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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
“steering is oddly numb on center and unnaturally light”
“a torquey beast”
“a lot of fun whether the road is coiled or straight.”
“handles confidently despite its rather soft suspension”
Whether reviewers had a 2008 Volkswagen Passat Wagon equipped with the 200-horsepower, 2.0T four-cylinder engine or the VR6 model, with its 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter narrow-angle V-6 engine, there are few complaints about power.
Most are satisfied with the power available from the 2.0T engine, which comes with the Turbo, Komfort, and Lux models. “The 2.0-liter turbo is arguably the automaker’s best all-around engine in terms of bang for the buck,” opines ForbesAutos, assessing its “acceptable power and impressive fuel economy.” Car and Driver has no complaints about the Passat Wagon’s pep in around-town driving, but the reviewer is critical about the smoothness lacking when the accelerator is mashed to the floor. “Nail the throttle, and a two-part dance ensues: a molasses-slow waltz up to 2800 rpm, then a turbocharged tango to redline, with the front tires chirping and clawing and evincing a dollop of torque steer.” Car and Driver notes that the four-cylinder wagon can get to 60 mph in only 7.2 seconds, making it faster than a V-6 Ford Fusion.
Several reviews note impressive fuel economy for the four-cylinder model. “In fact, while traveling between southern California and Las Vegas, we recorded between 25 and 31 mpg depending on how far we bent the speed limit signs,” says MyRide.com.
Cars.com comments on the torque's accessibility from the VR6, as it reaches its peak of 265 pound-feet at a low 2,750 rpm, deeming it “very accessible in everyday driving situations.” While torque steer can be an issue in the V-6 sedan, all Passat VR6 Wagons now come with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The VR6 “makes this 3,953-pound wagon quite quick,” says Edmunds.
There are more frequent gripes, though, focusing on an automatic transmission that isn’t, to some, responsive enough to take advantage of the engines’ torque and responsiveness. “What’s worst about the Passat is its Japanese six-speed automatic,” says Car and Driver. “It’s slow to kick down yet, under part throttle, is lightning fast to upshift to fifth. Or sixth. You’re too often reminded that summoning the appropriate gear will take a while.”
There’s evidence the story is different with the VR6. Edmunds tests a 3.6 4Motion Wagon and beams about the transmission. “Much of the Passat’s thrust can be credited to its tightly geared six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a Tiptronic, so manual shifting is available should you feel racy, but we seldom felt the need.” Edmunds also notes that they don’t use the Sport mode “partly because the gearchanges and throttle inputs become too abrupt for smooth city driving.”
By and large, reviewers have good things to say about the Passat Wagon’s steering. The 3.6 4Motion model comes with an upgraded sport suspension and larger 18-inch wheels, but either model may be a bit too soft for those expecting a sport wagon.
“The electro-mechanical steering is sharp and has nice road feel,” says MSN Autos, also complimenting the brakes. Cars.com likes the light steering feel, as well, saying that “it feels like the wheel is connected directly to a giant ball bearing; it’s that smooth, and wouldn’t be out of place in a Lexus sedan.” However, the reviewer maintains that “steering feedback has largely been eliminated.”
Edmunds also labels the steering as “oddly numb on center and unnaturally light,” yet they say positively that “turn-in is crisp and its stability noteworthy.” MSN Autos vouches that the Passat doesn’t give up on its European roots: “Despite its rather soft suspension and probably would do well cruising at 100-plus mph on no-speed-limit German autobahns.”
Car and Driver is positive about the steering, saying, “The effort is low at all speeds, there’s no kickback, interstate tracking is exemplary, and path control is, well, German.” Car and Driver adds that it “lends this wagon an airy and agile feel that camouflages its 3,492 pounds.”
MyRide.com says “the Passat Wagon tackles the road with surprising dexterity. The responsive steering doesn’t hurt, either. To be sure, there’s some body roll when pushed hard, as one might expect from a front-wheel-drive family hauler, but all in all this VW proves to be a lot of fun whether the road is coiled or straight.”
Other reviewers are less enthusiastic about the Passat Wagon’s sport wagon credentials. Edmunds says that despite the engine’s enviable thrust, “the Passat Wagon 3.6 4Motion is not a sport wagon,” while Cars.com says, “the Passat feels more at home cruising on the highway, where it eats up the miles."
TheCarConnection.com’s editors have driven both a modestly equipped 2.0T Wagon and a fully loaded VR6 4Motion model and report that they have a very different feel. Even though the four-cylinder isn’t as overtly sporty, it’s more fun to drive because of its lighter-footed feel on the road.
The 2008 Volkswagen Passat Wagon’s powertrains move this hauler briskly, but it lacks the goods to have fun with the curviest roads.