Avg. Price Paid:$8,546 - $13,054
Original MSRP: $25,200 - $39,200
MPG: 21 City / 29 Hwy
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2008 Volkswagen Passat Wagon Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Volkswagen Passat Wagon was new.

The 2008 Volkswagen Passat Wagon's powerful engines, excellent fuel efficiency, and great handling top the rest of the full-size wagon class. Nevertheless, minor quirks with the transmission and electronic steering system somewhat detract from the overall driving experience.

Acceleration and Power

The standard engine for the 2008 Volkswagen Passat Wagon is a turbocharged 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides a similar driving experience when compared to the optional V6. In fact, USA Today reports, "Most surprising was that the 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder test car -- lesser in price and power -- was more satisfying overall than a 3.6-liter V-6 version."

But the four-cylinder's power is mitigated by turbo-lag. Car and Driver best describes this: "Nail the throttle, and a two-part dance ensues: a molasses-slow waltz up to 2,800 rpm, then a turbocharged tango to redline, with the front tires chirping and clawing and evincing a dollop of torque steer." Yet, the poor throttle response is most profound when accelerating after making a sudden stop. Cars.com reports, "Lag is most evident after braking to a halt for a stop sign or some other situation followed by immediate acceleration. Only after the gas pedal is pressed for a half second or so does the car respond by surging forward."

Buyers may also opt for the non-turbo 3.6-liter V6, which produces 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. When compared to the four-cylinder base engine, the V6 model is equally praised; according to Edmunds, "The VeeDub's 3.6-liter V6 ... makes this 3,953-pound wagon quite quick."

Though both engines put out comparable horsepower, the main difference between the two motors can be seen in gas mileage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the base four-cylinder model maintains a city/highway fuel economy of 21/29 miles per gallon, while the all-wheel-drive model is rated at 16/24. USA Today notes, "The 4-cylinder shined at the gas pump. The Passat is a reminder why turbocharged 4-cylinders were popular in the wake of the 1979 gasoline shortages. They allow you to approach economy-car mileage, yet retain high performance, even if it's just for safe merging and passing."

The two power plants transfer power to the front-wheels through either one of two available transmissions. The Turbo trim comes with a six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic as an option, of which the latter is standard on the V6. The majority of reviewers find the Japanese-made automatic transmission to produce clumsy downshifts that can result in a rough ride during sudden braking. However, the automatic transmission can also be manually downshifted if desired. Car and Driver states, "What's worst about the Passat is its Japanese six-speed automatic. 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, and even the manumatic refuses to hold a gear if engine revs encroach on scarlet paint."

Handling and Braking

Test drivers seem generally pleased with the Volkswagen Passat Wagon's handling abilities. In fact, Cars.com reports, "Though it can be hustled through corners, the Passat feels more at home cruising on the highway... It's the kind of car you can step out of after driving for half a day and not feel worn out -- probably one of its best attributes."

Most were more concerned with VW's electronically assisted steering system, which had mixed reviews because it pairs the Passat's sporty chassis with gliding luxury car steering. Car and Driver reports, "What's best about the Passat is its electric-assisted steering. The effort is low at all speeds, there's no kickback, interstate tracking is exemplary, and path control is, well, German." Edmunds adds, "The Passat's turn-in is crisp and its stability noteworthy. Although steering is oddly numb on center and unnaturally light, it's also quick and controlled by a well-shaped four-spoke steering wheel." Cars.com adds, "Steering effort is thoroughly light, and 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. A side effect of the highly boosted power steering system, however, is that steering feedback has largely been eliminated."

Standard on every Passat Wagon is a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension. Regardless of whether you buy the front-wheel drive, or full-time all-wheel drive 4Motion (only available with the 3.6-liter V6 engine), reviewers enjoy the car's excellent all-around handling in comparison to other cars in its class. The Auto Channel also describes the Passat Wagon's chassis as "soft enough for comfort on any pavement surface, with correctly-matched damping for very good handling characteristics." Despite the good handling, reviews are mixed on whether the suspension is too soft or too firm. The Chicago Sun-Times writes, "The Passat wagon handles confidently despite its rather soft suspension," while Cars.com claims, "Though it's on the firm side ... suspension provides a nice balance between body roll control and bump absorption."

All Passat Wagons come standard with four-wheel disc brakes and an anti-lock brake system. According to Edmunds, "The Passat's brakes stop the heavy wagon from 60 mph in just 127 feet with a firm pedal." The Chicago Sun-Times says, "Braking is strong, with good pedal feel."

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

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