The Volkswagen Passat has earned its place as the benchmark in mid-size family car design. It combines smart styling, great use of space, and class-leading safety, with intelligent power and near sport sedan handling. Now it’s time for an all-new 2006 Passat, and maybe also time for rivals to start all over again.

Where do we start? Restructured, restyled, and repowered, the 2006 Volkswagen Passat is so much more family car perfection than both its predecessor and its rivals. The all-new sixth generation Passat is built on a lengthened version of the platform used on the new Jetta. With a 57% jump in torsional stiffness, Passat is now quieter, safer in a crash, and less apt to be put out of kilter by twisty roads.

Also growing, if modestly, are Passat dimensions. The wheelbase expands 3-tenths to 106.7 inches. But 3 inches are added to overall length and width. The Passat’s new look follows in Jetta’s wake with refined, purposeful lines that, while muscular, drape its silhouette gracefully.
In its new form, the 1 1/2 inch wider track connects to thin-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels or optional 17s with 18s available later on. As the name implies, the Passat 2.0T sports a larger, 2-liter turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder. Front-drive output is 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.

Volkswagen’s narrow angle V6 returns with the new Passat 3.6.  Its 3.6-liters pumps out 280-horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, for both front and 4Motion all-wheel drivelines. The 2.0T is mated to a standard 6-speed manual transmission. Our 3.6 tester wore a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic which is optional on the 2.0T.

Despite lots of cold pavement wheel hop, we registered a quick 0 to 60 time of 6.2 seconds. Except for a sluggish second to third shift, the 6-speed Tiptronic displayed proper obedience. The quarter mile passed in 14.6 seconds at 100 miles-per-hour, with a pleasantly aggressive growl. 

Handling is by front MacPherson struts, a new multi-link independent rear, and an electro-mechanical power steering rack. Front drive push and body roll are far less than class standards. The nimble Passat feels much more compact than it actually is, with excellent balance.

Given our experience with the new Jetta, we expected handling to take a backseat to ride. Not so in the Passat. Both blend expertly over a variety of pavements. 3.6 fuel economy is rated at 19 city/28 highway, with our test loop returning a fine 25 miles-per-gallon.   

Braking is by large 4-wheel discs with standard ABS. Stops from 60 averaged a good 124 feet. Only a bit of fade colored an otherwise excellent performance.

A look inside the new Passat proves its grown-up status, even borrowing some luxury traits from the Phaeton.  The first-class family cabin is not only bigger, but it wears a fresh, stylish, high technology design in metallic or wood trim.

Standards include air, full power accessories, 8-speaker CD/MP3 stereo, and 8-way front seats. DVD navigation is an option. Rear seating gains almost 2.5 inches of leg room. The 60/40 split folding seat back has a center armrest with a pass through to the trunk, which is slightly smaller, but a still generous 14.2 cubic feet. Standard safety includes front side impact airbags, and side curtain airbags both front and rear. Rear side-impact airbags are optional.

So about the only thing that might keep Passat out of every suburban driveway are its premium prices. The Passat starts with the Value Edition at $23,565. The 2.0T automatic stickers at $25,590. And a top line 3.6 4Motion model with added Sport Package fetches $38,065. 

But then the Passat doesn’t pretend to be a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. It is, however, what they and every other mid-size family car should aspire to. That’s the way we saw it before, and that’s the way we see it with the all-new sixth generation. The 2006 Volkswagen Passat remains a class leader for others to follow.


  • Engine: 3.6-Liter V-6
  • Horsepower: 280
  • Torque: 265 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.2 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds At 100 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 124 Feet
  • EPA: 19 City/28 Highway MPG
  • Mixed Loop: 25 MPG