2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

I always get a bit of a chuckle at the keyboard warriors who love to denigrate manufacturers for not offering the full European catalog to U.S. customers. Really, you’d buy a RS6 Avant if it was offered here? You and what bank account, Mr. Sittinginhisrentedapartmentstealinginternetfromtheneighbors? Manufacturers need to live in the real world, and in the real world of the United States, while there is in fact a market who would purchase top-tier cars like the RS6 Avant, the reality is that the vocal majority of enthusiasts barking about how they’d snap them up like hotcakes would – at best – be hoping to buy a lightly used one downstream. At worst, these super wagons would only become affordable after ten years, at which point their complicated systems would render ownership prohibitively expensive for most. So, they kick tires, simultaneously ruing that such options aren’t available to them while secret thankful that they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are. We don’t have to look back far to find why this market departed the U.S., because when we were afforded the option to buy these cars, we found them unaffordable. Witness the very expensive W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

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2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant

On paper, the Passat W8 4Motion Variant like the one I wrote up early in August was the enthusiast with a family’s dream; an understated, all-wheel drive eight cylinder wagon with BBS wheels, smart styling and a not-outrageous asking price. I mean, it wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t RS7 money. You could even get a manual. But it was complicated, and ultimately, it was still a $40,000 Passat. The W8, while silky smooth, also was a bit underwhelming in the power department. Out of 4 liters, despite all the engine trickery, it produced only 270 horsepower – only 20 more than its contemporary 2.7 V6 twin-turbo sibling S4/Allroad/A6s could. In many ways, while the model that replaced it seemed a bit more tame in the headline department, it’s actually the one to get:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant

The main problem for the Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant is the plethora of other very capable all-wheel drive wagons that ran alongside it. Scratch that. The main problem for the Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant is that it’s just too damn complicated for its own good. On paper, an 8-cylinder, 270 horsepower all-wheel drive Passat just sounds damn cool. You could even get it with a 6-speed manual, if you could find one. If optioned correctly, the W8 had some pretty trick BBS-made “Madras” 2-piece wheels too, just like the ones we see here. But VAG designs from the early 2000s had a tendency for complicated engineering for complicated engineering’s sake, and it doesn’t get a whole lot more complicated than the timing chain routes on the back of VAG motors. That’s right, the back. Because, of course, if you put a timing chain in, you don’t need to ever service it, right? In the quest for greater performance and numbers, we stumbled through a looking glass of complexity that has rendered an entire generation of cars so massively over-engineered relative to their specific output that it simply makes no sense to even briefly contemplate their ownership:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant

Volkswagen is really great at theory, but not so much at execution. They’ve had a long line of really strange marketing decisions which have at times left the company in dire straights. One wonders how Volkswagen will emerge in the wake of the recent diesel scandal, for example, though many other manufacturers like Mitsubishi (you forgot they still made cars, didn’t you? Me too.) are doing their best to usurp VW’s crown as a manufacturing pariah. Yet, Volkswagen has so many debacles it has run its customers through that it should be amazing they come back for more at all. In the early 1990s, they mis-rated the timing belt service intervals on the early V8 quattros. The result was, predictably, a bunch of engine replacements. The 1.8T became notorious for turbo sludge problems, too – rectified with larger filters and synthetic-only oil, but a fair number (including my Passat) had factory turbo replacement. The 3.0 V6? A timebomb of metal shards working their way from the passenger rear of the motor through the engine, thanks to what appears to be an oil starvation design flaw. The 2.7Ts, 4.2s and all of the FSi motors? Known issues, sometimes very large and expensive. Coil packs, unnecessarily complicated PSV systems, transmissions made of glass and clogging sunroof channels? All the norm in your VAG experience. But Volkswagen really outdid themselves by making a complicated system even more complicated when they introduced the 4.0 W8 into the Passat. Sure, it was a test bed for later W12 models, and viewed in that light it makes some sense. But then, the Passat shown here is much more rare than the Bentleys and even some of the A8 W12 models that derived experience from the B5.5. Volkswagen could simply have taken any one of their proven engines and provided the answer to whatever question they were posing when they conceived this vehicle. Instead, they did things differently. That’s both something to celebrate and something to point out as an inherent character flaw:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

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2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant

When it comes to sporty wagons in the mid 2000s, your only options were really Audis and BMWs, right? Well, wrong – because Volkswagen dropped one pretty hot sleeper on our shores before elimination of the Passat wagon from the lineup. Granted, Volkswagen’s hottest entrant into the sport wagon market – the R36 – wouldn’t come here, but the normal 3.6 4Motion was darn close. With 280 horsepower on tap from the enlarged narrow-angle VR6 channeled through all four wheels, the unassuming Passat was the second most powerful wagon offered on these shores from VAG. Unless you spent another 50% to opt for the Audi S4 V8, this was as quick as U.S. bound German wagons got. Unlike the B5/5.5, the B6 chassis returned to the Golf-based platform, which was both a blessing and a curse. From a performance standpoint the change was a good one, as many of the items intended for the R32 model worked on the Passat now. However, the change to transverse engine placement from the inline Audi setup in the B5/5.5 meant that the “true” quattro drivetrain in the earlier 4Motions was replaced by the Haldex setup found in the R32 and Audi TT. Is this the end of the world? No, not really, and in fact because of this change you can opt to alter the power distribution with aftermarket control units. These 3.6 models were expensive and fully loaded, so they’re somewhat infrequently seen and generally unknown and unappreciated even in the German-specific realm:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 19 on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T GLS 4Motion Variant

When it comes to rare German cars that came to the U.S., one does not immediately think of the Volkswagen Passat. The B5/B5.5 generation helped to transform the image of Volkswagen from a quirky mid-range also-ran to a more upscale, premium product – effectively, affordable Audis, which is what they essentially were. As such, the 5th generation Passat was pretty popular in North America, with a total of nearly 486,000 models sold here over its 8 year production life. While that’s not Camry numbers, compared to where Volkswagen stood in the early 1990s it was positively a blockbuster. But while that production success made the Passat a common sight on most road, there are still some very rare variations of the B5 chassis that could easily slip by most non-enthusiast’s eyes as just another example. Obviously, when “rare” and “Passat” come up in conversation, almost immediately “W8” follows. And rare they were, as only a total of 5,361 W8s made the trip across the Atlantic; just over 1% of total Passat production. But even more rare is the car we see here. The all-wheel drive Passat, dubbed “4Motion” though it was the same drivetrain as the Audi quattros, was not a new thing, being available on both the B5 and B5.5 in V6 and W8 form. But in 2004 and 2005, you could also get a 1.8T 4Motion Passat. The 1.8T had previously been available in 4Motion form in 2001, but only in Tiptronic form – by far, the most frequently selected option for transmission. A total of 23,606 1.8T 4Motions were sold between 2001, 2004 and 2005 in Canada and the U.S. in sedan and wagon form. Now, I know what you’re saying…”Not particularly rare, Carter!” But let’s break it down a bit. If we filter down to Variants, the number drops to 5,962. That number gets even more rare when you see how many selected the manual transmission option; a scant 657 between the U.S. and Canada in both 2004 and 2005. Drop down to this model – a U.S. spec 2004, and it’s one of 416 sold. 33 of those were selected in “Shadow Blue Metallic”, the color of this example, and of those only 6 were equipped with Anthracite Leather:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T GLS 4Motion Variant on Boston Craigslist

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion 6-speed

The words “Q-Ship” and “Sleeper” get tossed around a lot when describing the super-performing sedans, coupes and wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – but truth be told, virtually any enthusiast and most non-enthusiasts can spot a high performance model a mile away. We have to go really pretty far back to find examples that were true sleepers – models where it was only the number of tail pipes, subtly wider wheels, or maybe one single badge that hinted at their greater performance. There were no extra gills, bulges, flared fenders, red trim, flashy colored brake calipers and 29″ wheels with 375 section tires. For models like the 450SEL 6.9, you had to know what you were looking at to fully appreciate the performance. But even as we got towards the E28 M5, manufacturers were slapping badges, lowered suspensions, spoilers and special trim to help set their client’s substantial investments apart. In the vein of the 450SEL 6.9, though, Volkswagen launched a discrete performance sedan – a true sleeper – in the Passat W8:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion on eBay

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed – REVISIT

The rare to find 6-speed Variant version of the B5.5 chassis Passat W8 that we looked at last month is back up for sale. The seller has dropped the “Buy It Now” price by $1,000 to $8,995 – more in line with top-of-the-market B5.5 Passats like the TDi Variants and low mile examples. While it’s possible to get more performance out of the Audi 6-speed Avants of either B5 or B6 generation for around the same money, this is one pretty neat sleeper if you’re willing to put up with the maintenance factor of the unique engine.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed on eBay

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2008 Volkswagen R32

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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

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

There’s always been a fascination for me with the W8 Passat. Not only did Volkswagen take the B5 and B5.5 models upscale by offering the Audi-based chassis, but they pioneered the new engine configurations that would be the top-tier mills in the Passat. Truth told, the “W” configuration had been around for a few years before it finally entered into the mid-sized sedan and wagon. It was first floated in the Bugatti EB116 16/4, but really came into the minds of enthusiasts with the Volkswagen W12 Nardo concept. Now in appropriately named W12 configuration and powering all four wheels, the 600 horsepower mid-engined Volkswagen captured headlines with its 200 m.p.h. 24 hour run and Italdesign-penned Group C for the road looks. While the Nardo was the prototype for what would become the Veyron after some heavy revisions, the W12 would be an exotic engine only powering the most elite of the VAG range. However, Volkswagen also launched a smaller version of the engine for 2001 in the Passat. It was the first introduction to U.S. customers of the W configuration that would later appear in Bentleys, the D3 Audi A8L and the Phaeton. There was something unique about the Passat’s package, though. First, you could option the mid-ranger in long-roof 5-door configuration. More importantly for enthusiasts, you could select a manual 6-speed, too. The combination of these items coupled with the stratospheric price tag of the model meant very few sold. But briefly, until the new S4 launched in 2004, this was the most powerful manual VAG product you could buy in the U.S.:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed on eBay

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