IN love with an Audi but can't just quite scrape the pennies together to convince the bank manager?
Buy a Volkswagen.
I've written before of VW basically being the budget Audi - almost every ounce of the key features but the badge on the front is a hell of a lot cheaper.
Sure the Audi badge commands a premium, but it's just as much the fact that an Audi comes standard with everything, and a VW you can buy in basic form without all the frills that most of us might say are overkill.
Take the VW Passat. By the time you option up the 2.0T FSI wagon from its sticker price of $46,990 with all the "fruit" on the options list - metallic/pearl paint $990; alarm system $590; electric glass sunroof $1990; leather upholstery $2990; electric front seats with driver's memory $1490; Bi-Xenon headlights $2290; Walnut wood inserts $990; 18'' alloy wheels $2490; satellite navigation $2990 - you can add 33% to the price. Honestly, who wants walnut inserts?
So what do you get for your $47K base price?
Dual zone climate control airconditioning, eight airbags, ABS, parking sensors, cruise control, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, multifunction steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, six-way power drivers seat and auto dimming mirror.
The Passat has a couple of novel features well worth a mention.
The first is an electromechanical parking brake where you push a button rather than the traditional handbrake or push-pedal.
Its electronic control system and networking with other control units allows the integration of a dynamic emergency braking function, a starting assistant (e.g. for going uphill) and an auto-hold function (stopping at traffic lights without constant brake pedal operation).
The second is a new starting and locking system. There is no longer an ignition key in the conventional sense. Instead, you push the remote central locking dongle thingo completely into the dash to start the car.
Another is a tyre pressure monitoring system: sensors notify the driver of a possible tyre pressure loss by means of a light on the dash.
Of the aforementioned optional options, the only one that's not really self-explanatory is the Bi-Xenon headlights.
These not only add better visibility generally, but for your $2290 you also get corner illumination, the lamp follows the course of the road with a maximum swiveling angle of 15 degrees and thus ensures optimum visibility at all times.
Perhaps THE best feature of the Passat we tested was the turbo petrol engine, the same as offered in the Golf GTI and Jetta.
The maximum 280Nm of torque reached from a low low 1800 revs means you won't find any turbo lag here. A 0-100km/h time of 7.8seconds is far from slow and the average fuel economy of just 8.9l/100km/h rounds out the package.
In case you are wondering, this compares to 10.1 seconds and 6.7l/100km/h for the 2.0-litre turbo diesel and 6.9 seconds and 10.1l/100km/h (how's that for a direct trade of performance for economy!?)
In the looks department, there can be no argument over the fact that the Passat is a real head-turner.
It's something that the good wife will be able to hold her head high with all the other soccer mums, but the blokes won't have to park right down the back to avoid untoward comments either.
The latest model, released earlier this year, has more length, width and height, more cargo space and more room for passengers.
With the seats folded the Passat wagon's cargo space is 1731 litres. As far as weight goes it will handle a payload up to 638kg.