BOSTON, Mass. -- A traffic signal on Congress Street in Boston switches to green as we crank the Tiptronic automatic six-speed lever into the first notch and apply the peddle in the Passat 2.0T, base trim for the next rendition of mid-size sedans from Volkswagen of Germany. The new four-in-line engine in Passat, with turbo-charger and inter-cooler on tap plus VW's remarkable FSI (fuel straight injection) technology, nixes the customary lag in timing for launch that annoying lull of a second or more after pushing the accelerator while the turbo-charger spools up before spitting out boosted torque to turn the wheels. As a result, this Passat leaps immediately off the line for a run up the gear ladder until we're confronted by traffic on Congress.
It feels vigorous and quick, drawing on the full force of the engine's production of 200 hp peaking between 5100 and 6000 rpm plus 207 lb-ft of torque spread across a broad band from 1800 to 5000 rpm. A 2.0T entry edition in the Passat series carries the 2.0-liter turbo FSI plant in front-wheel-drive (FWD) format with Porsche's Tiptronic sequential automatic six-speed transmission or, on a special best-dollar Value Edition, a shift-it-yourself six-speed manual. In addition, VW builds the Passat in a luxury edition with V6 power under the badge of Passat 3.6L VR6 It's fired by an aluminum narrow-angle V6 which displaces 3.6 liters and stocks dual overhead cams. The V6 romps with 280 hp at 6200 rpm plus a flat torque line peaking at 265 lb-ft at 2750 rpm. The standard version of Passat 3.6L VR6 operates with a FWD mechanism, but Volkswagen adds the option of all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction through the 4Motion system.
It enhances wheel traction on pavement by continuously distributing the engine's power to all of the wheels. Operation of the 4Motion system is automatic. Normally, the system splits the torque, sending half to the front wheels and half to the rear. When wheels begin to spin on slippery pavement, though, the 4Motion device can instantly determine which wheels have grip and thus merit more of the engine's power to attain the best bite of traction. The 4Motion device scores as an ultimate safety system for controlling traction, but Passat also adds to all versions an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic braking assist (EBA) and the anti-skid electronic stabilization program (ESP) which includes VW's anti-slip regulation (ASR) throttle checker and electronic differential locking (EDL), which modulates engine torque on the front wheels to maximize tire grip.
Other concessions for safety range from the strong unibody structure to six air bags, including frontal and side-mounted air bags for both front seats and curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above side windows for front and back seats. With these new designs for Passat 2006, VW's mid-size sedan expands in size and scope to position this car closer to the luxury class. The history of sedans at Volkswagen tracks to the 1970s with Dasher, into the 1980s with Quantum and the 1990s with Passat, which landed in America with the Class of 1995.
Passat for 1998, marking the fifth generation of VW's sedan cast in a dramatic new streamlined design for a larger package size with all the right mechanical components aboard for serious hands-on driving, became a benchmark product which initiated the era of volume sales. Passat for 2006 in a sixth generation of designs shows bold new body styling, revised cabin appointments, new high-tech electronic vehicle controls aboard and quicker performance numbers from the two new powertrains. Passat's body expands by three inches in length and width, which translates to more room for riders in the five-seat passenger compartment.
The exterior design focuses on a strong prow and streamlined body with lines sweeping over an arching roof with side pillars dark to blend with tinted windows and create the impression of a sleek coupe. That brash face sports a big chrome-plated grille between oversized corner composite headlamps with broad air intake vents cut into the fascia. Flanks show subtle bulges on fenders that flare around the large wheels. A blunt rump has twin-lamp taillight assemblies wrapping around corners and a body-colored bumper punctuated by two chrome-capped exhaust pipes. Climb aboard the new Passat and find a five-seat passenger compartment of generous scale with fine materials and fancy appointments.
Cabin layout pits a pair of bucket seats with center console in front and a broad and flat bench with three seat positions. There's a fold-out center armrest with pass-through door to the trunk and rear seatbacks that split 60/40 percent and fold to expand the cargo capacity. Seat upholstery ranges from high-quality leatherette or optional soft leather with trimwork in composite material, or optional walnut wood or aluminum metal. Standard cabin equipment for all Passat models includes power controls for windows and door locks, a single-zone Climatic air conditioning system, remote releases for trunk and fuel doors, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and electronic parking brake, adjustable steering wheel and a premium audio system with eight speakers and AM/FM/CD/MP3.
Add-on gear ranges from a electronic Climatronic dual-zone climate system and a DVD-based navigation system to adaptive lighting with swivel headlight units plus bi-xenon high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, park distance control (PDC) fore and aft plus a premium Dynaudio custom-designed audio system with six-disc CD changer. Passat's new electronic parking brake engages and disengages at the touch of a button, located on the dashboard to the left of the steering column. By using electronic control, the parking brake adds functions -- such as Auto Release for starting on a hill slope, or Vehicle Hold for sure grip in one spot when stopped at a traffic signal. Passat's new Starting and Locking System (SLS) features remote-control start-up and locking but eliminates a conventional ignition key in favor of a push-button start.
The MSRP on 2006 Passat sedans begins at $22,950 for the Value Edition and $23,900 for Passat 2.0T with manual shifting or $24,975 for the 2.0T with a Tiptronic automatic. Top model Passat 3.6L VR6 with Tiptronic automatic and FWD tallies to $29,950 and $31,900 with 4Motion traction.