2003 Volkswagen Passat Page 1



I must admit my high school German is a bit rusty, but unless I’ve really lost the language, Volkswagen translates into “people’s car.” The original Beetle, designed to put pre-war Germany on wheels, was the ultimate example of that. So how to explain what’s happening at VW these days?

As a company, no carmaker owns more luxury brands than Volkswagen AG. There’s Audi, of course, as well as Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley. But even the VW marque itself is moving markedly upscale. At the recent Geneva Motor Show, the automaker lifted the wraps off the all-new Phaeton, a $70,000 sedan with all the trappings of a true luxury car. Yet for those, like myself, who grew up in the days when a moderately well-equipped Beetle could be had for $2000, there’s a bit of a disconnect.

And so it was, with more than a bit of skepticism, that TheCarConnection accepted the invitation to test drive the new W-8-powered version of the Passat sedan. It will serve as a sort of up-market trailblazer for the Phaeton, which doesn’t reach U.S. shores until next year.

Future reputations staked

There was more than a bit of uncertainty when the original Passat hit market, larger and, at about $20,000, far more expensive than anything the automaker had ever offered before. Successive generations have served to demonstrate the tremendous changes underway at the German automaker. The Passat has grown larger, more lavish and notably more refined. For its price, the sedan has become a benchmark for interior design.

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