Time for another Honorable Mention Roundup of the cars we just didn’t have a chance to get to this week. In addition to a few reader submissions in this edition, I found a few affordable performance options that caught my eye. Which is the one we should have spent more time on?
All posts in Volkswagen
Long before “Dieselgate” and the unceremonious admission of Volkswagen about cheating on emissions testing, Volkswagen struggled with the image of diesel. The problem wasn’t as much air pollution – there was plenty of that – but it was that diesels were noisy and slow. How slow? Well, consider today’s 1980 Dasher Diesel Wagon, whose 1.5 inline-4 mill produced a twig-snapping 48 horsepower. Despite the relative light weight at only 2,500 lbs, the Dasher Diesel literally and figuratively lacked spark as it’s near 20-second 0-60 time proved. As gas prices fell and fuel injected gasoline engines became ever more efficient (and powerful), the gap between the fuel mileage to the diesels narrowed as the perceived benefit gulf of purchasing petrol widened. However, nearly 30 years before the introduction of the “Sport Wagon” TDi, you can still see the spiritual basis for Volkswagen’s popular 5-door diesel configuration.
The other day, a gentleman pulled up to me right after I parked my Passat. He rolled down the window and asked if I liked the car, then mentioned that it was lovely. I thanked him and said that I loved the car. Sure, even over a decade on B5.5 generation Passat Variants are a dime a dozen around the streets of New England. But while the B5.5 was by far the most popular choice for German wagons in the early 2000s, it wouldn’t be possible without the B1. Styled by Giugiaro, the new chassis completely redefined the platform for Volkswagen. It was followed by the niche but popular B2 (Quantum in the U.S.), then the odd-yet-cool B3, the more traditional B4 and finally the popular B5/5.5 chassis. With some sadness, the B6 would be the last wagon form of the Passat for U.S. customers, but it went out with a bang – being offered in 3.6 VR6 with 4Motion all-wheel drive. It was about as far from the original B1 as you could get, but the mission of each was the same and they were representative of their times. “We think you’ll agree Dasher is setting new standards for roomy wagons, with elegant appointments and fittings” touted the 1980 brochure, and it’s hard to argue that for some time the Passat was the best value not only in German wagons, but perhaps in family vehicles in total. While they were loved by their respective owner pools, they were also used, and each subsequent generation is steadily becoming more infrequent to see. B5s have already started to disappear while B4s rust away. B3s are downright rare, but not nearly as much as clean B2s. But a clean B1? I’d bet you could count the number of examples in this condition remaining on one hand:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Wagon on Cleveland Craigslist
One week ago today I enthusiastically wrote up one of my preferred daydream cars, the original MkIV R32. When it came out, the R32 was the superGolf I’d always dreamed of but thought only existed in Hans Dahlback’s shop of terror. The MkIVs obviously still entice me today with wide fenders, deep growls, and a VR6/6-speed/4Motion combo that makes them very special hatchbacks indeed. Where I caught myself was trying to make an argument that MkIV prices have fallen far enough to be a great performance bargain.
MkIV R32s are certainly accessible hot hatch performance, but it’s not a bargain if you can get the following model, 4 years newer with nicer equipment, a little more power, and lightning-fast DSG for the same price. This MkV R32 brings all of that and fewer miles while still ringing in around $15k. The MkV may be in the running for the least desirable generation of Golfs, but the features outweigh the generational spite. With 250hp, all wheel drive, and a very sharp interior, this is an even better performance value than last week’s blue R32.
Click for details: 2008 Volkswagen R32 on eBay
Looking at what the Volkswagen Golf has become today, it’s rather remarkable when you look back at the Giugiaro-penned two box design of which it originated from. This 1977 Rabbit represents the earlier years of the Mk1. It’s a very simple car, with few options or adornments. However, you can find beauty in its simplicity, from the pressed steel wheels to the slimmer Euro bumpers. For sale in Georgia, this original VW was purchased new in Pennsylvania and is up to date on its servicing. For the vintage VW collector, they rarely come nicer than this.
Click for details: 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit on eBay
The new Golf R is making some loud, non-diesel-related waves for Volkswagen. The best news is that with almost 300hp and state-of-the-art tech it’s a screamer in any and all conditions. The bad news is that it starts at $35k, $10k more than a GTI and nearly double the price of a base Golf. A friend was recently trading in his Jetta TDI and comparison shopping the GTI Performance Pack against the Golf R (a plan hatched before but spurred on by Dieselgate). He ended up laughing his way into the tartan seats of the GTI as the dealer’s available Golf Rs were nearing $50k!
For less than the basest of brand-new Golfs, you could have the R that started it all, the still sexy, still loud, still fast MkIV R32. You will certainly not be getting the kind of brand-new quality and warranty that comes with the newest model, but that could be forgiven as you joyously row the 6-speed manual and the Haldex 4Motion inspires confidence in any condition. And did I mention the loud factor? The VR6 has never sounded as aggressive as it does in this car with the bypass valves open. Today’s example comes from a Service Director at a VW Dealership in the lovely and fitting Deep Blue Pearl with O.Z. Ultraleggeras. The modifications are limited to reversible suspension upgrades and short shifter along with reinforced engine, transmission, and suspension mounts, combining for a package that sounds fun, strong, and well-chosen.