THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 VW Passat sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: Don't be fooled by the car's fairly small-size engine of 2.0 liters. Though a carryover from 2007, the muscular Passat is a peppy car to drive. The front-wheel-drive sedan can go from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. Handling is brisk and impressive, regardless of the obstacles on the road.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 2.0-liter, inline-4 cylinder engine is not turbocharged but intercooled with a direct-injection delivery system. Boasting 200 horsepower at 5100 rpm and 207 pounds-feet of torque at 1800 rpm, it is mated to a standard but responsive 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission. A front independent MacPherson strut with a rear multilink suspension system helps to reduce body roll, resulting in a safe and stable ride. The electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering is accurate and linear, providing good feedback to the driver. Stopping abilities are up to power-assisted 12.3-inch vented front and 11-inch solid rear discs. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels with anti-theft locks are plentiful to tackle the rigors of the road.
LOOK & FEEL: Halogen headlights with clear lens slot in a chrome grille and louvers of chrome accents while the fog lamps are integrated into the front bumper. The exterior mirrors, door handles and side moldings are body colored. Burl-walnut wood trim on the dashboard and gearshift knob with brushed aluminum center console grabs your attention as you get ensconced in roomy and cushy leather seats. Also visible is the red backlit information center showing compass, odometer, radio station indicators and gear selector while surrounded by analog gauges for tachometer and speedometer. As we held on to the three-spoke leather steering wheel, we couldn't help but notice the plentiful convenience features available. Let's start with the dual automatic climate control, front and rear cup holders, 6-disc in-dash CD changer, manual sunshades for side and rear windows, 12-way power front seats, 60/40 rear split seat and a height-adjustable telescoping steering column.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, Electronic Stability Protection with anti-slip regulation, traction control, three-point seatbelts for all positions, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.
OUT THE DOOR: $30,100, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 235/45R 17 all season; wheelbase, 106.7 inches; length, 188.2 inches; weight, 3,344 pounds; fuel capacity, 18.5 gallons; city, 19 mpg; highway, 28 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Though left mostly untouched for 2008, the Passat is an ideal sedan for a family of four or five, for that matter. It can carry occupants in comfort, luxury and style. VW sums it up nicely for us: "European elegance. Autobahn performance."