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2004 Sedan Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Volkswagen Passat
VW Passat sedan

Beyond the mirthy Beetle, Volkswagens always seem to elicit visions of a taut performance automobile, probably in a silvery toned finish, powering seamlessly along the Autobahn at breathtaking speeds with solid road hugging control. No nonsense German engineering. A "make no excuses" feel. A real five-speed manual transmission for those wanting the unbridled fun of driving lean. Passat is no exception.

This midsize sedan VW Passat (and wagon) packs a power-punch whether riding on its base, front-drive turbocharged four-cylinder, the more powerful V6 or the high performance, fuel saving "W" eight-cylinder engine. The 4.0 liter W, a double-V configuration, comes standard with an all-wheel-drive system curiously dubbed 4MOTION. Enthusiasts can choose a six-speed manual that can thrust the Passat from zero to 60 in a scant 5.9 seconds while an alternative five-speed auto with semi-manual Tiptronic (thanks to Porsche) adds 0.6 seconds to the same maneuver.

European in inspiration and design, Passat comes in four trims with some expected American amenities even on the base GL. Included are mandatory cup holders (two in front), telescoping tilt steering, and automatic door locking with keyless remote. All versions get those trendy integrated side mirror turn indicators. GM's OnStar is standard on the top GLX and W8 along with advanced stability enhancements. ESP (electronic stabilization program) is included on the W, along with chrome-tipped dual exhausts, real walnut wood accents, plus leather upholstery and handbrake grip.

VW adds six new exterior colors during the model year, plus new Pure Beige and Anthracite interiors. The two top trims add 16-inch alloy wheels, while the GLS gets Monsoon sound and Homelink for garage and home security systems. In all versions, this "silver bullet" keeps outside noise at bay as it flies along the freeways.