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Once upon a time I was all low-slung, big-power, high-style behind the wheel of whatever latest sporty car was snagging its 15 minutes of headlines. Then one day I suddenly find myself under a tweedy "rat catcher" cap, grasping a steering wheel at regulation 10 o'clock and two o'clock, actually enjoying traffic's stuttered flow. Music to my ears once consisted of the rat-a-tat-tat snare of a high-strung, twin-cam exhaust note reaching after redline. Now I'm pecking the CD changer to shuffle between Uri Caine Ensemble's weird take on the Goldberg variations and this wild "godspeed you black emperor!" alt-rock stuff that my editor's turned me on to.
When I finally get home, with the repaired Venetian blinds and groceries laid out over the folded backseats and the copy paper and office supplies spilling out of their bags into the front passenger footwell, I don't want to get out of the car. That's because I know that for the entire rest of the day I'm unlikely to be as comfortable, as content, and even as competent as I am right now in this brand-new Passat GLX 4Motion wagon from Volkswagen.
I am smitten by a station wagon, for crying out loud. And I'm haunted by Eliot's couplet: "I grow old...I grow old / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." Heaven's sake, I'm only 44. Isn't there anything I can do?
Maybe I should just explain that this V-dub Passat wagon shares none of the extinct style of those wally-wagons that scarred a kiddie generation in the Automotive Archaic epoch before the evolution of the minivan. At the upper end of VW's pecking order, Passat sedans and wagons are legitimate contenders in the "near-luxury" class. In full-featured GLX trim, moreover, with the addition of a 4Motion all-wheel-drive powertrain and the Tiptronic "clutchless-shift" automatic transmission, this car isn't so much an affordable family wagon as a pricey performance pod.