- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2001

MODEL: Volkswagen Passat GLX
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $29,300
MILEAGE: 20 city, 29 highway

The 2001.5 VW Passat houses about 2,300 technical and visual changes. But don't bother counting them. The three most meaningful core changes are in styling, safety and performance.
What's even more impressive is that the base price increases by only $300. Volkswagen executives say the Passat originally called the Dasher in the 1970s in the United States has crossed that fine line from being obscure to waking up the midsize segment. Being the best-selling German vehicle in its class is no reason to stand still, for doing so would lead to mediocrity.
The Passat is the most important car in the VW lineup and a key product to the company's growth. In fact, by the year 2003 there will be three new incarnations of the Passat added to the lineup, including a sport utility vehicle. The 2001.5 Passat comes in three models: the GLS 1.8 T, the GLS V-6 and the top-of-the-line GLX. Prices range from $21,750 to $31,575.
A combination of subtle changes to the exterior makes the Passat very much a different sedan. From the almost indiscernible alterations, such as the larger VW badging on the grille, to the more obvious striking new rear taillight display, the 2001.5 Passat has become a more dynamically styled sedan.
The only elements unchanged are the roof and doors. The front end design is more sharply raked and high-tech looking. The sedan has heavier chrome accents and the wheel well flares are more pronounced. The taillamps are housed in a clear lens assembly with two small, round red bulbs for the brakes and arrowlike triangles for the turn signals.
The headlights, with halogen headlamps and clear-lens side blinkers, rest inside a chip- resistant housing that the automaker describes as lighting the way of future automotive designs: the high-tech appearance of ultraclear glass. All Passats come standard with fog lamps sharply integrated into the front bumpers.
Out of the 2,300 changes made to the new Passat, designers fell down on the job with one small thing: the windshield wiper blades. During my rain-soaked, one-day test drive of the GLX, the driver's side wiper blade left a rubber streak across my line of vision, though the streaking did not occur on the passenger's side. If I paid out 30 grand for a new, improved sedan, this streaking would drive me crazy.
Inside the 2001.5 one improvement stands out. It may seem banal, but this one is amazingly important to North American drivers: the cup holders. Passat's new beverage holders, located in the center console between the bucket seats, are cup-friendly, snugly accommodating both cups and bottles with size-adjustable prongs. Once again, high-quality materials result in superior fit and finish craftsmanship, which is plainly obvious to the novice eye. For the driver's visual pleasure, the cockpit features new instrumentation of brushed aluminum.
Mechanically, the Passat gets 20 more horsepower and becomes more dynamically solid as a driver's car with added torsional rigidity. Not only is the 190-horsepower V-6 Passat more fun to drive, the added body stiffness makes the sedan a better crash-resistant vehicle. Safety is improved with the addition of head air-bag protection. A curtain deploys down the side windows in a severe impact. This advanced safety system called Side Curtain Protection, is standard on all 2001.5 Passats.
From its pricing strategy to the overall content and design of the new Passat, VW will shake up the midsize sedan market a segment that Volkswagen believes has gotten too tranquil.
MOTOR MATTERS


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