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LATEST VW AUTOIST

QUALITY CHECK: Farm relic reveals built-in disasters

In an X-ray examination, how does a 1964 Beetle stack up with a 1958 Ford on production quality?

 

CLIFF LEPPKE'S CYBER SEAT

2022 VWoA Says the Passat’s Days are Numbered; Will Build 1973 Limited Editions

Ten years ago, VW opened its new Chattanooga plant and out came a larger, less expensive midsize Passat sedan.  VW wanted to put that car and its factory on the metaphorical automotive map.  

Things changed.  Other automakers introduced sexier rides, while consumer tastes shifted toward SUVs.  VW refreshed the American Passat inside and out, even yanked the original gas five-pot mill and replaced it with a turbo four.  Regardless, VW’s large Atlas SUV, built alongside the U.S. Passat, trumps it in retail sales.

Now here’s where it gets calculator nerdy.  VW’s Limited Editions play with numbers representing milestones in the car’s history:  the total—1973 (1st German model year); the colors—411 Aurora Red LEs (production code), 423 Racing Green sedans (Chattanooga’s area code), 524 Pure White cars (month/day of U.S. plant opening) and 615 Platinum Grey autos (six generations, one in the USA, and five decades of Passats).  

Besides special colors, the comfort sports seats wear numbered tags and cup holder inserts ape Chattanooga’s map lines.  MSRP starts at $31,290.  VW hasn’t said what this figure represents—other a good deal or about $10,000 more than the 2012 Passat’s base price.  

CLIFF LEPPKE'S VW REVIEWS

2021 VW Atlas SEL Basecamp: A La Carte Brawny Poser

Literary critic Susan Sontag wrote the primer on Camp.  She says Camp is relishing in style for style’s sake, deliberately artificial, too much to be real.

VW’s Basecamp treatment (dealer-installed) lets you decide whether you’ll cross the line from camp to Sontag’s Camp, akin to turning Barbie’s Ken into GI’s Joe.  The fee for going Basecamp varies—about $4,500 as tested.  Less for just the Basecamp bumper bits.

Air Design USA dresses the bumper inserts and body cladding with the now cliché mountain/mesa cliche graphics.  VW supplies a new grille flanked by new-smaller IQ.Light (LED matrix) headlamps. Fake exhaust outlets embellish the rear.

For shoes, try:  Fifteen 52’s 17-inch special alloy wheels.  Clad with Continental tires, the Atlas nails everyday driving ease.  There’s better dry-road road sense then you’d expect.

Basecamp is all show, no meaningful mechanical upgrades.   VW recommends a trailer kit, though. Go full Basecamp and you get special fender badges.  As such, the Atlas doesn’t seem as outrageous or corny as Disco-era Camp: opera windows, hood ornaments and padded vinyl roofs.

The 2021 Atlas’ forte is its voluminous interior.  All seven perches in VW’s chariot are adult-sized, although the well-stuffed aft folding chairs are slab-like.  The middle-split row kneels for third-row access.  VW snubs the driver—no overhead grab handle.

From the driver’s throne, notice VW’s newly minted steering wheel, fresh logo and fancy switchgear.  Lots of buttons are gerrymandered into the hub or spokes.  While some are awkwardly shaped, their elevations help you manipulate them by feel.  For toasty hands, click the steering wheel’s heat button.

In SEL trim, you get VW’s Digital Cockpit and other items poached from VW’s passenger cars.  These look out of scale.  But you can configure gauges to suit.

While video Cockpit is chic, the dashboard and door panel inserts are plastic-icky—unacceptable when the MSRP with Basecamp finery tops $50K.  At night, LED ambient lighting, strung from the dashboard into the doors, adds interest.  And VW’s contrasting stitching on seats and door panels lighten the noirish interior.

A knob lets you customize the 4Motion driveline.  Plus, you adjust the ID Drive’s level of intervention—a now mostly standard driver-assist pack.  On a dry highways, the Atlas has nicely weighted steering and some road sense.  Expect modest wind rush, good ride damping but some suspension pounding.  Body roll is obvious.  The Atlas’ size makes tight maneuvers difficult.  Parking aids, in contrast, are helpful.

In the go department, the 3.6-liter V-6 narrow-angle mill mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission is adequate.  It hums pleasantly and eked out 17 mpg during wintry weather.  A start/stop feature reduces idling.

Loading via the easy-open liftgate requires a stretch beyond the bumper.  All aft seats fold flat for generous luggage space.  Should you want to stow and go in a brawny poser, head to your VW dealer for an Atlas.  The parts department has Basecamp accessories.

WHAT IS THE VWCA?

The VWCA (Volkswagen Club of America) is a not-for-profit hobby club for owners and enthusiasts of Volkswagen and Audi automobiles. Founded in 1955, the Club has followed the evolution of Volkswagen from the early air-cooled Beetle to the latest models to roll off the assembly line. We are not owned by, affiliated with or sponsored by Volkswagen AG or Volkswagen of America, the Importer. The Club is operated and managed solely by volunteer members who contribute their time and energy in pursuit of our motto, "to help Volkswagen and Audi owners enjoy their cars to the fullest." Read about the club's history.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Aug 01 , 2021
30th Annual Vintage Transport Extravaganza

Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois


Aug 21 , 2021
20th Anniversary Volkswagen Car Show & Swap Meet
Kyle Shepherd - (260) 417-1812 or ksmac1@gmail.com
Shoaff Park 6401 Saint Joe Rd. Ft. Wayne, IN


Aug 28 , 2021
NIVA SuperDawg Invasion
www.niva_club.org
SuperDawg Drive-In, 333 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, IL


Sep 26 , 2021
NIVA's VW-Fest 2021
www.nivaclub.org
Volkswagen of Crystal Lake 5213 W. Northwest Hwy. (Ill. Rte. 14) Crystal Lake, IL