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We love a good road trip. As you may recall, on the morning of May 16th VWvortex Contributor Tim Enders and I met at Volkswagen of America at 5:30AM for one such trip to Southern Worthersee in Helen, Georgia. The journey would take us roughly 12 hours to complete with food and fuel breaks, and take us about 600 miles through the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, Tenessee, and finally into Northern Georgia. Since we were in the neighborhood, we also figured we might as well test our Passat Sport to see how ‘sporty’ it really was on the 11 mile, 318 turn Tail of the Dragon.
Arriving in the DC Metro area the night before our departure, I had a beer with a friend on his apartment balcony and watched a torrential downpour soak the landscape below. “This will pass”, we thought. When I awoke a few hours later, I quickly discovered that it had not. I sprinted to the car and headed down the flooded Dulles Toll Road towards my destination at a snail’s pace- a great start to the trip. Some time later I finally arrived at Headquarters and grabbed Tim, who had an equally painful journey. We laughed uncomfortably and hoped that this would be the end of our meteorological difficulties for the day. Once we made it to Interstate 66, things seemed to be going well. With the skies clearing, we set cruise control to exactly 5mph over the legal limit and noted how well the Passat Sport’s 1.8 TSI cruises. Our only real complaint is how incredibly eager the car is to unnecessarily downshift at the slightest hint of a hill.
Our Interstate 66 experience quickly turned sour with a road closure and detour through the town of Front Royal, Virginia. It was during this detour that we saw just how badly the storm had effected the landscape. The roads were flooded in parts, and material from driveways littered the roads. When we finally made it back to the planned route, we quickly discovered that the roads were empty and re-set our cruise control in the hopes of making some time back. The remainder of Interstate 66 was fairly uneventful, as was Interstate 81 all the way to Tennessee. The Passat Sport handled the trip very well, averaging an indicated 34MPG at about 80mph with elevation changes and A/C keeping us cool. The relatively soft suspension and supportive seats were perfect for an extended drive.
When we finally made it to the beginning of Route 129’s Tail of the Dragon, the skies looked questionable. As you can see in the photo above, we had clearing skies behind us, and darkening skies ahead. Those dark skies turned out to be a hail storm, which we headed directly into. To say the least, we were a bit defeated and as we crossed our journey’s 10 hour mark, we sat on the side of the road to a soundtrack of hail hitting the Passat Sport.
Luckily for us, the storm passed quickly and once we got to the official start of the Dragon, the roads were somehow still dry. I took the first half of the Dragon, and tried to drive the car as aggressively as possible without crossing the double yellow line, or crashing. The Passat Sport responded well to the quick bends, feeling much smaller than it actually is. I could not get the tires to make any noise on the tightest of bends, but did manage to make the eager little 1.8 TSI force our tires to break traction while accelerating out of the bends. I had decided that the Passat Sport was sporty enough for the badge, and handed the keys over to Tim who would have his chance at testing the car’s handling prowess. Well, he would have if we didn’t discover a bubble in the tire during our driver change.
Tim took it easy for the remainder of the route, and we eventually made our way out of the tree cover and back into civilization. The remainder of the trip proved to be a tease as Northern Georgia has no straight roads, but Tim made the most of it with some creative apexing techniques.
So what do we think of the Passat Sport? Well it’s important to remember that the Passat Sport is not a GLI. Because of this, the 6-speed automatic transmission overthinks things a bit in the corners, and the 1.8 TSI is nowhere near as powerful as the optional 2.0 TSI. The suspension is a bit soft, and the steering is over boosted for our tastes. But we think it’s the best looking Chattanooga-built Passat thus far, and at $28,730 MSRP, we struggle to think of anything of similar size that would be a better buy. The seats are comfortable, the speaker’s sound quality is pretty good, and the Urano Grey paint is extremely sharp. If you want a full-size car that is comfortable, roomy, and looks sporty, the Passat Sport is your best bet.