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Volkswagen Passat 2006 review

That car had cornering almost free of body roll, a willing 1.5-litre engine, carefree fuel economy, body-hugging driver's seat and consumed long distances better than many larger cars.

It had only 55kW power and 116Nm torque, but in its day that was enough in a lightweight (well under one tonne) two-door. It had no power steering, manual window winders, 13in steel wheels and safety features were seat belts and damn good brakes. But, gee, it was fun to drive.

Although 31 years may be a generation in human terms, the latest Passat is its sixth generation and, on Volkswagen's own admission, its biggest design leap.

This latest, largest Passat weighs in at 1506kg (still 68kg under even a base Holden Commodore). And at $44,990 in the two-litre turbocharged petrol engine version as tested, it's about 10 times the price of the 1975 Passat TS.

But just look at what's included now in this VW model: eight airbags (dual front, front and rear side, and front and rear head), active crash head restraints, electronic stability control, electromechanical (push-button) parking brake, dual-zone automatic airconditioning, traction control, ABS brakes, 17in alloy wheels, eight-speaker sound system with six-stack CD, a boot lid that raises at the press of a key fob, electrically heated mirrors which include turn indicators, six-way electric adjustment for the driver's seat, rain-sensing wipers and five-star ENCAP occupant protection rating in a crash.

And that's just a small selection of the standard equipment that makes the modern Passat a pleasurable vehicle for relaxing progress.

The Passat driven had the 2.0 FSI turbo petrol engine. This gives 147kW power at 5100-6000rpm and torque of 280Nm over a wide 1800-4700rpm. It translates to a 0-100km/h sprint in 7.8 seconds, says VW, and a potential top speed of 230km/h.

It runs a six-speed tiptronic automatic transmission that settles at 2300rpm at 110km/h when cruising.

This is the same engine as found in the Volkswagen Golf GTi. In that GTi, it's a little cracker – eager, responsive, a hot unit. In the Passat, it could be a different engine – quiet, refined and only singing its presence when the accelerator is pressed hard. It's an ideal example of a good turbocharged engine in a family car: there's no startling evidence that it is a turbo. It pulls steadily from low revs. Quiet driving is rewarded with pleasing fuel economy. Sure, there's a lot more go at higher revs where the turbo allows strong performance if required, but it doesn't arrive with a marked leap.

Passat can be had with other engine choices. The range starts at $42,990, with a two-litre turbocharged diesel giving 103kW power and a good 320Nm of torque at just 1750rpm. Or at $54,990, there's the 3.2-litre V6 petrol of 184kW and 330Nm torque. The V6 means also getting the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The V6 is the super-luxury version with extras. The V6 and the diesel are mated to VW's excellent DSG six-speed transmission.

Station wagons are $2000 more in each case.

The glove box is barely medium-size but there are generous door pockets and some other fascia compartments. Rear leg room is good and head room fair.

Cornering poise is there but hard driving can find understeer, inevitable when the engine weight is ahead of the front axle line in a front-wheel-drive car.

Options include an electric sunroof at $1990, metallic paint $990, bi-xenon self-levelling headlamps $2290, leather trim $2990 (including heated front seats standard on the V6) and satellite navigation $2990.

The car runs on premium unleaded petrol.

You'll impress others with the smart key that requires just placing in a dashboard slot and pressing to start the engine. And the parking brake is also controlled by a push button on the dashboard. There's an auto-hold function that can be selected for the transmission: it prevents the car creeping forward when left in D after you've stopped in traffic.

The boot is a real surprise, too: very long and with 565-litre capacity in the sedan, even with a full-size spare wheel under the floor where there's more stowage space.

The Passat's not what it used to be. It's now a luxury European sedan at family-car prices.

Pricing guides

Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Highest Price

Range and Specs

V6 2.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $4,950 – 7,260 2006 Volkswagen Passat 2006 V6 Pricing and Specs
V6 2.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $4,730 – 6,930 2006 Volkswagen Passat 2006 V6 Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $4,070 – 5,940 2006 Volkswagen Passat 2006 2.0 TDI Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $4,510 – 6,600 2006 Volkswagen Passat 2006 2.0 TDI Pricing and Specs
Stuart Innes
Contributing Journalist


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