2009 Volkswagen Passat Sedan Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 24, 2009

Compared to most mid-size sedans, the 2009 Volkswagen Passat is roomier and sportier, and it offers more comfort and luxury.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the 2009 Volkswagen Passat to bring you firsthand driving impressions and advice. TheCarConnection.com has also researched road tests and reviews of the Volkswagen Passat to put together a conclusive review that will help you make a smart decision.

Volkswagen simplifies the 2009 Passat sedan by nixing the manual transmission and whittling the available trim packages down to one, Komfort, now with heated seats and heated washer nozzles.

Most drivers will be happy with the performance from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder 200-horsepower engine, which delivers brisk acceleration and is very responsive with the six-speed automatic transmission. The 2009 Volkswagen Passat handles and maneuvers well, but not as sharply as a sport sedan. The suspension and steering lend the Passat a responsive, tossable feel.

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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. The quality of the materials in the 2009 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.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat is one of the quietest cars inside, a big claim considering its competition. Road noise especially seems much better isolated than in its predecessor. The ride is very well controlled, perhaps making the Passat more refined inside than many luxury-brand mid-size models.

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. 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 2009 Volkswagen Passat.

Large 17-inch wheels, along with heated seats and heated washer nozzles, now come with all 2009 Passats. Standard equipment also includes keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, an eight-speaker sound system, leather steering-wheel trim, manual side sunshades, and a power 12-way driver seat.

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Sedan

Styling

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat’s proportions aren’t universally loved, but its interior finds broad acclaim from critics and reviewers.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat sedan isn’t going to win friends from a distance, but up close and inside it becomes quite seductive.

TheCarConnection.com appreciates the understated opulence of the interior, which has a mix of surfaces and materials that are softer and more welcoming than we’ve come to expect from the German brand. Reviewers are almost universally positive about the interior. “The analog gauges would look at home in a car costing twice as much,” declares Edmunds, “and even its 12-way leather sport seats show design influence from classic Ferraris.”

Motor Trend appreciates the “simple, orderly cabin that stands apart from some of the flashier competition.” The Detroit News likes the two-tone gray-and-black interior in their test car, which “was more understated than the car's exterior, with carbon-fiber trim touches and just a bit of chrome in places like the shift lever surround.” So does Autobytel, noting the two-tone theme and real aluminum trim. “Decked out in two-tone trim separated by a generous strip of real aluminum, the Passat is definitely upscale,” the reviewer says. “The dashboard flows downward from the cowl, creating an open and airy feel to the cabin.”

TheCarConnection.com’s editors, however, aren’t in love with the wall-of-chrome front end, the long overhangs, or the overall proportions. The Detroit News describes the fancy Passat as “laden with chrome and a too-flashy medallion-shaped grille.” However, Edmunds has positive words, noting the “shiny chrome grille and scooped headlamps,” and declaring, “From the front, the car looks aggressive, from the back it looks more like a roomy family sedan. Sounds contradictory, but it’s actually quite balanced.”

Other critics clearly differ on the 2009 Volkswagen Passat’s exterior appearance. Autobytel thinks that the Passat lacks the proper proportions, especially from the side, pointing to its “long overhangs at a time when contemporary design demands that the wheels get pushed out to the corners,” but Motor Trend positively gushes, noting the “clean, sleek exterior shape.”

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Sedan

Performance

There’s a lot to love about the performance of the 2009 Volkswagen Passat—even though it's only offered with four cylinders.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors have driven and like the light, nimble, and responsive feel of the 2.0T Komfort. The economical four performs almost as well as sedans with more displacement while costing less at the fuel pump and the dealer lot. 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 2.0T model of the 2009 Volkswagen Passat.

Motor Trend compliments the engine’s smoothness and its 0-60 time of only 6.7 seconds, but mentions that it takes premium fuel only. Motor Trend says 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.” 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.”

With the manual transmission no longer available, complaints center on the six-speed automatic transmission, 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, remarking “when you use the sport mode and the Tiptronic paddle shifters, which shadow the steering wheel, downshifts come a half beat too slowly.”

When it comes to handling, the 2009 Volkswagen Passat is a favorite among reviewers. “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.”

Not exactly a sport sedan, the Passat performance suffers because “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.

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Sedan

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat sedan has the quality feel of a pricier sport sedan with a roomy interior, though the ride might be too firm for some.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat has a high-quality European air, yet costs the same as cars with a lot less personality. Nearly all reviews mention the abundance of space inside the cabin and a good seating position for front occupants. “The ergonomics of this vehicle are simply excellent, providing a good driving point of view, helping to keep fatigue at bay, and creating a comfortable environment that’s perfect for long or short trips,” says Autobytel.

Automobile declares, “The driver environment is one of affordable luxury: materials are as nice to the touch as they are to the eye, standard equipment is comprehensive, and the colors and surfaces are tastefully blended.” “There’s plenty of room in the cabin, the materials mostly look and feel high-quality,” says Motor Trend. “The Volkswagen human-factors engineers didn’t miss a trick in making the cabin feel as if it has a custom fit,” crows the Detroit News. “Even the front armrest can be adjusted for height.”

Edmunds notes that the leather seats just don’t offer enough lateral support for corners, comparing them to “something you’d find in an Italian furniture store: modern-looking although somewhat uncomfortable.” Forbes.com says that backseat headroom and shoulder room are disappointing matched against the Acura TL and Infiniti G35, two vehicles that the top-of-the-line Passat is priced against. “For the money, it’s still not as roomy as other cars in its now-more-expensive class,” the reviewer proclaims. An Autobytel reviewer contends that even people of height or girth can be comfortable in the back, though the Detroit News mentions a lack of headroom.

Several sources report excessive road noise inside. “Most of the noisiness occurs at interstate clips of 70 mph, when both wind and road buzz echo through the cabin,” according to the Forbes.com reviewer. Automobile refers to a “brittle low-speed ride,” while several other reviewers describe the ride quality as firm but relatively compliant.

And when some reviewers take a look closer inside, they aren’t all positive. Autobytel finds a host of issues, including “cupholders that feel as though they were purchased at the 99-cent automotive store, the clickety-clack of the center console compartment lid, and the flimsy hooks for the sun screens.”

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Sedan

Safety

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat offers a generous list of standard safety features, but its crash-test results aren't at the forefront.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat offers a range of safety features virtually unrivalled among other mid-size sedans, along with reassuring results in the major crash-test programs.

The Detroit News reports that the optional rear side-torso airbags, a $350 option, “supplement the side air curtains by protecting the torso.” Automobile notes the extensive safety gear, including “six air bags, active front head restraints, ABS, brake assist, stability control, and traction control,” and CNET adds, “There are seven crash sensors: three internally in the air-bag control unit, two in the front doors, and two in the lower C-pillars.”

When it comes to the optional bi-xenon headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) on CNET’s test car, the reviewer “found it very useful at night, as not only do the headlights swivel with the steering to illuminate the road ahead even around corners, but auxiliary cornering lights cover what are too often blind spots to the side with bright light in sharp turns, such as into a driveway.”

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Sedan

Features

Whether talking about the basics such as storage spaces and cargo convenience or high-tech options, the 2009 Volkswagen Passat has a lot of each, but the options don’t come cheap.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat sedan has an extremely impressive set of features and interior details, but you will pay extra for them. TheCarConnection.com’s editors agree that the Passat trumps most of the competition in terms of standard equipment.

Autobytel praises the generous list of standard equipment in the Passat, including “heated and signaling rearview mirrors, 17-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, an MP3 player, front-side and side-curtain airbags, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and a host of power features.” Motor Trend looks at the equipment list and concludes that, at about $26,000, the Passat costs more than some of its competitors but still ranks as a strong value. “Extra money buys a nav system, a Bluetooth phone, adaptive cruise control, a heated windshield, and swiveling bi-xenon headlamps,” says Automobile.

Nearly all reviewers cite the umbrella stowed in the door, a feature that Autobytel muses “owners in Seattle will love,” and the Detroit News mentions “a deep center console that can be heated or cooled with an air outlet.” CNET describes the trunk space as “cavernous,” and Edmunds says, “Storage also benefits from easy-to-operate 60/40-split-folding rear seats with pass-through.” Additionally, Edmunds points out the low and easy access to trunk space and “the cute little insider way of opening the trunk. (Press the VW logo.)”

Several reviews mention the plentiful storage spaces inside the Passat’s cabin, including “two flip-top compartments” that Edmunds remarks “disappear elegantly into the dash and center console.” “The rear seat has excellent amenities," says the Detroit News, “including new air vents with fan control, an ashtray, an armrest with pop-out cupholders and individual, airplane-style reading lights.”

The optional 600-watt, 10-speaker Dynaudio sound system draws comments from all reviewers. “Better than just about anything I’ve ever heard inside an automobile,” says an Autobytel reviewer. TheCarConnection.com’s editors rank the Dynaudio sound system as one of the top-sounding systems in any new car.

CNET gives its bright LCD screen of the Passat’s nav system “high marks for visibility,” and notes it was especially easy to enter locations or get directions to secondary destinations.

One area of criticism is the standard “smart key,” which Motor Trend says “is an obnoxious little rectangle that, instead of being smart enough to talk to the ignition while still in your pocket, requires insertion into a motorized slot that seems to exist only to break one day.”

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