ANNECY, France - By giving its Passat sedan all-wheel drive, Volkswagen of America Inc. moves the VW brand further upscale in the United States.
Volkswagen has not had an awd car in the United States since 1988 when it had the Quantum wagon.
The new awd system, called 4Motion, is available as a $1,650 option on 2000 Passat sedans and wagons with a V-6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. The traction system continuously distributes power to all four wheels at all speeds.
A marketing campaign is being developed to educate consumers on the advantages of 4Motion and will begin airing in May or June, said Dave Huyett, VWoA marketing director.
The campaign likely will explain how 4Motion enhances the Passat's driveability on dry roads and in inclement weather, he said.
'From a marketing standpoint, the addition of 4Motion strengthens the Passat's position in the mid-sized segment,' Huyett said at a press event here. 'We're using 4Motion to move the brand further upscale.'
The Passat GLS sedan with 4Motion is priced at $27,050; the GLS wagon is $27,850. The Passat GLX sedan with 4Motion is priced at $30,905; the GLX wagon is $31,705. All prices include a $525 destination charge.
Volkswagen considers the Passat VW's technological flagship. The 4Motion Passat, which began trickling into dealerships last month, will continue to take sales from the Japanese but can now seriously challenge Subaru, said Frank Maguire, VWoA sales director.
'Subaru will know that we are in the marketplace,' Maguire said.
The automaker expects about 33 percent of Passats to be sold with 4Motion, with wagons the most popular choice for the system.
The 4Motion system uses the automatic-locking Torsen center differential to automatically distribute engine torque between the front and rear differentials. In addition to transferring power, these differentials let the wheels turn at different speeds during cornering, said Stefan Krebsfanger, VWoA product strategy leader.
The 4Motion system is technically the same as the quattro system in the Audi A4 and A6 sedans and wagons, each using the Torsen center differential. However, the Audi TT Coupe and Volkswagen Golf and Jetta in Europe use a different differential in their quattro and 4Motion systems.
In normal driving conditions, the 4Motion drive ratio is 50 percent to the front and 50 to the rear. On low-grip surfaces, the wheels with the higher level of adhesion receive more of the power - up to a split of 67 percent to 33 percent, Krebsfanger said.
4Motion also uses an electronic differential to distribute power side to side. This makes it possible for one wheel to move the Passat from a standing start, Krebsfanger said.
The electronic differential, which is a function of the antilock brakes and works at speeds up to 50 mph, detects and limits individual wheel spin and then redistributes the torque to the side that needs it most, he said.