German brands by thousands of dollars, yet offering great features and performance for the money.
There are several other competitors out there that you should consider if you need a mid-sized wagon. If you must have German engineering, the Audi A4, the soon to be released Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-series wagons are all excellent vehicles, albeit $7,000 to $15,000 pricier than the Passat.
Volkswagen has delivered an excellent, segment-breaking vehicle. Gone are the days of VW being a bare-bones people’s car; now it’s a near-luxury brand with a lot to offer for the money.
Price: $56,990
Transmission: 6-speed DSG
Engine: 3.2-litre V6 petrol
Power: 184kw, 330Nm
Fuel consumption: Combined 10.1L/100km
Good: Puts the sexy back into wagon
Bad: Needs to run on 98 RON petrol

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