Volkswagen's Passat sedan and wagon line was named for a cold wind that sweeps across Germany, although VW was hoping that this car would blast the U.S. market with the force of a hurricane. Successor to the competent but unloved VW Quantum, the Passat was supposed to sweep Yankee minds clean of such established family favorites as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Taurus. Unfortunately for VW, the Passat's effect on the American market so far has been about as strong as a wispy breeze.
Early Passat popularity problems were perhaps justified by a buzzy 4-cylinder engine that, when combined with VW's lackluster automatic transmission, offered little driving excitement. Then, last year, the car was given needed muscle with a V6 engine transplant, and the automatic gearbox was extensively revised for smoother, crisper shifts. Dynamically the car became more palatable, but the Passat's jelly-bean styling and grille-less nose failed to create much interest.
This shouldn't be the case with 1995's Passat. Mechanically, it's almost identical to last year's model, but the Passat gains a more sophisticated look and represents one of the best values in the market. Powered by Volkswagen's acclaimed V6, the new Passat offers unmatched levels of standard amenities in the family-oriented midsize segment. When comparably equipped, the Passat beats its primary Asian rival by a couple thousand bucks, and VW's service and powertrain warranty are among the best in the business.