We've owned a few VW Passats over the years. As it turns out, they're pretty good family cars: spacious, affordable, decent fuel economy coupled with a European-size tank, light weight and handsome, understated looks.

B5.5 Passat 1.8T Our first, a B5.5 2002 Variant, may have been my favorite for several reasons. Foremost of which: wagon. Not only are they able to swallow large volumes of cargo lifted to a reasonable height, I rather like the appearance of a long-roof. It was also light weight and had a great 5-speed manual transmission. The minor suspension upgrades I gave it provided an appropriately sporty ride.

We shopped the excellent B6 Passat. Unfortunately a strong Euro relative to the US dollar and arguably the most luxurious VW equipment in history meant a significant price increase over our nearly base model 2002. The VR6 at the time did not feel like it had nearly the advertised power, so I was inclined to stick with the cheaper 2.0T. Fortunately station wagons still sold reasonably well in the US so we had some choices in the market and ended up with a 2006 Subaru Legacy GT that felt more sporty and a bit quicker. I'm sorry we missed arguably the best Passat ever made, but I don't regret the Legacy one bit.

NMS Passat TDI In 2013 we found ourselves in need of a new family car. Once again we turned to the Passat, though were sorely disappointed at the total lack of full-size station wagons in the US. Fortunately the new generation of VW 2.0L TDI motors not only provided famously good fuel economy, they provided much more torque than the previous 1.9L TDIs. And the US-built NMS chassis (contemporary with the B7 chassis outside the US and China) boasted 39 inches of back seat legroom, more than anything in its price range.

Unfortunately the TDI party ended in the infamous “Dieselgate” scandal in 2015. It didn't bother me much that the motor couldn't meet those last thousandths of a PPM NOx emissions, but the buy-back cash VW was offering was simply too generous to pass. Essentially we operated the diesel Passat for 2.5 years for the cost of fuel and oil changes. No depreciation.

NMS Passat VR6 Still in the grip of SUV and crossover hell in the US, we opted for another NMS Passat, this time with VW's torquey and smooth VR6. This one resolved many of the early NMS idiosyncrasies and added a confident power delivery to the diesel level of torque to which we had grown accustomed. Plus: Blue.