Volkswagen is seemingly working towards better times for its best selling brand. In Europe, the Golf V is doing well enough and same for the new Passat. The Jetta V, on the other hand, is not doing so well. These new cars though (I have not driven the Golf, I am only assuming) have much in common with what was best with the VWs from the early to mid 90s: they
The new Passat is handsome to say the least. It now sports a more profiled line that starts low in the front bumper and tapers off nice and high with the trunk-lid integrated spoiler. The new shape, like that of the 2006 Jetta, is more mature and gentleman-like as opposed to the slightly more easy-going nature of the B5 Passat's rounder design. The horse collar grille is now not only an Audi trademark anymore, the new generation Volkswagens are also sporting them and I am beginning to like it. Even if Volkswagens could never be mistaken for anything else, they are now corporately identified; something that more and more carmakers are doing. Other than the front end's distinctive styling, the "C" pillar is a thing of beauty. Often imitated but never perfectly copied, its swooping elegant curvature gives the car an upscale look. The body-panel alignment and the paint finish are excellent.
The most amusing aspect of the Passat's exterior is the trunk latch opener. Simply by pressing the large rear VW logo, the lid opens up on its own. Another tidbit is the complete absence of exterior door locks: there are no keyholes anywhere on the body of the car. Volkswagen has arranged for the caps on the end of the handles to come off in the case that the battery should fail.
Where the B5 Passat's cabin was sumptuous, luxurious and worthy of any Audi, the B6's interior leaves me lukewarm. The layout and functionality is still excellent as is the ease with which every control is used. The radio in particular has a simple array of large buttons that a preschooler could understand. Where my enthusiasm peters out is with the selection of certain plastics like the faux-carbon center-dash trim. It looks, feels and sounds cheap. Perhaps a darker color interior would do away with the impression, however my favourite color combo for the B5 was the two-tone black and tan. Nevertheless, the leatherette that covers the seats and certain portions of the door panels is supple enough to pass as perforated leather in other cars. The seats themselves are comfortable, supportive and have multiple adjustments.