2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant

The Volkswagen Passat isn’t a particularly exciting car to drive. It’s also not particularly exciting to look at. While most people would categorize those as negative attributes for vehicle ownership, there’s a third thing that the Passat isn’t particularly exciting at which I’d wager most would consider a very good thing.

It’s not an exciting car to own.

“But isn’t that a bad thing?!?! you’re thinking to yourself? Sure, when I go out into the garage and see the M3 sitting there, my pulse rate quickens. Scratch that, I don’t even have to go into the garage – endorphins flow at the mere thought of it. And turning the key? All sorts of goodness happens. I’ll spare you the details, but sufficed to say it’s an exciting car to own, look at and drive. The Passat is not a M3.

But it is a vehicle thoroughly devoid of drama, and to me, that’s what makes the Passat a not exciting car to own. Take the contemporary Audi Allroad from the same period for example. The Passat mimics the look and the function of the A6 in nearly every way. It’s not even much slower on a continuum. But Less exciting to own? For sure, and when you’re talking breaking and repairs, that’s a very good thing.

Because let’s be honest for a second; these cars that we love, that we fawn over, that we pontificate about – they’re pieces of metal with a lot of plastic and complicated electrical and pneumatic systems. And they’re not getting any younger. Take my 2002 Passat as a case study; it’s on the verge of being 17 years old and has now covered over 140,000 miles. Yet it’s caused no sleepless nights, no emptying of wallets, not even left me stranded once. It’s just been completely reliable transportation in all weather, with my family, all our goods and a ridiculous amount of various cargo.…

2001 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant

Time does funny things to how you view cars. In 2001, I couldn’t have been less excited to see an A4 1.8T, especially in Tiptronic form. It was the car that finally made Audi solvent, granted – and as an Audi enthusiast, that should have made me happy. But it also brought a group of Johnny-come-latelys to the brand, steering BMW 3-Series buyers away from their tried and trusted steeds. I don’t know why this should have bothered me, but it did.

As a result, I sort of swore off the A4 for a long time. It was too heavy, too underpowered, too round. The 1.8T, even rated at an upgraded 170 horsepower later in the run, felt pretty underwhelming to drive even compared to the glacier-slow inline-5s I grew up with. The seats and interior felt cheap even though they looked more modern than the E36 and certainly more so than the B4 and B3 generation. In short, the A4 felt like a gimmick, and while the market bought it, I didn’t.

Fast forward now 21 years since the launch of the B5, and I have a much greater appreciation for the model. It’s on the verge of being vintage in some states (or already may be, depending on your local laws) which is about as boggling to the mind as considering a billionaire a “populist”. The popularity of the A4 led it to be the first “disposable” Audi, so finding a clean and lower mile A4 has become difficult. But they’re out there if you look, and even the ‘lowly’ 1.8T model has its appeal:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant on eBay

Deja Blue: 2002 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T GLS Variant

Oh boy. It’s a Passat, it’s a B5/5.5 generation, and it’s a wagon so automatically you know I’m interested. And, above and beyond that, it’s a whole lot like my car – a 2002 GLS in Ink Blue Pearl, 1.8T and with a 5-speed drivetrain. So, out come the production numbers! For the U.S., Ink Blue is a pretty rare color – in total, 1022 Passats were sold here in that color. 695 of those were sold in 2002. 485 of those were GLS trim, and now we start getting into the rare part. Only 131 were wagons, and only 49 of those were manuals. 38 of those were 1.8T, in 3 different color interior options and 2 different fabrics. The most common was gray cloth, with 14 sold. I have one of the 6 gray leather cars. There were 9 sold with black cloth and a further 5 with black leather. But I was pretty surprised to see the beige option numbers – only 3 sold with cloth and 1 with leather. This, then, is a 1 of 1 car – the sole 2002 Passat 1.8T GLS Variant with Beige leather sold that year:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T GLS Variant on eBay

2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant Ultrasport

Here at GCFSB, there’s a running joke that ties in with the Saturday Night Live “Behind the Music: Blue Oyster Cult” skit featuring Christopher Walken. We’ve just gotta have more wagon around here, and I’m happy to oblige. Today’s oblation to the GCFSB Church of the Heavenly 5 Doors is an interesting blip on Audi’s Avant radar; the short-lived B6 Ultrasport package. Available in either 3.0 V6 or 1.8T configuration, the Ultrasport was introduced in 2004.5. It took the normal Sport Package A4 with either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed Tiptronic transmission in either sedan or Avant form and added the S4 door blades, a European rear bumper and a quattro GmbH designed front bumper cover. RS4 “Celebration” wheels were added, bumping the rolling stock from the standard Sport 17″ to 18″. Those wheels lay under the lowered fenderline, suspended by the 1BE sport suspension that was 20mm lower than standard and 30% stiffer. The package also included a stiffer 18mm rear sway bar and an upper stress bar in the engine bay, which held a standard version of each of the motors (220 horsepower with the 3.0 V6 or 170 horsepower in the 1.8T). Inside, the 2005 Ultrasport gained a 3-spoke S-line steering wheel and the only interior color offered was ebony, accented with perforated leather shift knob and aluminum trim. It was as close to a S4 Avant as you could get without actually opting for the V8:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant Ultrasport on Boston Craigslist

GCFSB Project: 2002 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant Part 2

It’s been nearly a year since I did the introductory piece to my 2002 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant. Too much of that year was filled with snow in New England, which allowed me to get one more season out of my pretty tired Blizzaks and dream of warmer climates while pondering what to do. One thing that kept coming to mind was that even though the Passat still feels relatively new to me, the reality is that it’s a 13 year old car already. That’s older than both of my B2 Audis were when I originally bought them – something that I still find pretty staggering. As such, there’s a length list of minor things that could be refreshed on the cars, and unlike the lack of aftermarket support for the Type 85 Audis the Passat still has lots of parts available to buy on the open market. Thus, sitting through one of the many snowfalls this year, I crafted some minor upgrade plans to address a few trim items that annoyed me.…

2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant

Off the bat, I’ll admit that the B5 and B5.5 Passat is not the most exciting or best looking car in the world. It was, however, a serious step up in quality and design for the company. As they had with the B2, Volkswagen turned to partner Audi for the platform for the B5 and B5.5 Passat. It launched after the Audi A4 by one year and was decidedly more conservative in styling, at least originally. As it had been in the B1,2,3 and 4 platforms, the B5 was available initially in two configurations – sedan and Variant wagon. Motivation was provided either by the new 1.8T turbocharged inline-4 or the standby 12 valve V6. In 2001, Volkswagen refreshed the package with styling that brought the Passat closer to its B6 Audi cousins; new projector beam headlights were the largest notable change, though truth told most of the exterior trim changed in between the B5 and B5.5. Engines were also upgraded; the 1.8T changed to the newer, higher output 170 horsepower model shared with the A4, the V6 sprouted 18 more valves for a few more horsepower, and the new W8 engine was mated to the Audi all-wheel drive now badged 4Motion instead of Syncro. You could also get the frugal TDi motor again; something that was left out of the U.S. Audi lineup at the time and had skipped the B5 generation. What the Passat gained by these interactions with Audi was a level of build quality and refinement that hadn’t previously been seen in the top of the range Volkswagen; if you knew what you were looking at, it was indeed as nice as the Audis, had slightly more leg room and was just as nice to drive. While they weren’t the headline grabbers, my favorite of the model run are the 1.8Ts in upscale GLS trim – and of course, you had to get a wagon:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant on eBay

2001 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Sport

Audi loves to do things outside of the norm, and one of the odd things that they seem to do is to upgrade a car and then immediately discontinue it. Why they do this is beyond my level of comprehension, but it means that if you know what you’re looking for you can get a slightly more special version of the car you’re after. These half year models, known as the “.5″s, aren’t always the same – nor are they always well documented. The first I can think of is the 1987.5 Coupe GT; also dubbed the “Special Build”, it featured some serious upgrades including a larger 2.3 liter inline-5, 4-wheel disc brakes and a few trim differences from other GTs. Arguably, they’re the most highly sought after GTs with only a few hundred still kicking around. The same goes for the 1995.5 S6; minor trim and some mechanical changes, such as the change from a mechanical locking rear differential to the newer electronic system Audi would use in newer cars. But it didn’t end there, as in 2001 Audi upgraded the outgoing B5 A4 to 2001.5 specs. The changes were subtle; the A4 already had a refreshed front and rear lights in 1999, so you had to look underneath to find the reinforced front strut housings and changed ECUs. While the S4 didn’t exhibit any exterior differences, though, the A4 Sport package was different. Launched in 1999, the Sport package A4s initially had Ronal made “Swing” 7 spoke wheels that were replaced in 2001 by Speedline-made 7 spoke wheels that had a more square design and a center lug cover. But the 2001.5 models gained the “Celebration Package” as well, featuring 17″ wheels for the first time on the regular A4. It was, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of what would become the “Ultrasport” package on the B6 A4 in 2002.…