Anyone remember the Volkswagen Dasher? I do, because when our second child was born, we needed a vehicle with four doors for easier access to the child and baby seats, and so a Dasher station wagon found its way into our garage.
What about the VW Quantum? Anyone remember that model?
I ask because the Dasher and Quantum were what Volkswagen of America called the Passat before keeping the German nameplate that had been on the cars in Europe beginning with the model’s introduction in 1973.
This fit of nostalgia is generated by two things — the announcement this summer that the 2022 model year will be the last for the Passat in the US market and VWoA’s recent loan of a 2021 Passat 2.0T R-Line for a week’s evaluation.
After driving the R-Line version, I’m lamenting the car’s departure — not only from my driveway but from the VW lineup. Apparently 4-door sedans, at least those that aren’t very large and luxurious, are the going the way of the dinosaur, and VW needs the assembly line in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the US Passats have been produced since 2011, to build more crossover utility vehicles, including the electric-powered ID.4.
The Passat’s US run will end with 1,973 Limited Edition models for 2022, that number honoring the Passat’s launch date six generations ago.
Count me among those lamenting the Passat’s passing.
Remember Fahrvergnügen? In the 1990s the German word for “driving pleasure” became the tagline for Volkswagen advertising. Like the Golf and Jetta, the Passat had and still has Fahrvergnügen, just in a larger-size package with more room for people and the stuff they stuff into a surprisingly large trunk.
One of the places I evaluate vehicles here in the Las Vegas area is a road that winds through the Spring Mountains a few miles southwest of The Strip. It’s a narrow two-lane that twists and turns and climbs and descends for just short of 15 miles.
The R-Line Passat belies its four-door sedan architecture on such a road. The car is available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission, but you have three options — let it shift for itself, use the paddles on the steering wheel, or put the console-mounted gear-selector lever in the S setting and toggle up and down the box to keep the revs up so you can make the best use of the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine’s 174 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque.
The Passat steering is quick and nimble, light but with good feedback, and the R-Line rides on 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels wrapped in 235/40 Continental all-season tires.
The car weighs little more than 3,300 pounds and is low-slung enough to have a center of gravity that enhances handling.
On the other hand, should dynamic driving not be something you prefer to explore, the 2021 Passat R-Line would seem a nice family cruiser, with rear air vents, USB ports, a center arm rest and plenty of legroom for those in the back seat, and with such standard features as a power sunroof, heated and power-adjustable front seats, Discover Media infotainment with Fender premium audio, and an array of driver-assist and safety technologies.
Speaking of those driver-assist technologies, unlike so many contemporary vehicles, the lane-keeping monitor doesn’t scream at you or fight your steering, but simply tightens slightly when you go to cross the center line without using your turn signals. Although, there were a couple of occasions when the dashboard display requested that I try to keep the car centered in my driving lane.
While pleased with the car’s performance, I was surprised — pleasantly — at its price. I was thinking high $30,000s or maybe even low $40s, but then the Monroney pricing sheet arrived by email and I saw that the base price on the 2021 Passat R-Line is $29,995 and the as-tested total was $30,990.
Checking the Volkswagen website, I discovered that the basic Passat S starts at $23,995 and the mid-level SE is $26,995. Those have the same powertrain as the R-Line, but, for example, the S has cloth seating surfaces and 17-inch wheels and neither gets paddle shifting, the Fender premium audio or Discover Media with navigation.
By the way, for those who may have forgotten, the Passat was among the Volkswagen vehicles with names derived from the wind: Gulf from the Gulf Stream, Jetta from the Jet Stream, Passat for “trade wind,” Scirocco named for the wind that sweeps across the Mediterranean, and Polo as in polar winds.
Which brings me to this, and to winds of change: I’m saddened to see the Passat leaving my driveway after a wonderful week, but I’m even sadder to see it — and so many other sedans — leave OEM lineups.
2021 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T R-Line
Vehicle type: 5-passenger, 4-door sedan, front-wheel drive
Base price: $29,995 Price as tested: $30,990
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 174-horsepower @ 5,000 rpm, 206 pound-feet of torque @ 3,000 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 110.4 inches Overall length/width: 193.6 inches / 72.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,314 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 24 city / 36 highway / 28 combined
Assembled in: Chattanooga, Tennessee
For more information, visit the Volkswagen website.