- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Volkswagen makes its preliminary move toward providing us with more luxurious and powerful automobiles with the introduction of the Passat W8.

The Passat has become a successful midsize model for Volkswagen, both in its sedan and wagon configuration. With the new W8 engine VW takes the Passat to new heights.

The W8 is unlike any eight-cylinder engine you have ever seen. It is a bit difficult to explain what a W engine is, but think of it as two very narrow-V, four-cylinder engines joined together at their center line, forming a W.

How VW engineers were able to do this and fit the package in such a small area as the Passat engine compartment is quite an accomplishment. It also opens up a whole new arena for engine possibilities.

As Volkswagen engineers lifted the covering that blocked my view of the innovative W8 engine I was taken by its compact size. Here was an eight-cylinder engine with a displacement typical of a large standard American V-8 engine, yet it is not much larger than a four-cylinder engine found in a compact car.

It is important to understand that although the Passat's eight-cylinder engine is the size of a much smaller engine, it produces the power of the typical V-8 engine. By producing 274 horsepower and 222 foot-pounds of torque this small package has the power of an American muscle car.

This combination makes the Passat a darn capable automobile that goes far beyond the engine.

The Passat has grown in popularity over the last few years in part because of its VW heritage of reliability, and in part because these cars offer so many more features than they ever have. VW has much more to offer than people tend to think they get in a VW.

The Passat is a midsized vehicle that features room for five and storage for all the stuff they might carry, especially in the wagon configuration. This VW also offers the comfort and driving capabilities you might expect of a much more expensive automobile. And now with the addition of this wonderfully smooth engine it offers the power of eight cylinders.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to test this new Passat on a variety of roads. In addition to high-speed freeways and city traffic I also had good driving fun on some twisting back-country mountain roads. Throughout the testing I found the Passat to provide the typical VW fun drive.

Though the W8 engine is larger than VW's six-cylinder engine it weights just an additional 44 pounds. That additional weight is nearly indistinguishable. Helping in making this added weight unnoticeable is Volkswagen's all-wheel drive system 4-motion.

Fitted as standard equipment on the W8 Passat, 4-motion adds incredible stability to both sedan and wagon. With more than 270 horsepower the Passat performs extremely well in all environments although I would have liked to have a little more low-end torque available during quick start-ups.

However, during my test, if I kept the rpm range at mid level I had ample torque from the W8 as I demanded power exiting the sharp turns on the country roads. The W8 impressed me with its response to the heavy load of my right foot.

Throughout its history in North America, Volkswagens have a reputation of being economical small cars offering excellent reliability with basic creature comforts. Today, that has changed and the VW image has become multifaceted.

The Golf and New Beetle are based in economy with an element of fun mixed in. The Jetta moves just a bit uplevel and with the addition of the wagon has a great deal of practicality.

The Passat shows the move toward luxury while continuing to be a bit practical. Although with the addition of the W8 engine the Passat now shows that VW can have luxury and performance wrapped into one package.

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