There's a reason why they call them Volkswagens. The second syllable of the folks-brand name is pronounced ‘vahgen' in German. With modifiers, that word can mean anything from a car to a pram (Kinderwagen). VW builds station wagons. It's been doing so since its marketing mavens slyly dubbed the iconic Microbus a wagon.
If you placed VW's two-box autos in train-like procession, you'd see the Squareback, Dasher and Fox. This review's subject, however, is VW's midsize 2010 Passat Komfort. It's a rare sight in the States where vinyl-wood, chrome-laden land yachts with magic tailgates formerly roamed. That's a shame; the Passat's low center of gravity, reduced aerodynamic drag and easy-load cargo hold can carry more gear but consume less fuel than most crossovers or SUVs. Plus it handles like a car.
Front seating is a Passat virtue. VW sculpted an elbow-friendly front compartment. And elbows will like the center console's adjustable armrest. A tilt-telescoping steering wheel and long front seat bottom say Willkommen to tall drivers. Heated vinyl seats ape leather too.
Order the power glass sunroof and you've got a Teutonic Vista Cruiser. The split-fold second row has three headrests and an integrated middle shoulder belt. There are rear vent outlets and every outboard rear rider gets a grab handle and pull-up side sunshade.
VW's offers electronic wizardry. For instance, there's an electric parking brake with auto hold. This space saver prevents the car from rolling when you release the brake pedal. Another gizmo is a funky, chunky key. It's programmable; right front seat and mirrors find your space, when inserted into a dashboard slot. The rear power liftgate's open height is also programmable.
The Passat is a fluid highway cruiser with modest-effort accurate steering. This front driver pushes in the corners, yet the chassis will rotate a bit. Stability control prevents spinouts. The Komfort's 17-inch wheels and low-profile Continental tires telegraph more impact than expected. The overhead console knocked like Poe's raven too.
Passat's mechanical specs: for 2010, a direct-injected, 200-hp turbocharged, four-cylinder engine (sounds raspy cold, like a Pfaff industrial sewing machine, warm) attached to an automated two-clutch, six-speed, direct-shift gearbox is the only driveline. Discontinued: the six-speed manual and bumpy stoplight-tango six-speed automatic. A DSG offers the performance and economy associated with a manual transmission.
EPA numbers: 22 city mpg, 31 highway. I eked out 25 overall. Premium fuel is recommend but not required.
VW says cargo room is nearly 62 cubic feet with the rear seat down, nearly 34 when it's up. With an umbrella holder, ski passage, under floor stowage, rear side cubbies and a sporty demeanor, the less than $30,000 Passat can haul more than groceries.