2003 Volkswagen Passat

A favorite for consumers searching for a bit more luxury and style in their midsize family vehicle, the Volkswagen Passat fit in the gap between the normal boring family cars and the more expensive ‘out of reach' luxury brands. The Passat was featured spunky performance, competent handling, and amazing comfort, even on just the base model. The Passat was built by Volkswagen through six design generations since 1973, and fell between the Golf/Jetta and Phaeton in the current Volkswagen line-up. The Passet has been badged variously as Santana, Dasher, Quantum, Corsar, Magotan and Carat. The first generation Passat wasn't the most popular model, due its different design and unsure reliability. Volkswagen has extended its range more recently with the introduction of the Passat CC, a 4 door 'coupe' version of the Passat. The original Passat was developed directly from the Audi 80/Fox and the two shared a history until 2005.

Originally launched in 1973, the Passat M1 was featured in 2- and 4-door sedans along with similar looking three- and five- door variations. All four models shared a very modern fastback style design, all styled by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The original Passat was a fastback version of the mechanically identical Audi 80 sedan that had been introduced one year prior. The original Passat featured a MacPherson strut front suspension with a solid axle/coil spring setup at the back.

In 1974 a five-door station wagon/estate was introduced. The European version of the Passat came with 2 rectangular, 2 round 7', or 4 round 5.5' headlights. One of the most modern European family vehicles at the time, the Passat was originally intended as a replacement for the aging Volkswagen Type 3 and Type 4. For 1974 the Passat was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year. In 1975 the SOHC 1.5 was enlarged to 1.6 1 with power ratings unchanged and now slightly higher torque ratings.

The Passat was called the 'Dasher' in North America and was only sold with round DOT-spec lights. For and during the 1974 model year, the three and four-door hatchback station wagon model were introduced in North America. The only engine available was a carbureted 1.5 1 inline-four that developed 75 hp.

The entire Passat range received an update in the 1977 model year. These updates included an interior upgrade, revised styling that included repositioned indicators and either 4 round or 2 rectangular headlights. The Passat Diesel became available in July of 1978. The diesel was equipped with the VW Golf's 1.5 1 Diesel engine. In February of 1979 the Passat GLI with a fuel-injected variant of the 1.61 engine was introduced. This 1.5 1 diesel engine produced just 48 PS in the 2500 lb vehicle. The Diesel could achieve 0-100 km/h in just 19.4 seconds. In 1981 all gasoline engines were dropped for North America in preparation for the all new generation of the Passat.

The second-generation Passat, Mk2 was introduced in 1981 and continued until 1988. The platform was named B2 and was a bit longer than previous models and the styling, though updated, was still instantly recognized as a Passat. The rectangular headlights were the most notable difference from the previous generation. In North America the vehicle was dubbed the Quantum and was in introduced in 1982. At the same time it was sold as the Corsar in Mexico where it was sold from 1984 through 1988. In Brazil the car was dubbed the Santana. In South Africa the Passat sedan and estate were sold for local consumption until 1987.

In June of 1984 the Santana was introduced; the second generation Passat for Brazil. Launched in July of 1985, the Brazilian Santana was marketed in 4-door sedan, 2door sedan and station wagon. Both the Santana and Quantum were powered by a mixture of 1.8L Petrol and 1.8L Ethanol. In 1989 the engine range was increased with the additional capacity 2.0L Petrol or Ethanol variant. These models were called the Quantum 2000 and Santana 2000.

In 1986 the Passat range received a minor facelift. The sedan was now known as the Passat and it shared the same front end as the estate and hatchback. The US version received the European-style composite headlamps. The engine range was much more extensive and now included a 5-cylinder Audi 2.0 L petrol, 1.9 L system utilized in the Passat and sharing the same mechanics of the Audi 80 quattro and not the VW Golf syncro. The syncro was available in the U.S. market, but only with the 5 cylinder engine and only on the wagon.

Introduced in 1996, the Passat Mk5 was launched in Europe in 1996 and North America in 1998. This fifth generation shared a platform with the Audi A4 and it utilized the classic 'overhung' longitudinally mounted engine with front-wheel drive. This design was reminiscent of the first and second generation Passats, which had been based on the Audi 80. This all-new generation featured curvy lines, smooth underpinnings that gave the B5 Passat an incredibly low coefficient of drag, rated at 0.27, and heavily raked windscreens.

This model featured four-link front suspension that was designed to eliminate torque steering, and varying on trim levels it came with either a solid or independent rear suspensions. In 1997, four wheel drive was introduced as an option for the 1.8, 2.8 V6, 1.9TDI and 2.5 V6 TDI engines. From 2000 to 2004 the Passat sedan and wagon were Editors Most Wanted award winners. In 2001 the Volkswagen Passat received a facelift that included a slight update in styling and mechanical alterations, commonly known as the B5.5. This model had new projector-optic headlights, tail lights, bumpers and chrome trim.

The following year a 4.0 L W8 engine that produced 202 kW and was placed in an upmarket version of the car that included standard all-wheel drive. Though the engine was dropped in 2004, this engine was intended to be a test bed for VW's new W engine technology, which would later make an appearance on the W12 in the Phaeton and A8, and the W16 in the Bugatti Veyron.

A very powerful 2.0 L turbocharged diesel TDI engine was introduced in 2004 that produced 136 PS. This variant was sold from 2004 through 2005 and a very rare engine that was barely found on the used market.

For 2006, the current-generation Passat was introduced. Before the 2008 model year, the Passat featured a different trim level structure and fewer standard features within each trim. Today, the current Passat is available in either wagon or sedan body styles. The lineup includes four trim levels, the Turbo, Komfort, Lux and VR6. The base Turbo model comes basically well equipped, while the Lux and Komfort models feature more luxury-oriented features. Powered by a 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, these three trim levels have power sent to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.

In March, 2005 the most current Passat was displayed at the Geneva Motor Show and was launched in Europe in the summer of 2005. The Volkswagen Passat Mk6 was built on the PQ46 platform and was based on the Golf Mk5. This model is occasionally dubbed the 'B6' Passat, despite its lack of commonality with the 'B6' Audi A4.

This newest generation followed much of the styling of the Volkswagen Phaeton luxury vehicle, and was a distinct departure from the styling of the B5.5 Passat. The design was somewhat controversial, but fortunately the sales were improved from the previous year model. 4motion was used on the four-wheel drive version, and the transverse-engine platform dictated a switch from the Torsen centre differential of the B5, to the Haldex Traction multi-plate clutch. The handling was also now closer to a front-wheel drive car with much better fuel economy and a much more roomy interior.

The 2.0 FSI was replaced with the new 1.8TSI Engine and 6speed automatic transmission in February of 2008. The 1.8T achieved 158 hp/118 kW, 180 ft/lb of torque and could reach 0-10 km/h in barely 8.6 seconds and had a top speed of 137 mph. For 2008 the Passat Estate won overall winner of Practical Caravans Towcar of the Year Awards 2008 for its plethora of towing features such as its Trailer Stability Program. Debuting at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit was the CC 'Comfort Coupe', a 4-door coupe version of the Passat.

The VR6 model featured a 280-hp V6 joined with the automatic, along with various luxurious features even more opulent than the Lux trim. The Passat VR6 also featured Volkswagen's all-wheel-drive system, 4Motion as an optional feature.

By Jessica Donaldson

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