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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Volkswagen Passat Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Volkswagen Passat Overview

Where Comfort is King

Six years ago, if you mentioned to your office mates that you had just purchased a brand new Passat, they would probably have scratched their heads, wondering what it was you were driving. Today, if you make this same comment, you'll likely be patted on the back, showered with approving comments and begged for a lunchtime test drive. If ever there were a rags-to-riches story for the automotive world, the Volkswagen Passat is it. Not that the old Passat was a rag; it was in fact a well-engineered German sedan, nicely equipped but somewhat prone to rattles and squeaks. It also lacked a proper front grille—a design that may have turned off many American shoppers. Whatever the reason, everything changed for the Passat in 1998 when the third generation appeared resting on the same chassis as the hot Audi A4. From that point on, its been nothing but praise and more praise for the family sedan that redefined the segment and sent the competition scurrying back to their design studios.

The 2004 Passat has seen many changes since 1998, but it still employs the original car's basic chassis, suspension and interior layout. A series of successful facelifts and engine upgrades have helped to keep the Passat fresh and vibrant, a testament to the strength of the original design. Certainly the Passat's affiliation with Audi has not hurt, especially when it comes to the interior layout.

Peek inside the Passat and you'll see an interior like no other on the market. The handsome two-tone dash is covered in the finest soft-touch materials and is logically laid out, yet is still elegant in its execution. In the Passat, you never have the feeling that other cars were cannibalized to create yours; every switch, knob and gauge gives the appearance of having been custom-fitted to the Passat. And everything you touch inside the Passat has the feel of real quality, from the dampened overhead assist grips to the supple leather seating. At night, you and your passenger will be thrilled by the glowing red backlit dash and Corn Powder Blue instrument cluster. When we tell you everything is backlit inside this car we mean everything! We've come to the conclusion that VW must subscribe to the philosophy "if you can see it in daylight, you should be able to see it at night too."

There is more to the Passat's interior than just good looks. For starters, you can actually fit five, full-sized adults into the Passat and keep them in relative comfort for some distance. In its wagon form, the Passat rivals some SUVs for interior room, with a huge cargo hold that can be expanded by folding down one or both of the rear seat backs. Sedan models feature a lined trunk with side storage compartments for a first aid kit and optional CD changer; again, with the rear seats folded the cargo carrying ability of the Passat is immense, though we should point out that 4MOTION models feature a fixed seatback with only a small pass-through located behind the center armrest. The seating comfort in the Passat is of the highest order, with firm foam padding that supports your body and holds you tightly in the turns. Both the driver and passenger have manual lumbar support as well as height-adjustable seats. Rear seat passengers enjoy an equally firm bench seat separated by a folding center armrest that hides a storage bin and cup holders. Legroom is excellent in both front and rear, but rear-seat headroom suffers somewhat in the sedan due to its sharply curved roofline.

Once you decide the Passat is the car for you, you will still have to decide which trim and engine combination best suits your needs. The Passat is offered in GL, GLS and GLX trim, with your choice of front-wheel drive or 4MOTION all-wheel-drive and a five-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.

Power for the GL and GLS models come from VW's excellent 1.8-liter turbo-charged engine that produces 170 horsepower. The 1.8T (T for turbo) engine is so smooth and so quick you will swear it is a V6. More impressive is the way it sips fuel, returning an amazing 31 miles per gallon on long highway drives. Compared to the V6, the 1.8T does make a bit more noise under full throttle, especially when teamed to the automatic. For those who need more power and low-end torque, you should look to the GLS V6 and GLX models with their potent 2.8-liter V6 engine. The ultimate Passat, the W8, comes with a 270-horsepower eight-cylinder engine, 4MOTION all-wheel drive and every possible convenience as standard equipment.

Beyond its amazingly well-contented list of standard equipment, the Passat also includes a host of cutting-edge safety features that make it one of the safest cars on the road. In addition to the front airbags, you'll find a set of front side-impact airbags and a full side-curtain airbag along with seat belt pre-tensioners and force limiters, the LATCH child safety seat system and the option of the OnStar telematics monitoring system.

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