An invitation to drive Volkswagen's 2000 Passat with its new all-wheel-drive system through the Alps from Geneva to Monaco? What a great potential test of the system, which Volkswagen has named 4MOTION.
The 4MOTION system represents the first time VW has offered an all-wheel-drive passenger car or wagon in more than a decade. Sure, they've promised it before, but for one reason or another it was put off from one year to the next. This year, however, Volkswagen has delivered.
The 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system is currently available as a $1650 option exclusively on 2000-model Passat sedans and wagons with V-6 engines. It will be offered only in combination with Volkswagen's five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, which offers drivers a choice of switching from automatic to manual, clutch-free shifting with a tap of the shiftgate.
The Passat can be ordered in either the base GLS version or the uplevel GLX. The Passat GLS trim with 4MOTION, the V-6 engine and five-speed automatic is $27,050 for the sedan and $27,850 for the wagon. Prices for the uplevel GLX trim are $30,905 for the sedan and $31,705 for the wagon. Those prices include a $525 destination charge.
Unfortunately, I can't tell you from experience how well it works since our driving plans were thwarted by a tractor-trailer accident on the planned mountainous route, restricting our driving to the highways and traffic-clogged roads through towns.
It should work just fine, however, since 4MOTION is the same as the trademark Audi quattro system currently used in the A4, A6 and A8 models. Quattro is now entering its 19th year and is in its fourth iteration.
Unlike many traditional four-wheel drive systems, which are part-time systems, 4MOTION is a full-time traction enhancing system that distributes power to all four wheels, all the time, at any speed. It is transparent to the driver, working without any driver input on when or how to employ it.
2000 Volkswagen Passat
The system uses the automatic-locking TORSEN (as in TORque SENsing) center differential to distribute engine torque to the front and rear axles. The Audi quattro system in the A4, A6 and A8 models also employs the Torsen center differential. (The TT uses a different system.)
Under normal driving conditions, the power is split 50 percent to the front and 50 percent to the rear. On slippery surfaces, the wheels with the most traction receive more of the power, up to a split of 67 percent to 33 percent.
4MOTION also can distribute power side to side using an Electronic Differential (EDL) system. This traction enhancing system uses the anti-lock brakes (ABS) and works at speeds up to 50 miles per hour to detect and limit individual wheel spin and then redistribute the torque to the side that needs it most.
4MOTION for a third
When these side-to-side capabilities are coupled with the front-to-rear power distribution, the Passat can get going from a standing start when only one wheel has grip, said Stefan Krebsfanger, product strategy leader. And they provide double the advantages: more confident driving in inclement weather and added stability in cornering maneuvers on dry pavement.
Volkswagen executives forecast that Passats with 4MOTION will make up about 33 percent of total Passat sales. Once the company sees how much demand there is for this system, it will look into adding it to other models and other engines in the lineup, although there are no firm plans to do so at the moment.
The Passat has been an important car to Volkswagen, which has over the last six years worked hard to regain its position in the North American market, said Dave Huyett, marketing director, Volkswagen of America. The company pinned its fortunes to the Passat to establish VW in the midsize market, to lead the brand upscale and to set the momentum for successfully launching the New Beetle, Jetta, Golf and Cabrio.
It seems to have done its job. In 1999, VW sold over 315,000 cars in the U.S. That's up 44 percent over last year and its best year in 25 years. The company is projecting sales of 350,000 plus in the U.S. in 2000. Sales so far this year through February were up 29.72 percent from last year, and Passat sales through February were up 58.8 percent over 1999.
4MOTION will only add to the Passat's appeal, and as long as supply can keep up with demand, no one will get hurt.
|2000 Volkswagen Passat 4MOTION Base Price: $27,050
Engine: 2.8-liter V-6, 190 hp
Transmission: five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.4 in
Length: 184.1 in
Width: 68.5 in
Height: 57.5 in
Weight: 3532 lb
Fuel economy: 17 city/ 24 hwy Major standard equipment:
4MOTION all-wheel drive
Five-speed automatic with Tiptronic control
Dual front airbags
Power locks, windows and mirrors