2010 Volkswagen Passat Wagon Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on April 14, 2010

Sleek for a wagon, the Passat Wagon nevertheless features an upright backside that is ultra-accommodating for cargo. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Profile could easily be a low-slung crossover, albeit drives a lot better. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Sport suspension upgrade and lower-profile 235/40R18 tires add to the Passat's capable driving dynamics. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Few premium cars offer as nice an interior as the Passat. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Wonderful front seats look and feel superb. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Beautiful detailing and excellent functionality. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Lots of space in the rear. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Do you really need a crossover? The handling and fuel economy of this Passat Wagon might change your perspective. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Published on April 14, 2010

Montreal is a great city, filled with beautiful people, fabulous shops and excellent restaurants, plus an old world charm that few North American cities can emulate. Making it feel more European is the French language, of course, and being an auto enthusiast, a penchant for smaller cars with hatchback and wagon body styles.

For this reason Volkswagen sells a disproportionate number of cars in the province of Quebec, not that the brand's local dealers or the automaker itself minds at all. It's a car company that speaks the French language, in that it represents some of the same values that Quebecers and Europeans adhere to such as clean and tasteful design, excellent driving dynamics, compact efficiency and advanced technologies that lead to good fuel economy and environmental friendliness, plus its cars offer a level of workmanship second to none in the entry-level class.

Dans le grande ville to test-drive the new expanded Golf family of vehicles, which incidentally is superb, Volkswagen loaned me a new 2010 Passat Wagon, in top-tier Highline trim, except for the chosen powertrain of a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. Personally, with fuel prices the way they are I welcomed the I-4 over the more powerful V6, and never once felt a need for more than its 200hp maximum output could offer. That's probably for two reasons, the first being that its torque rating is V6-like at 207 lb-ft from an ultra tractable 1,700 rpm, and the second that the 6-speed automatic that my test car came fitted with is not last year's good yet conventional Tiptronic but rather a new Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), a sequential-manual type automatic that uses twin clutches to deliver lightning quick shifts without the energy sapping effects of a torque converter.

Leave the DSG in Drive and it responds much like a traditional automatic, but pull back on its steering column-mounted paddles and it's a sports car in waiting. The DSG transmission also benefits fuel economy, boasting better city mileage than even the standard 6-speed manual at 9.6L/100km compared to the manual's 10.0L/100km city rating; both get 6.6L/100km on the highway. Incidentally, the optional 280hp 3.6-litre V6 with 265 lb-ft of torque, which uses a regular old 6-speed Tiptronic automatic mated to 4Motion all-wheel drive, by the way, gets 12.7L/100km in the city and 8.3 on the highway, so the four-cylinder is the clear fuel miser in this matchup, made all the more important when factoring in that premium fuel is recommended for both engines.

While I'd rather Volkswagen find a way to deliver good performance without causing its devotees to pay a penalty for premium, responsive driveline performance is a good payback, and the standard sport suspension that now comes on the Highline model really makes the 1,566-kilo (3,452-lb) auto-equipped 2.0-litre Passat Wagon feel like a sport sedan in the corners. Attractive 18-inch alloy rims come as part of the package too, rolling on 235/40R18 all-season tires for added grip and stability, yet still capable of a nicely composed ride even over Quebec's less than optimal road surfaces.

One of the reasons the Passat Wagon Highline feels so good is an excellent balance of firm Germanic road-worthiness and all-round comfort, enhanced by seats that are truly engineered to support every body part via good general design as well as multiple adjustment capability. Then factoring in a cabin that would make a Mercedes-Benz E-Class owner feel right at home due to extremely high-grade plastics, beautifully woven headliner material that wraps each pillar to its base, switchgear that rivals the best in the industry and top-tier features, especially as equipped in my tester, the entire Passat experience is a cut above any Japanese rival.

Just take a look at the standard features list in the base Trendline model that gets an electronic parking brake, auto up/down power windows throughout, keyless entry, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, LED taillights, cruise control, 12-way powered and heated leatherette seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with integrated armrest, manual climate control, heated washer nozzles, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, a four-spoke tilt and telescopic steering wheel, an anti-theft alarm, a CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary jack, multifunction trip computer, rear seat side-thorax airbags plus rear seatbelt pretensioners, hill hold assist, and 16-inch alloy rims encircled by 215/55R16 all-season tires.

Move up to the Comfortline and enjoy 17-inch alloy wheels framed by 235/45R17 all-season tires, fog lights, chrome window surrounds, interior ambient and footwell lighting, covered illuminated vanity mirrors, a 6-CD/MP3 audio system upgrade that also includes Sirius satellite radio, iPod connectivity, and Bluetooth connectivity, plus a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, chrome matte or brushed stainless steel interior trim, and a cargo storage net for keeping lose items in back contained.

Over and above the items already mentioned, the Highline adds leather upholstery, genuine Burr-Walnut or Vavona wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, adaptive automatic bi-xenon headlamps, three-position driver's memory, a power sunroof, a digital compass, and a garage door opener. Opt for the V6 and the heated side mirrors get puddle lamps, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation system with 6.5-inch touch screen, an SD card slot, 30-GB hard drive, Dynaudio upgraded sound that is pretty ruddy impressive, paddle shifters for the transmission's manual mode, manual rear and side sunshades, and a full-size spare alloy rim and tire. If you want all the V6 options without the negative environment or monetary impact of the larger engine you can opt for the Technology package available on Comfortline and Highline four-cylinder models.

Like its new Golf Wagon, the Passat Wagon sets Volkswagen apart in a world that's gone crossover crazy. Midsize crossover sales have been dropping like a stone over the last year or so, which shows that buyers are becoming more interested in fuel economy and the general thriftiness of their vehicles, a positive indicator as to the potential success of an equally capable yet dynamically superior wagon. Like a crossover there's a lot of room for gear, with a total of 1,013 litres (35.8 cu ft) available with the rear seatbacks folded and access via a powered rear hatch.

A practical car for sure, the German-built Passat Wagon comes standard with a full array of safety features such as side-thorax front airbags, curtain bags for all window seats, ABS-enhanced four-wheel discs, plus traction and stability control. Its warranty is slightly better than most premium brands, featuring four-years or 80,000 km of comprehensive coverage and an extra year or 20,000 additional km for powertrain protection. Additionally, and new for 2010, a four-year or 80,000 km Roadside Assistance plan replaces the four-year, unlimited mileage program, the only negative thing I have to say about this car.

And that last statement sums things up quite nicely. The $29,275 2010 Passat Wagon 2.0T, especially nice in top-tier $38,275 Highline trim with the $2,925 Technology package and $1,400 DSG transmission, as I enjoyed it, is a superb car with no "entry-level" rival. Want a midsize wagon without crossover styling? This is it, but fortunately for you it's not a case of zero competition resulting in a lackluster car. The Passat Wagon is a brilliant vehicle in its own right, and will likely cause some crossover buyers to question why they're riding so high and losing out on performance while wasting so much fuel. Drive one and you'll know what I mean.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Wagon, Volkswagen, VW, 2010, Passat, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999,

Organizations: Volkswagen, Passat

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