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In assembling this review covering the 2008 Volkswagen Passat, the experts at TheCarConnection.com looked to some of the best review resources. And to help shoppers sort out how the Passat matches up against the competition, TheCarConnection.com’s editors incorporated experience driving several different models.
Volkswagen’s mid-size Passat sedan received a complete makeover for the 2006 model year, then the 2007 edition added a wagon model (which is covered in a separate review) and some new tech features, like adaptive cruise control. For 2008, the Passat sees modest changes, including simplified trim levels: Turbo, Komfort, Lux, and VR6.
The VR6 model gets a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine and available 4Motion all-wheel drive; all the other models make do with a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Most drivers will be happy with the performance from the four-cylinder engine, which delivers brisk acceleration and is very responsive with either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 comes only with the six-speed Tiptronic automatic and is about a second faster to 60 mph than the four-cylinder/manual transmission version of the 2008 Volkswagen Passat, which gets there in about 7.6 seconds, though the fuel economy penalty is significant. Trim by trim, the base Turbo model is now the only sedan that can be outfitted with the manual gearbox.
The quality of the materials in the 2008 Volkswagen Passat is quite impressive, and the interior layout feels both luxurious and practical. There are plenty of interior storage bins, and even an umbrella-storage area. The Passat now has backseat space that rivals some of the roomiest sedans in the mid-size class; it’s especially leg-friendly for lanky adult passengers. Although the rear door line makes an odd straight cut downward, the door’s unusual shape really helps entry/exit. The ventilation system now has adjustable vents for rear passengers, too.
Considering the standard mid-size competition, the 2008 Volkswagen Passat is one of the quietest cars inside. Road noise especially seems much better isolated than in its predecessor, the ride is very well controlled, and it’s perhaps more refined inside than many luxury-brand mid-size models.
The new 2008 Volkswagen Passat handles and maneuvers well, but not as sharply as a sport sedan. The suspension and steering are tuned differently depending on which engine is under the hood, and the four-cylinder models have a more responsive, tossable feel.
All Passats include keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, and an eight-speaker sound system; leather steering-wheel trim, manual side sunshades, and a power 12-way driver seat are also standard. The 2008 Volkswagen Passat Komfort edition wears larger 17-inch wheels and optional seat heaters, while the Lux edition includes a multifunction three-spoke steering wheel and an optional Dynaudio sound system. The VR6 edition adds heated washer nozzles, optional bi-xenon adaptive headlights, and adaptive cruise control.
Front side and full-length head/curtain airbags are standard; side airbags for backseat passengers—a safety feature that’s rare in any vehicle—are optional on the 2008 Volkswagen Passat. The Passat has done reasonably well in crash tests, with four-star ratings in frontal impact and four- and five-star results in side impact from the federal government, along with top "good" results in frontal and side tests, plus "marginal" ratings for rear impact from the IIHS.