Thursday, November 17, 2016


When it comes to getting creative with names for its models, you’ve got to hand it to Volkswagen.

Possibly no other automaker in the world (though I’m not familiar with makes from China) comes up with as many names that evoke a what-in-the-world-does-that-mean? reaction as the game German manufacturer.

Over the years, we have seen the likes of Routan, Corrado, Scirocco, Eos, Jetta, Phaeton, Tiguan, and Tourag roll off its assembly lines.

What Teutonic taskmaster came up with those labels? And how?

Plus there are Beetle, Fox, Golf, and Rabbit, the latter two having swapped names depending on the year and market. At least we know what those are.

But Passatt?

Perhaps it has been around long enough and is popular enough that you may know that the name “Passat” comes from German for “trade wind.” It’s also a sailing ship, and “Passat Nunatak” also is a glacial island in Antarctica. At least that’s what a cursory search on the Internet reveals, and everybody knows the Internet doesn’t lie, right?

I’m just guessing here but I would think that VW had “trade wind” or “sailing ship” in mind when it named its midsize family sedan Passat, not the frozen island at the bottom of the world.

Whichever, the Passat has something to offer buyers who like to think outside the box from the traditional sedan offerings from Toyota, Honda, Chevy, and Ford.

It seats five passengers comfortably enough, giving those in the backseat up to 39.1 inches of legroom, has enough oomph (280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque with the 3.6-liter V6 under the hood and using premium fuel) to satisfy daily driving requirements while delivering decent fuel economy (23 miles-per-gallon combined with the V6), and produces a quiet, smooth ride with minimum road noise.

Even the 1.8-liter turbo 4-cylinder power plant under the hood of the 2017 Passat SEL Premium model that served me for a week offered decent acceleration. It’s rated at 170 hp at 6200 rpm and 184 lb.ft. of torque at a low 1500 rpm while producing fuel economy of 25 mpg city, 38 highway (a number approaching hybrid status), and 29 combined on regular fuel.

Unless you are looking for a sportier performance, the 4-banger seems quite suitable.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with power going to the front wheels.

The interior of the Passat I would describe as “functional.” It doesn’t have the panache of German luxury models from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz, but there is a “European” feel about it. The quality of the materials is excellent.

The 2017 VW Passat is offered in four trim levels starting with the S and continuing with the R-Line, SE, and top-of-the-line SEL Premium, dropping the SEL line. Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking are now standard across the line.

The SEL Premium model for my drive also included as standard equipment 18-inch alloy wheels (over 16s), power sunroof, dual zone climate control, park distance control with rearview camera, blind spot monitoring with traffic alert, keyless entry with push-button start, Fender premium sound system, satellite radio, VW Car-Net connectivity with navigation and Smart phone integration, lane departure warning, fog lights, and LED automatic headlights, daytime running lights and taillights.

All that is included in the MSRP of $35,090 (including $820 destination and delivery), making option packages virtually unnecessary.

What I liked about the 2017 VW Passat 1.8T SEL Premium: It was very comfortable to drive and offers a lot of niceties in the base MSRP. The backseat is roomy and the trunk capacity is a generous 15.9 cubic feet and arranged in an easy-to-load configuration.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 VW Passat 1.8T SEL Premium: The navigation screen is on the small side (6.3 inches) and responses to voice commands vary in time.

Would I buy the 2017 VW Passat 1.8T SEL Premium: In a manner of speaking I already have since several years ago we bought a VW Passat wagon and have really liked it. Of course, there is a major difference in a sedan and wagon (no longer offered as a Passat), but one of the things we appreciate is the German engineering.

By the way, here are explanations for those weird VW model names as garnered from a couple of sources Internet (you can Google it yourself if you want):

   Routan: A minivan with the name derived from “route” and “an,” the latter following the company policy for its European vans Touran and Sharan.
   Corrado: A hatchback from the early 1990s with a name based on the Spanish word for “jet stream” or typhoon. Or maybe it’s based on the Spanish word “Correra,” to run or the runner. Seems to be some doubt there.
   Scirocco: From a hurricane-force wind that originates in the Sahara.
   Eos: The Greek goddess of the dawn.
   Jetta: German for “jet stream.”
   Phaeton: Named after the Greek god of the sun.
   Tiguan: A combination of  “tiger” and “leguan,” the German words for tiger and iguana.
   Tourag: A nomadic people in the Sahara.
   Of course, Volkswagen itself is German for “the people’s car.” But you probably knew that.

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