While Volkswagen had a reputation for making great small and mid-size cars, it wasn’t really known for making big ones, a lack in the portfolio that VW boss Ferdinand Piech was keen to correct. The introduction of the 1996 Volkswagen Passat fulfilled that lack and proved to be an excellent car, too. Beneath a traditionally Volkswagen exterior, the Passat was essentially an Audi, and was designed to fit right in between the A4 and the A6. It also premiered some of VW’s most innovative new styles, including the lafrge wheel wells and the roundish roof, which is was quite prophetic in regards to the new Beetle, which would be introduced only a few short years later.
The Passat was powered by a modern, inline four-cylinder engine, with a 1.8-liter displacement and 5 valves per cylinder. It developed 150 horsepower, thanks to being turbocharged, and pushed this relatively big car to a top speed of 135 miles per hour. Acceleration was a very honest, if not overwhelming 8.5 seconds to 60 mph.
Of course, a four-door sedan was not the only model offered. The 1996 Volkswagen Passat was also available as a station wagon, and could even be ordered in an all-wheel drive configuration, courtesy of Audi.