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2004 new car guide, model guide, new car reviews, by brand


Volkswagen from Germany, long the bastion of small cars of the economy kind, blossoms with a complete lineup of models for 2004 that include VW's first sport-utility vehicle and the first VW ultra-luxury car.

Phaeton is the name of the elite full-size sedan coming to Volkswagen. It measures up to big-car status and brings big powertrain options with a 330 hp V8 or massive double-V 12-cylinder plant developing 414 hp. VW's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is standard on Phaeton, along with premium equipment such as an air suspension with electronic damping controls, high-intensity-discharge (HID) xenon headlights and a deluxe digital audio system with 12 speakers scattered around a leather-lined cabin.

The new Volkswagen SUV - Touareg - is a five-door model in the mid-size class built with a tightly tuned unibody structure and geared for high performance and sporty maneuvers on pavement or off. Powertrains stock six or eight or even ten cylinders and all editions carry VW's new 4XMotion AWD system.

Most recognized car in Volkswagen's fleet is the roly-poly New Beetle, a modern treatment of the original VW. Four different engines are available for the 2004 Beetle, including a feisty dual-cam 1.8-liter plant fitted with turbo-charger and inter-cooler. It fires up the Turbo S edition. Beetle also extends the convertible version that debuted in 2003 and appears now in two trims with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The mid-size Passat in sedan and wagon styles also returns with a five-seat passenger compartment filled with the appointments of a luxury car. The 4Motion AWD system puts traction to all wheels for confident grip all the time on pavement with various Passat issues, while a Passat W8 luxury model uses the 4Motion equipment plus VW's unique double-V eight-cylinder engine. And a new 2.0-liter turbo-diesel plant becomes an option on Passat later in the 2004 model-year.

Subcompact Golf hatchbacks and a souped-up GTI performance model share several powertrains, including the 1.8T turbo.

A four-door notchback Jetta sedan derived from Golf adds the 1.8-liter turbo four-pack as a powertrain choice for Jetta GL, but there's also a VR6 4V Jetta drawing from a six-cylinder plant with Tiptronic automatic transmission for clutch-less shifting like a manual. Late in the year expect a new VW sports car with R32 riding on the GTI Golf chassis. It shows a larger VR6 engine and uses a six-speed manual stick plus 4MOTION traction.

Volkswagen Phaeton
2004 Volkswagen Phaeton

Volkswagen enters the supercar league when new Phaeton debuts in the 2004 line. Destined to become the elite new flagship for this marque, Phaeton will be an ultra-premium limousine riding on an extended 118-inch wheelbase and equipped with sophisticated mechanical systems and elaborate luxury gear aimed at the champagne-and-caviar set.

Two high-powered engines will be available - a 4.2-liter high-output V8 producing 330 hp and connected to a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic shifter, or VW's remarkable W-shaped 12-cylinder engine at 6.0 liters with 414 hp through a five-speed Tiptronic automatic.

The W12 powertrain is unlike any other, the result of Volkswagen's inventive VR cylinder geometry that originally combined two V6 engines in parallel arrangement for cylinders distributed in two V-shaped banks to forge the W-shaped 12-cylinder block.

Expect a long list of standard equipment on Phaeton, including controls like the 4MOTION AWD traction system and a four-wheel air suspension with electronic damping control, anti-slip regulation (ASR) skid controller and xenon headlights.

The cabin, lined in fine hardwoods and soft leathers, will provide an automatic climate system segmented into four zones, a top-end audio system, telematics and navigation gear, infrared reflective glass, even a power-motivated sunshade for the rear window.

Volkswagen Touareg
2004 Volkswagen Touareg

The name may sound strange (say, "TOUR-egg") but it describes Volkswagen's not-so-strange new sport-utility vehicle.

It's sleek and sophisticated in style, large in scale for the mid-size ute class and it provides a big cabin fitted with seats for five and appointments skewed toward luxury mode with fixtures in wood and chrome and fine leather.

Sharing a structure with Porsche's new Cayenne SUV, the Touareg gets VW's new 4XMotion AWD traction device and an electronically-activated locking center differential plus optional locking rear differential and air suspension. Engines for Touareg contain six, eight or even ten cylinders.

First to arrive will be the Touareg with a 3.2-liter V6 rated at 220 hp and coupled to a six-speed automatic transaxle with Tiptronic clutch-less shift mode. That one will be followed by an optional 4.2-liter V8 worth 310 hp or, later, a massive turbo-diesel 5.0-liter V10 good for 313 hp.

Read our Review: Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen New Beetle
2004 Volkswagen New Beetle

The circular profile of Volkswagen's too-cute coupe, so sleek and smooth and simple, catches the eye and stands apart from the shape of any other vehicle on a street.

The interior matches the smooth look of the exterior. Layout consists of 2+2 seating, with front buckets and a small bench in the rear.

For power, the standard gasoline-powered 2.0-liter in-line-four achieves 115 hp. An optional new direct-injection 1.9-liter turbo-diesel with VW's sophisticated unit-injector technology nets 100 hp plus high fuel economy figures, while the 1.8T turbo kicks to 180 hp. Models consist of Beetle 2.0L GL, 2.0L GLS, GLS TDI, GLS 1.8T, plus the Turbo S that uses the turbo plant with a six-speed manual.

Turbo S wears unique fascia front and rear with foglamps and blinker lights plus side markers, as a fixed spoiler on the tail replaces the former power spoiler.

New wheels apply to all 2004 models, and there are new dual-stage frontal air bags aboard plus new head-thorax side-mounted air bags. A new stereo with in-dash CD deck and AM/FM radio with MP3 capability becomes an option later in the model-year.

Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2004 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet

The convertible variation for New Beetle is a modern conversion based on the coupe and worked out by Karmann Coachworks in Germany. With its top raised, the convertible maintains the familiar arched roof of the New Beetle coupe, so the generous dimensions in a spacious cabin remain relatively the same.

The fabric-lined top has three layers for insulation plus a rear window constructed from glass and imbedded with a defroster element. Top opens and closes by either a manual mode or optional semi-automatic power. When the lid's down, it rests in a ring behind the rear seats and looks similar to the top-down style of the vintage Beetle convertible.

New Beetle as a convertible in 2004 comes with a choice of two different trims (GL and GLS) and two four-cylinder engine options, manual or high-tech automatic transmissions plus manual or semi-automatic pop-top operation. And it appears in cool paint, including new shades like Cyber Green.


Volkswagen Passat
2004 Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen splits the mid-size Passat series into two formats as a four-door sedan or five-door wagon. Each packs a four-cylinder or V6 engine, manual or automatic transmission and standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) or VW's optional 4Motion AWD.

A base GL Passat has a feisty dual-cam 1.8-liter plant with turbo-charger and inter-cooler hitting 170 hp. Coupled to the turbo is a manual five-speed that's a mechanical treat for those who like to work a shifter, but Passat also offers an optional five-speed automatic with Porsche's Tiptronic.

Later in the year a new direct-injection turbo-diesel at 2.0 liters will be available with a power rating of 134 hp. A V6 drops into any version of Passat. Displacing 2.8 liters, the longitudinally-mounted plant pumps out 190 hp with the manual or automatic.

New velour seat fabric becomes the standard on GL and GLS models with leatherette also available, while wood trim is included with the optional leather package for GLS.

Volkswagen Passat W8
2004 Volkswagen Passat W8

A variation in the mid-size Passat line slanted toward luxurious motoring totes VW's unique W-shaped eight-cylinder engine, hence the model name of W8.

The W8 produces high power and high torque, yet also high fuel efficiency and minimal emissions. Displacing 4.0 liters, it generates 270 hp with fuel economy numbers climbing to 25 miles per gallon at highway speed.

VW splits the W8 into two formats as a four-door sedan and five-door wagon. Each contains the W8 engine and a five-speed electronic automatic transmission or optional manual six-speed, plus VW's 4Motion AWD coupled to an electronic stabilization program (ESP).

Deluxe exterior elements show up on the sleek shell like xenon headlamps, monochromatic body treatment with accents in chrome plus chrome-tipped dual exhaust tips and special alloy wheels.

Volkswagen Golf
2004 Volkswagen Golf

VW's subcompact series of three-door and five-door hatchbacks use a stiff platform fixed with precise mechanical controls like power rack and pinion steering, an independent suspension and disc brakes.

Golf for 2004 appears in two trims with the base GL and up-level GLS for both three-door and five-door styles. A naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine worth 115 hp is standard, but VW's new direct-injection 1.9-liter turbo-diesel with unit-injector technology is available for 100 hp and high fuel economy ratings. Telematics become optional now, and a Monsoon sound package is standard on GLS.

Volkswagen GTI
2004 Volkswagen GTI

A variation of the Golf three-door hatch with firm suspension settings and superior equipment goes by the tag of GTI. VW's 1.8-liter turbo four-pack is the base plant in GTI GLS, delivering 180 hp through a five-speed automatic with Tiptronic feature.

GTI VR6 upgrades to a twin-cam 2.8-liter V6 with six-speed manual. The cabin sets two buckets in front of a two-place jump seat with space in the hatchback bay for gear.

Volkswagen maximizes equipment on GTI GLS, and new alloy wheels roll out at 16 inches for GLS and 17 inches on VR6.


Volkswagen Jetta
2004 Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen takes the five-door hatchback Golf and adds a bona fide trunk to create this compact-class four-door notchback sedan, historical best-seller for VW's fleet in North America.

Jetta provides a respectable amount of room for five adults to travel in comfort, offers a choice of powertrains that range from economical to exuberant, stocks a long list of standard convenience items, yet holds a tight grip on bottom-line prices. Engine choices start with a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-in-line borrowed from Golf with 115 hp. Then there's the new 100 hp TDI for Jetta GL and GLS. A 2.8-liter V6 engine, available for Jetta's top edition of GLS VR6, reaches to 201 hp with a five-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission. Jetta's fourth engine -- the 1.8-liter turbo four -- makes 180 hp.

A notchy five-speed manual works well with the 1.8T, but VW also offers the five-speed automatic Tiptronic. A revamped color chart for Jetta shows shades like Red Spice and Wheat Beige.

Volkswagen R32
2004 Volkswagen R32

Information about the aggressively-styled new Volkswagen sports car is sketchy at this point, but it's due late in the model-year based on the Golf platform and toting a 3.2-liter VR6 engine tuned to 237 hp through a six-speed manual transmission and linked to VW's 4MOTION AWD traction system.