It was love at first sight even though Jacquelyn Koslowski could only see the back of an all-new '06 Volkswagen Passat. The rest of it was still wrapped in plastic, freshly delivered to Patrick Motors in Auburn, MA, west of Boston.

Koslowski, 52, went to the dealership in July intending to buy a previous-generation Passat on a friend's recommendation. When she expressed an interest in the newly delivered car, it was unwrapped, test driven, purchased and delivered the next day.

Turns out, it was the first new-generation Passat sold in North America.

“I knew it was an early model. So when I got a surprise call from Len Hunt (then VW of America executive vice president), I thought he was going to tell me I was the first person in New England to buy one,” says Koslowski, a country club caterer who traded in a Pontiac Bonneville. “But he said it's more than that.”

The launch of the redone Passat was officially planned for September.

But dealers sold down '05 models faster than anticipated and were anxious to get the replacements, says VWA spokesman Steve Keyes. “There was no reason to hold on to anything coming into port early. We ended up selling 4,000 of them in August, without any national advertising.”

It is the sixth generation of VW midsize cars in North America, beginning with the Dasher in the 1970s. VW introduced Passat to the market in 1990. That first version was “not a home run,” says Dave Wicks, VWA director of sales. Sales were only 14,000 units in 1996.

It got better after the previous-generation model debuted in 1998. Sales have averaged about 70,000 units a year and peaked at about 90,000 units in 2002, he says.

The new version underwent an extensive self-improvement program.

“This Passat will accomplish what its predecessor did and probably more,” says Wick, touting its German engineering, driving pleasure points and Euro styling.

Lauding the virtues of the new Passat, vehicle program manager Ken Davis checks himself. “I don't want to make it sound like there were so many things to resolve with the old car.”

But one of them was limited storage capacity, he says. The new model features more storage space throughout, including a retractable unit in the glove box and a special cylindrical slot in the driver's door to keep and drain a wet umbrella (perhaps more appealing to residents of Seattle than Phoenix).

Technical features include brake disc wipers to keep the rotors dry, steering-adaptive bi-xenon headlights that turn up to 35 degrees and two new engine choices: a base 4-cyl. 2L that replaces a 1.8L and an optional 3.6L narrow-angle (10.6 degrees) V-6 that replaces a 2.8L.

Pricing ranges from $22,950 to $31,900, with a $650 destination charge. Luxury and sport option packages range from $2,750 to $5,550. Those can push the sticker to $37,450.

Koslowski praises both her new car and the dealership where she bought it.

“I went there alone — my husband wasn't available. They were so nice and respectful and conscious of my time,” she says.

Jason Patrick, general sales manager of Patrick Motors, founded by his grandfather about 50 years ago, says, “We pride ourselves on customer satisfaction and an educated sales staff. A lot of people have been here a long time.”

Steve Finlay is editor of Ward's Dealer Business.