Volkswagen Passat

Originally built to capitalize on the look and feel of Audi cars, the Volkswagen Passat was meant to fill the gap left by the fading popularity of the Beetle in the early 1970s. Known in the United States at the time as the ""Dasher,"" the five-door family-oriented Passat wagon was launched in 1973 and powered by a 1.5-liter, inline, water-cooled 4 engine that could reach 75 horsepower. An Audi with an attached Volkswagen grille, the U.S. Passat was virtually identical to its foreign-sold twin, except for its single round headlamps in place of the more elongated hexagon-shaped units sold in Europe.

More on the Volkswagen Passat
Volkswagen Passat Origins

It was during this time in Volkswagen's history when the car manufacturer set to naming its vehicles after prominent planetary wind systems, the name Passat deriving from the German word for ""trade wind."" Later Volkswagen models would follow a similar suit: the Golf named for the Gulf Stream, Jetta for the Jet Stream, and the Sirocco for the Saharan wind of the same name.

As one of Volkswagen’s more famous models, the Passat has been featured in numerous television shows and films over the years: ""The Bourne Identity,"" ""The Departed,"" ""Evan Almighty,"" ""NYPD Blue,"" ""Lost,"" and ""The Shield."" Over its six-generational history, the Volkswagen Passat received its share of industry accolades, including Best Family Car, Best Diesel Car, and Most Sensible Car.

About the Volkswagen Passat

To even the most casual consumer, the first generation Volkswagen Passat, known as the B1, would hardly be recognizable today, having gone through a series of radical body design changes since. The success of this first Passat trim, released in 1973, led to its being updated in 1981 under the B2 platform; at the time sold as either a four-cylinder petrol or diesel engine option.

Four years later in 1985, the Passat underwent a dramatic facelift, receiving an update to its interior, new larger taillights, wider bumpers, and a more prominent front-end grille. It was during this period of its design history that the Volkswagen Passat would take on a look that’s much more similar to the models of today. Its signature look was still a few years off, however.

It wasn’t until 1990 that not only would the Passat finally be made available in the U.S. under that name, but the vehicle would finally break off from its previous Audi-inspired exterior for a look all its own. As an all-new sedan and wagon, the 1990 model leapt ahead of its Volkswagen ancestors in terms of roominess, built atop a nine-foot plus wheelbase with a modern looking body with very flat sides, a grille-less nose, and an upright greenhouse area to fully maximize head, shoulder, and hip room.

1995’s model witnessed a fine-tuning of the Passat’s front-end, with an added new nose that included a traditional, trapezoidal radiator grille, revised trim, and bumpers; all of which resulted in a few more inches of interior space and overall vehicle length. The 1998 Passat saw its most fully-realized version to date, with curvier body lines, a roof top cargo-rack, and optional four-wheel drive. Buyers were also treated to the choice of either a five-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.

Volkswagen Passat Features

Designed in Wolfsburg Germany and built in the U.S. with our unique North American sensibilities in mind, the latest Volkswagen Passat is better equipped overall, larger inside and out, and a tad cheaper for 2012 than it was in 2011.

Lacking a touch of the exterior distinction that set its previous incarnations apart from those in its class, the 2012 Passat is a bit more simplified and angular in appearance, adorned with a three-bar horizontal grille, and simplified crease lines along both sides. Thanks to its longer wheelbase, the 2012 comes with a more than adequate truck space, nearly 16 cubic feet in all, and just over 39 inches of legroom for the rear cabin passengers. Standard interior amenities include cloth seats, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted audio controls, and automatic, dual-zone climate control. Optional features abound, most notably: iPod capability, V-Tex leatherette seating, six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, and a Fender Premium audio system.

Beneath the hood, the 2012 Volkswagen Passat comes in three engine options, the most powerful choice being a 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter, V-6 engine matched with a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission, with an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg city/highway fuel economy rating. One step down nabs buyers a 170-hp, 2.5-liter, inline-five cylinder engine that takes regular gas and gets 30/40 mpg city/highway when paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The base model Passat TDI comes loaded with a 140-hp, two-liter, inline-four-cylinder diesel engine that gets 31/43 mpg city/highway with a six-speed manual.

Volkswagen Passat Evolution

The early 1980s saw Volkswagen tinkering endlessly with the Passat’s powertrain, beginning in 1983 with a 1.6-liter diesel four with an added turbocharger. Rated at a meager 68-hp, this uninspired Passat took almost 15 seconds to reach 60mph. By 1985, the engine was expanded to 2.2-liters, delivering an improved 110-hp, with another tiny boost three years later to 115-hp.

With a new decade came the slow birth of a new Passat. Standard power for the 1990 model was a 2.0-liter version of the DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine then offered in the Golf GTI. Rated at 134-hp, it was the most powerful engine ever offered in this class of Volkswagen; it was good but not great. VW upped the ante two years later with a powerful Passat GLX that delivered some impressive engine thrust even by today’s standards: the narrow-angle VR6, 12-valve cylinder packed a hefty 178-hp. This Passat tore up the road, going from zero to 60 mph in under eight seconds.

The mid-90s saw some changes to the Passat’s outer design, most notably new bumpers and body trim, which improved the car’s length to 181.3 inches, while the VW's interior received a minute mark-up in terms of passenger space.

By far the biggest hit for Passat enthusiasts that decade came with the celebrated 1998 midsize model. Delivering a respectable 150-hp and powered by a 1.8-liter turbo four that broke zero to 60 in eight seconds. This family-friendly sedan afforded buyers a roomy, stylish interior and sleek sophisticated exterior design.

The 2002 W8 Volkswagen Passat sedan/wagon took innovation in a slightly new direction with its 270-hp, eight-cylinder engine. Made up of two V4 modules, this five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift gate replaced the five-speed manual in previous versions. Introduced later that same year was a W8 Sport Package with a six-speed manual, plus firmer suspension and 17-inch tires, as opposed to its standard 16-inch.

Select a Volkswagen Passat Year

2013 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan

There is a lot to like about the 2013 Volkswagen Passat.

2012 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan

Everything: the Passat is now built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a model specifically designed and sold in America, and tailored for our tastes.

2010 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The Passat features several new features for the 2010 model year, including the replacement of the conventional manual and automatic transmissions with VW’s lauded DSG gearbox, new touchscreen controls for the Bluetooth and audio, and a standard multifunction steering wheel.

2008 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 2008 Volkswagen Passat has sporty performance, an exclusive interior, and admirable safety features.

2007 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 2007 Volkswagen Passat marks a favorite amongst buyers and continues popularity that began in 1990.

2006 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan

Since the 1990's, The Volkswagen Passat continues to be a favorite within the midsize family cars.

2005 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 2005 Volkswagen Passat is available in 14 different models that include two different body styles and three models that are powered by diesel engines.

2004 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 2004 Volkswagen Passat is one of the most flexible sedans on the market.

2002 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 2002 Volkswagen Passat is a well built and engineered car available as a sedan or wagon.

2001 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

As the first front-drive Volkswagen sold in America, the large four-door Passat, known as the Dasher in the U.

2000 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The Volkswagen Passat is available with 10 available trims that range from station wagons to sedans.

1999 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1999 Volkswagen Passat provides a large family car that has been in production since 1973.

1997 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1997 Volkswagen Passat never garnered much attention in the United States, but its updates to style and performance brings the GLX model to a wider audience.

1996 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1996 Volkswagen Passat is a solidly-equipped passenger vehicle available as a sedan or wagon, and is the last release before Volkswagen issued an extensive redesign of the model.

1995 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1995 Volkswagen Passat comes with the choice of two body styles (sedan and wagon), two engines, two transmissions, and three models.

close