Exterior Design: ***
Wagons usually come off as either nerd-chic or mom's baby-hauler. Neither option is very cool. The Passat Wagon is a shapely thing, and like we said it looks better than the sedan, but in the end it's a little too bland and vague in form. Chrome is technically more of a styling accent than actual styling, but VW doesn't seem to know that and thus gets negative points for overkill.
If you lower your expectations, you will never be disappointed, and it was never more true in this case. How could a mere 200 horsepower be enough for the 3500-pound Passat Wagon? On second thought, 3500 pounds isn't too heavy these days for a family car. At any rate, the Passat is surprisingly quick. The only problem is that the power is like an on/off switch, which can be annoying.
There's nothing wrong with the brakes, but there's nothing special about them either. Pedal feel is solid, but slightly grabby at first touch. In other words, they feel very German. In the German car sense, not in the German people sense — we haven't been feeling any Germans lately to make the latter judgment.
It's soft, but on some Michigan roads the pavement quality is third-world (or at least British), and the Passat seems to be just soft enough to handle bumps and potholes without riding like a bouncing Buick.
There are no less than fourteen handles on the inside and outside of the Passat Wagon, which means it handles better than a Mecedes SLR. Sorry, bad joke. Anyway, the Passat drives exactly like the old "European handling" stereotype, which is a lot better than you would think a wagon handles. If only the seats weren't so flat, we might have been able to drive the wheels off.
A shame, really. This six-speed auto is great in other applications — the Jetta 2.5, for example — but just doesn't match up well at all with the power characteristics of the turbo. The gearing is well matched, but the sudden acceleration and downshifting that occurs should be better managed. The 2.0T and DSG gearbox combination found in the GTI, Jetta GLI, and Audi A3 is far preferable.
The sound is decent, and it's got knobs for volume and tuning. Our test car had zero options, which means it came with the cheapest radio Volkswagen could get away with. And they do get away it, but only barely.
Normally it's easier to just throw small bags in the back seat than open up the cargo compartment. Not so in the Passat Wagon, where the power liftgate makes you look for excuses to use the trunk. The "hold" feature, which applies the brakes for you after you've come to a stop, is nifty as well.
Carpet, folding seats, and the aforementioned power liftgate makes this a good place for your groceries to be. And do we need to mention it's got more cargo space than a Touareg?
Compared to other options-heavy Passat, this is a screaming deal. We were so used to 4Motion and the 3.6 engine that we didn't think you could really buy a Passat for much less than $30K anymore. But it's a good price compared to other family wagons as well, none of which have the power liftgate that we miss so much and won't stop mentioning.
Volkswagen fans, and especially previous Passat owners, will love this Passat Wagon. But anybody else that's looking in the wagon segment should give the Passat a serious look. Heck, anybody in the small SUV segment should drive the Passat, and they'll understand why car enthusiasts prefer wagons to trucks.
Jalopnik Reviews: 2007 Volkwagen Passat Wagon 2.0L, Part 1 [internal]