2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 24, 2009

Volkswagen’s especially roomy 2009 Passat Wagon is a great family alternative to an SUV.

The editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon and incorporate their firsthand observations in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com's car enthusiasts have also researched available road tests on the Passat Wagon to produce this conclusive review.

Like its cousin, the Passat sedan, the 2009 Volkswagen Passat wagon is a simplified version of last year’s model. Volkswagen nixed the manual transmission and whittled the available trim packages down to one, Komfort, now with heated seats and heated washer nozzles.

The single model 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon comes with a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Most drivers will be happy with the perky performance of the four-cylinder engine, which is very responsive with the six-speed automatic transmission. The new 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon handles and maneuvers well but without sharp sport-sedan reflexes. The suspension and the steering are tuned differently depending on which engine is under the hood, and the four-cylinder models have a more responsive, tossable feel.

Although the rear door line makes an odd straight cut downward, the door’s unusual shape really helps entry/exit. And in the Wagon, the backseats fold forward flat to greatly expand the cargo floor, which is easier to load than SUVs because of its low lift height. On that note, a power liftgate is standard on all Wagon models, but it seems an unnecessary feature. The interior layout of the 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon feels both luxurious and practical, and the quality of the materials is quite impressive. There are plenty of interior storage bins and even an umbrella-storage area. The Passat Wagon has ample backseat legroom for lanky adults.

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The ride of the 2009 VW Passat Wagon is very well controlled, and it’s perhaps more refined inside than many luxury-brand mid-size models. Compared to a compact sport-utility vehicle or a mid-size sedan, the 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon is one of the quietest vehicles inside, allowing almost no road or wind noise.

The 2009 Passat Wagon Komfort wears 17-inch wheels and comes standard with heated front seats, 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. The Navigation Infotainment Package with touchscreen display, 30GB hard drive, and video DVD playback is optional.

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 Wagon. The Passat Wagon 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 "marginal" ratings for rear impact from the IIHS.

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon

Styling

The styling and design details of the 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon blend sportiness and functionality.

Despite being the model meant for hauling kids and cargo, the 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon reaps much praise for its sleek styling and good looks, according to the majority of reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.

From the outside, as judged by TheCarConnection.com’s editors, the Wagon’s design is more cohesive and attractive than the sedan, with better proportions. There are no exaggerated flares or curves, just sloping lines (the roof) and smooth undulations in the bodywork (wheel arches), as described by Kelley Blue Book: “Up front, the lines are clean and uncluttered, with the shiny chrome grille serving as a love-it-or-hate-it addition.”

ForbesAutos says, “Exterior styling for the Volkswagen Passat Wagon is smooth, sleek, and uncluttered, and it’s capped with VW’s signature two-piece front grille.” Several other comments focus on the brightly chromed grille. “One of its most visible features is a plunging, V-shaped front grille that bisects the bumper,” points out Cars.com, also noting that “the 17-inch wheels fill up the wheel wells nicely.”

Cars.com warns, “If you live in a state that requires a front license plate, the plate will likely mar the look of that front end.” “Standard roof rails are a wagon exclusive, while mirror-integrated turn signals are a nice touch,” says Kelley Blue Book, citing a few other details that help with the Wagon’s overall appearance.

The Passat Wagon’s interior styling brings the same flowing instrument panel design and attractive soft-touch materials as seen on the Passat sedan. The interior design, though geared to be especially functional in the Wagon, garners compliments—most notably from Kelley Blue Book, “The interior is a cut or two above that of any comparably equipped wagon in its price range.”

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon

Performance

Acceleration and handling in the 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon are better than you'd expect in such a family-friendly vehicle; it's fuel-efficient, too.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon’s powertrain moves this hauler briskly, but reviewers feel it lacks the goods to have fun with the curviest roads.

Car and Driver has no complaints about the Passat Wagon’s pep in around-town driving, but the reviewer is critical about the lack of smoothness 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. Most, however, are satisfied with the power available from the 2.0T engine. “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.”

Even though the four-cylinder isn’t overtly sporty, it’s fun to drive because of its light-footed feel on the road. “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, remarking 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.”

Car and Driver asserts the steering “lends this wagon an airy and agile feel that camouflages its 3,492 pounds.” Edmunds also labels the steering as “oddly numb on center and unnaturally light,” yet they comment positively that “turn-in is crisp and its stability noteworthy.” Car and Driver adds, “The effort is low at all speeds, there’s no kickback, interstate tracking is exemplary, and path control is, well, German.”

MSN Autos remarks that the Passat doesn’t give up on its European roots, contending that it “probably would do well cruising at 100-plus mph on no-speed-limit German autobahns.” 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.”

When it comes to fuel economy, MyRide.com reports impressive figures: “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.”

Complaints seem to focus on the 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.”

According to Edmunds, “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.”

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon features a plush interior, comfortable seating space, and a smooth ride, with a hint of road noise.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon provides refinement and interior comfort rivaling that of German sport wagons costing much more—with complaints centering mostly on interior road noise.

Wagons are typically noisier inside than their sedan counterparts, and the Passat Wagon is no exception. However, it has a pretty refined cabin compared to most of its rivals.

Edmunds says that though the ride is “well damped and appropriately cushy,” road noise is abundant, especially on L.A. freeways. Kelley Blue Book also observes that “while the Passat Wagon very accurately mimics a premium vehicle on many levels, it often isn’t quite as quiet or smooth,” and Cars.com comments, “The wagon’s body structure doesn’t feel as solid as the sedan’s when driving over rough pavement, and both the sedan and wagon I tested were afflicted with a number of interior rattles.”

The Passat Wagon’s luxurious feel inside is something most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com agree on. Kelley Blue Book notes, “Interior trim options include wood, aluminum or composite, and standard leatherette seating gives even the base model an upscale feel.” Cars.com is happy with the feel of the interior, aside from a door-panel seam and flimsy-feeling rearview mirror, declaring, “fit and finish levels are high and panel gaps are tight.” MSN Autos warns readers that the rear cup holders “that extend from the center armrest feel flimsy.”

Edmunds calls the interior “beautifully screwed together and richly appointed.” Cars.com says, “Volkswagen’s attention to detail and high-quality materials give the cabin a rich feel.” With the help of the telescoping steering wheel, MyRide.com has no trouble finding a comfortable driving position and notes, “The bucket seats are well padded but firm enough to be supportive, with a lower section that’s plenty long for thigh support but a little light on bolsters (the seatback bolsters are more substantial).”

MyRide.com claims that the lack of side bolstering is only bothersome in enthusiastic driving. Edmunds echoes the lack of seat support, along with “cupholders with little hold, and the misplacement of the push-button parking brake. Instead of down by the shifter where it belongs, VW put it way over left of the headlight switch.” MyRide.com focuses on the backseat, saying, “If there’s a negative, it’s the low position of the bench seat, requiring you to fall into it rather than slide on,” but Cars.com notes that the higher roofline of the wagon actually brings more headroom for backseat occupants, in contrast to the sedan.

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon

Safety

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon offers some of the best safety equipment in its class and promises good occupant protection.

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon was rated "good" for side impact by the IIHS and earned four- and five-star ratings from NHTSA. The Passat Wagon, however, hasn’t been tested for side impact by either the IIHS or NHTSA programs.

According to MSN Autos, “The Passat wagon has standard front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags, along with anti-lock brakes.” This is good because “[m]ost wagons are bought as family vehicles, so buyers pay particular attention to safety items.”

“Though the center rear seat—the best place for a child-safety seat — lacked anchors, it was easy to use an anchor from each outboard seat to tightly secure a child-safety seat,” says Cars.com. “Standard safety features include antilock brakes with automatic disc wiping to keep brake discs dry and clean in wet conditions, an electronic stability system, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags, and LATCH child-safety seat anchors for each outboard seat.”

A feature that’s not widely available, even on luxury wagons costing much more, is the optional torso-protecting rear-seat side-impact airbags. “What’s more, the Volkswagen Passat Wagon offers eight airbags, along with active head restraints to help reduce whiplash injuries,” ForbesAutos clarifies.

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2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon

Features

The 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon offers phenomenal cargo versatility, as well as many of options typically reserved for luxury-brand models.

In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, it is widely reported that the 2009 Volkswagen Passat Wagon has a number of innovative and cargo-friendly features. However, reviewers aren’t quite as positive about the optional DVD-based navigation system, which Cars.com calls “more difficult to use than Toyota’s system in the Camry,” and Edmunds finds “a bit lethargic.”

There’s plenty of versatile cargo room and passenger space inside the 2009 Passat Wagon. “The low, wide cargo opening allows fast loading of plenty of cargo,” says MSN Autos. “If more space is needed, the rear seats fold completely forward to provide an impressively large cargo area.” Kelley Blue Book points out, “Fold the rear split bench seat and you’ve got a nearly flat load floor, and the electric tailgate is a big bonus when your hands are full.”

Cars.com observes that flipping down the seats and expanding the cargo floor effectively doubles the cargo space, to 35.8 cubic feet with the backseats up, but folding them down isn’t quite as easy as it should be, because the front seat can’t be in its rearmost position when doing so. “The extra step of flipping up the seat cushion means that tall drivers will have to give up some space in order to make room for the backrest to fold down.” The reviewer warns that most owners may end up folding the backrest without flipping down the lower cushion to “avoid the burdensome part of that dance.” Car and Driver also notes that the backseat headrests must be removed.

Kelley Blue Book praises the low lift-over height and wide opening of the tailgate and mentions the “storage cubbies on the side of the trunk area and six tie down points.” However, MSN Autos remarks, “The rather slow-moving power tailgate is handy if your arms are full of groceries, but not so welcome if you must stand in pouring rain waiting for it to fully open.” Most reviewers are impressed with the number of cubbies and storage spaces, and latch on to several innovative features. “Neat features include an electronic key and electronic push-button parking brake, plus a cleverly placed umbrella holder and two cooled storage compartments,” says Kelley Blue Book. “A large, lined cubby on the lower left dash proves handy for holding a variety of items, and pop-out card slots located above the radio can accommodate smaller belongings.”

The standard and mandatory key fob is a point of contention for some reviewers. Car and Driver says “the monster key fob was slow to unlock doors and doubled as the ignition key, at which job it proved as fussy as a two-year-old with damp diapers.”

According to MSN Autos, “All Passat wagons are fairly well-equipped, with such features as air conditioning, cruise control and power windows, (heated) outside mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry.”

“Options include adaptive bi-xenon headlights that swivel in concert with the steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers and front and rear parking sensors that emit an audible warning tone when approaching an object,” reports Cars.com. ForbesAutos singles out the adaptive headlamps that “pivot to illuminate the road through curves at night,” and the “premium Dynaudio sound system that’s custom designed for Volkswagen,” and Cars.com praises the system’s “strikingly clear, rich sound,” noting its $1,000 price.

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