Wednesday, September 20, 2006

FAST FORWARD: Passat is Not Your Typical Station Wagon


Maybe its just me, but when I think of a station wagon, the images that come to mind are straight out of movies like Vacation or Better off Dead. You know, the tank green Ford LTD Country Squire with that God-awful fake wood trim and someone’s dead Grandma strapped to the top. Too far? Perhaps.

These Grizwold-mobiles were the bane of all car guys existence. They were ugly, had the handling of a pregnant cow, and took a Sunday afternoon to make 60 mph. Frankly, I’m not sure there was a single redeeming quality in 70’s and 80’s station wagons.

With the recent resurgence of the station wagon, it’s good that the Volkswagen folks have an appreciation for the importance of the driving experience. I peered out the window this week praying that I wouldn’t be catapulted back to the bad ol’ days of four-wheel-suburbanite hell. Fortunately, what lay before me was anything but an eye sore. This wagon, like many of the new breed, is sporty, sleek, and doesn’t have the bench seat akin to a Lazyboy sectional.

PERFORMANCE

My tester was equipped with a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder powerplant making a respectable 200 horsepower. This is the same motor that comes standard in the GLI. The fact that it is about 200 pounds heavier than the GLI is noticeable. However, with a 0-60 mph time under eight seconds, it’s no slouch, either.

HANDLING

Unlike the more expensive and more powerful 3.6 VR6 and VR6 4 Motion, the 2.0T is only available in front-wheel drive. Despite it’s lack of AWD, the 2.0 liter car was relatively neutrally handling. Of course, it has a tendency to understeer at speed, but satisfactory nevertheless.

STYLING

Despite its wagon handicap, the Passat is easy on the eyes. Typically German, it has an elegant demeanor inside and out. Further, it has more interior cargo space (35.8 cu.ft) than the Saab 9-3 2.0T, Volvo V-50 2.4I, or BMW 325xit. Instrumentation is precisely where it should be, and never difficult to operate. I was particularly impressed with the Dynaudio sound system. I had no trouble equalizing to accommodate my taste.

JUDGEMENT

Still a wagon, yet much cooler than those of yesteryear. I enjoyed the Passat Wagon. As much as it pains me to admit it, I did. It has reasonable performance and good cargo space. No Grizwoldmobile here! --- Marcus MacFarland