This is a wonderful car that has given me few problems in the time I've owned it. The AWD allows me to corner at any speed I want and never complain. I've been able to drive through rain and then a couple of feet of snow and it feels no different that driving on dry pavement. This really feels like it is the Audi in VW clothing.
I love this car's AWD and the stereo rocks! For a stock stereo, this is the best out there. I have found no reason to upgrade the speakers, head unit or amp.
The car needs more power from the V6 to help with its weight. Also, the Tiptronic transmission should come in Audi sport mode rather than "conservative" mode. It is an easy switch if you have the right tools, but would be nice to have right out of the gate.
I bought my Passat in Italy through a company that sells US spec models directly to US civilian and military personnel. I drove it through the Alps, through Croatia, from Naples to Belgium and back at sustained speeds of 100 mph for a couple of hours at a time. Nothing broke, nothing fell off, nothing went wrong. It never needed a tow until the fuel pump went out at 55,000 miles, which the dealer in Aosta Italy replaced under warranty. I am not sure what people in the US do to their cars so they don't work right or if their expectations are totally misplaced. I've had Jettas and Passats almost exclusively since 1984 and have never had major problems, and at 62K mi., no oil use!
The car. I'm 6'4 and 270# and I have no comfort problems at all. Neither does my partner who's 5'6.
Overall, I've been quite happy with this car (now > 2 years into ownership). I haven't had any major problems and my dealer. This definitely is a very comfortable and versatile car, that is safe and can haul a lot of stuff - but is also quite luxurious. I drive approx 50 miles a day to work. The straight line traction is excellent (make sure you put on 4 snow tires on it and it's very surefooted in the winter). VW's are more expensive to maintain than several of it's competitors, but they really have a soul. I purchased an aftermarket warranty through a reputable source for added protection. The 2003 model appears to have been a good year according to CU.
I like the 4-Motion (quattro), seat heaters, folding side mirrors, climatronic AC, reasonable handling with a smooth ride, and ton of space for people and cargo.
The fuel economy is just OK at 17-19 in the city and 21-24 on the highway. It could be improved, but hey it's heavy, has AWD, and a V6 engine. A retrofit navigation system that wasn't too expensive would be nice. I've gone 51,000 miles and had to change the rear rotors and pads twice (this is a known issue with Passats). VW should be getting better parts.
My husband owned an '86 GTI that had electrical probs from day one. He swore he'd never have another VW but I begged. While we have not had any major electrical probs, the car has been to the dealership too many times. The trim is continuously discoloring or falling off, the wiring harness went bad in the first 10,000 miles, the fuel pump went out at 44,000 miles and we had to replace the brakes AND rotors at 44,000. When the car was stalling for no apparent reason, the dealership asked me if I had driven through any puddles recently. Enlighten me, can a VW not go through puddles without stalling? Now the interior light only occasionally comes on when you open the door. The gas mileage is dissappointing. I've learned my lesson.
The style, interior space, and performance.
Fix the trim issue, electrical problems, provide rotors that last or at least can be turned. The turbo lag is very annoying.
This review comes from a loyal VW owner, however, I've been very disappointed with my 2003 VW Passat V6 AWD Wagon. It is a beautiful, comfortable car but it's been in the shop way too much! My car has had the rotors replaced twice, a bad auto air conditioning fixed twice, and now a bad fuel pump. All of these problems are with a car with less than 35,000 miles. I was very pleased with my former cars a '95 VW Cabrio and '98 VW Passat, but I will look elsewhere for my next car.