• Passat recently turned 40; first came out in 1973
  • Today's Passat more than two feet longer than original
  • Passat is now among VW's most popular models

The Volkswagen Passat is now 40 years old. Volkswagen recently announced that its popular midsize sedan has just reached its milestone 40th birthday, having gone on sale in the German market in the summer of 1973.

The Passat has come a long way in those 40 years. Early models were offered not just as sedans but also 2- and 4-door hatchbacks. And engine sizes ranged from just 1.3 liters to 1.5 liters, with the base powerplant offering just 54 horsepower.

When the Passat reached the States in 1974 as the Dasher, power had been increased -- but not by much. The first U.S. models offered 75 horses, while diesel versions were around 50 hp. Acceleration times for the diesel-powered Dasher were dismal, with period journalists recording 0-to-60 miles per hour runs of around 20 seconds.

But Volkswagen pressed on and refined the Passat over the years. New models came out in 1982, 1990 and 1995. And by the Passat's 1998 launch, buyers started to take notice of a well-built German alternative to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Two later generations further increased sales until today's model debuted for the 2012 model year.

Today, the Passat is only offered as a sedan. At 191.7 inches in length, the current model is longer than the original by a whopping 26 inches, or more than two feet. And the days of 50-hp engines are long gone, as the modern Passat's lineup ranges from a 170-hp 5-cylinder to a muscular V6 that makes almost 280 hp.

Still, Volkswagen is right to reminisce on the Passat. The sedan helped revitalize the brand, sticking with VW from its sales lull following the Beetle's cancellation up to VW's revival in the last few years. And given the Passat's recent success (it trails behind only the Jetta among VW's most popular models), we wouldn't be surprised to see it stick around for another 40 years.

What it means to you: The Volkswagen Passat is a mainstay in VW's lineup -- just like it has been for 40 years.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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