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With its fun-to-drive character, premium interior furnishings and wide range of features, the 2006 Volkswagen Passat is one of our favorite midsize sedans and wagons. Don't buy your next family car without driving one of these first.
Powerful engines, excellent ride and handling dynamics, roomy and upscale interior, outstanding build and materials quality, available all-wheel drive.
V6 models are expensive compared to Japanese rivals.
Available Passat Models
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The VW Passat has been redesigned inside and out for 2006. The current version is 3 inches longer and 3 inches wider than its predecessor, with a more spacious cabin. Initially, VW will offer only a sedan, but the wagon rejoins the lineup later in the 2006 model year. Engine choices include the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V6; last year's diesel engine option has been dropped. Trim levels have been renamed and recast; the Passat now comes in Value Edition, 2.0T, 3.6 and 3.6 4Motion trims.
The Volkswagen Passat has been one of our favorite midsize family cars since the late 1990s. And apparently, consumers agree with our assessment. Passat sales have increased more than six-fold since it first appeared in dealer showrooms. This sedan and wagon pair appeals to those who seek something a little different from the mainstream and are willing to pay a little more for the Passat's European style and engineering. Although still an impressive car right up through last year, the VW Passat had fallen behind its Japanese and American competitors when it came to power and interior room.
Volkswagen has addressed both issues for 2006, as the Passat has been graced with a roof-to-rubber redesign, one that leaves it bigger, faster and more luxurious than ever before. The new Volkswagen Passat is 3 inches longer and wider than the previous-generation model, and boasts an additional 2.4 inches of legroom for those seated in back. The cabin has been gussied up with class-leading materials to give it an even more upscale appearance, and smart, thoughtful tweaks have been made within the cockpit. The steering column-mounted ignition switch has been replaced with a dashboard slot; the vehicle is started simply by inserting a "key" into the aperture. Storage areas were at a premium in the previous Passat, but the new one offers larger bins and containers, and even an umbrella holder in the driver door.
The Volkswagen car gets more excitement under the hood, in the form of a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four (2.0T), which replaces the acclaimed 1.8T in VW and Audi engine bays. It's a terrific engine with lots of torque (207 pound-feet), and mates nicely to a six-speed manual transmission or VW's six-speed Tiptronic automatic. For those determined to outmuscle Altima drivers, there's a new narrow-angle 3.6-liter V6 with an output of 280 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is optional with the V6. The Passat's body structure is 56-percent stiffer than before, and this along with an all-new fully independent suspension, provides sportier handling than before. Body roll is muted around turns, and the squat and dive which plagued the previous-generation VW Passat are completely absent.
Whether you're in the market for an entry-level leatherette-lined commuter with the 2.0T engine and a manual transmission or an upscale family car with a leather interior and the V6, the 2006 Volkswagen Passat is unlikely to disappoint. Although it costs considerably more than midsize sedan competitors, the VW Passat has a premium feel through and through that competitors are hard-pressed to match.
The midsize Volkswagen Passat is available in sedan and wagon body styles. (The wagon won't arrive until midyear 2006.) The sedan is available in four trim levels, Value Edition, 2.0T, 3.6, and 3.6 4Motion. The Value Edition comes with 16-inch steel wheels, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, an eight-speaker MP3/CD audio system, cruise control, power windows and locks, keyless entry, power heated mirrors and a trip computer. Opt for the 2.0T to get alloy wheels, a 10-way power driver seat and a bigger options list. Step up to the 3.6 and you get 17-inch wheels, an in-dash CD changer, satellite radio and a power sunroof; the top-of-the-line 3.6 4Motion provides all-wheel drive as well. Options on the Volkswagen car include a sunroof, leather upholstery, an upgraded Dynaudio sound system and a navigation system. Among the exclusive 3.6 options are 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive bi-HID headlights, automatic dual-zone climate control, 12-way power front seats, and wood or aluminum interior trim.
Standard on Value Edition and 2.0T models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four rated for 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed Tiptronic automatic. All 3.6 models are equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 that generates 280 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. VW offers the V6 with the automatic transmission only. All Volkswagen Passat models are front-wheel drive, except for the 3.6 4Motion, which is all-wheel drive.
Every VW Passat comes with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, anti-whiplash front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are available as an option across all trims. One neat feature the Passat offers is an automatic brake disc-wiping system that helps keep the brakes cleaner and more effective in wet weather.
Even at the Value Edition trim level, the Passat's cabin is comfortable and upscale in feel, with an atmosphere that's immediately luxurious and inviting. The redesign results in a more spacious cabin, with 2.4 inches of additional legroom for those seated in back. Although the 14.2-cubic-foot trunk is slightly smaller than the previous Volkswagen car, it offers more usable space, thanks to a more compact rear suspension design. Build and materials quality leads the class.
With its potent engine lineup and well-balanced chassis, the 2006 Volkswagen Passat is one of the most entertaining cars in its class. Either of the engines will satisfy, as the refined turbo four pulls hard right off the line, while the V6 offers more than enough power for any situation. The new steering system adjusts power assist based on vehicle speed and steering wheel angle, stiffening up on straight stretches of highway and dialing in more assist for turns. Although suspension calibration is weighted toward sporty driving, the Passat's ride quality remains smooth and comfortable (however, opting for 18-inch wheels can result in slight choppiness).
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