The 96 Passat GLS is a fine car. The 2.0 liter gas engine is somewhat lacking in the area of performance, but it keeps up with traffic. You sometimes find yourself really pushing the 2.0 liter engine to get up and go when passing, accelerating etc,. Gas mileage is great if you drive it nicely. The lines of the car are nice and look rather sporty for a mid size sedan. I have used Amsoil synthetic oil in the car and the engine always ran very smoothly and did not consume a drop of oil even after long trips. The 2.0 is quite reliable if taken care of. The ride quality is nice, seat adjustments are cool, A/C blows ice cold. Cornering is satisfactory, but the stature of the car causes a bit of body roll. With Snow tires the car does quite well in the snow, I highly reccomend Blizzaks or Winterfire's for those of you in the snow belts.
I am a believer in VW's, I am in the process of purchasing a 98 Jetta gt and will continue to purchase VW's in the future.