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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
“If you’re seeking a four-cylinder, four-door 'driver’s car,' look no further.”
“GTI aficionados will be disappointed”
“upshifts through all six gears are seamless”
“the tires scream like David Lee Roth in his Van Halen heyday”
Most mid-size sedans with their base four-cylinder engines have only adequate performance, but reviewers are extremely impressed with the acceleration provided in the entry-level 2.0T model of the 2008 Volkswagen Passat.
Motor Trend says that the Passat’s 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine is one of the strongest in its class and “leaves rivals gasping in its exhaust fumes.” The reviewer also compliments the engine’s smoothness and its 0-60 time of only 6.7 seconds, but mentions that it takes premium fuel only. But it’s also hard to maintain a slow, responsible speed in the Passat, Motor Trend warns: “You might not even notice your true pace until those blue lights appear in your rearview mirror.”
Although the VR6 model achieves an even more impressive 280 horsepower, reviewers aren’t nearly as impressed with its performance. Complaints center on the six-speed automatic transmission (no manual is offered), which Autobytel says “feels like it chokes the engine’s smooth power with lagging in low gears.”
The transmission has a sport mode, but “the accelerator is touchy and the downshifts are intrusive,” the Autobytel reviewer notes. Forbes.com isn’t satisfied with it either, saying, “when you use the sport mode and the Tiptronic paddle shifters, which shadow the steering wheel, downshifts come a half beat too slowly.”
Nearly everyone appreciates the Passat’s sporty handling response. “While the Passat isn’t light for its size, it handles smoothly, tautly and predictably,” comments Forbes.com, and the Detroit News attests that the “electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering system provides good on-center feel and gives the average driver a lot of confidence, especially at highway speeds.” The same reviewer adds, “The Passat is a snap to maneuver, especially in tight parking spaces and U-turns.”
The Passat isn’t quite a sport sedan, though, as “body roll becomes pronounced” and the tires become very vocal, according to Edmunds, but it’s all kept in check by standard traction and stability systems. “Between the wider tires that come standard and the tightened-up suspension that’s part of the sport package,” the VR6 model handles better in track testing, Edmunds says.
Forbes.com says that the nose-heavy VR6 is a better car with the available 4Motion all-wheel drive, describing it as “far more pleasant and balanced to drive.”
TheCarConnection.com’s editors have driven the range of Passat models, and most like the lighter, more nimble and responsive feel of the 2.0T models (Turbo, Komfort, and Lux). Because the VR6 is quite a bit heavier, the real-world performance difference isn’t that great. The economical four performs almost as well, while costing less at the fuel pump and the dealer lot.
Except for a sluggish transmission in the VR6, there’s a lot to love about the 2008 Volkswagen Passat sedans' performance.