B4 Variant-off: 1997 Passat GLX VR6 v. 1996 Passat GLS TDi

Without a doubt, Wagon Week is one of our favorite features here at German Cars For Sale Blog, and while there are plenty of desirable, big name Avants, Tourings and Estates that grab the headlines and generate the “likes” on Myface or Spacebook or Instaselfie or whatever, if I’m honest I’m always a fan of the underdog Passat Variant. Perhaps it’s because I’ve owned two, perhaps it’s because it’s the less common choice; I’m not entirely certain. True, the Passat isn’t the best performing wagon out there, and I’d concede that it’s not the best looking or best made one either. But in terms of the performance you can get in a stealthy, good looking package on a budget, I think that the Passat may be the real sleeper in the German wagon realm. But the positive aspects of the Passats aren’t unknown to all; the Quantum Syncro is always a popular if rarely seen ’80s icon for the company, and when we got to the Golf-based B3 and B4, there were some cool options too – such as the not-for-the-U.S. G60 Syncro. But even in the U.S., the B4 offered some neat performance options for the wagon aficionado – interestingly, in very different directions. Check the “GLX” option on your order form and you’d get the torquey, great sounding VR6 engine and BBS wheels in a sporty package. Check the “TDi” option, and you had a hyper-miler capable of over a thousand miles on a tank of gas. Yet while both have their niche markets, finding good examples of each can be quite difficult. Today we have one of each to compare, and I think it makes for an interesting showdown. Will either hit the $11,000 mark of the last B4 Variant we looked at?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 Variant on eBay

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Wagon Week: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant

There are plenty of popular Volkswagens that demand premiums, sometimes inexplicably. These special models have a draw and demand money that makes people laugh. Sure, in the car world, it’s become accepted that vehicles like the 21 window Samba are now $100,000 plus fully restored; however, tell that to my father-in-law, who grew up driving them, and you’ll get nothing but boisterous laughs. Other Volkswagens exhibit charm or were class leaders; the GTi, the Vanagon Westy, the Corrado – stylish in their own ways, with charm to match. Then there’s the Passat. Despite the serious popularity of the B5 and B5.5 chassis, I still feel like I need to explain to people that they’re really quite nice cars. Do you know why? Mostly it’s because of the reputation of the B3 and B4 Passats. Poor build quality coupled with an unerring tendency of early 90s Volkswagens to rust heavily meant they’re an odd choice for the Volkswagen fan. And when I consider the B4 Passat, all I can think is that it’s arguably the most vanilla Volkswagen ever produced. I praised Volkswagen when they launched the B3; smooth, aerodynamic with a distinctive wedge shape, it looked very different than any other sedan on sale at the time. Most of that distinction came down to the grill-less front end, but regardless it was cool. It was so cool, in fact, that no one got it. Of course, it didn’t help that it was pretty expensive and not particularly reliable in the best trend of early 90s VWs. So it probably came as no surprise when the revised B4 Passat in 1995 when more mainstream. New wheels, mostly new body panels and some minor interior changes signaled its introduction, but that’s not what people sought. No, the big news was under the hood; Volkswagen moved the 1Z 1.9 TDi into the Passat – and behind the headlines of the Vans, Corrados and GTis, it’s probably the most sought 1990s Volkswagen – especially in 5-speed Variant form.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant on eBay

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RS-spec: 1995 Audi S2 Avant

While in the U.S. the S6 Avant got all of the Audi accolades in 1995, in Europe several fast Audi wagons had been offered for some time. First of the new 20 valve turbo generation was the 200 Avant, just like in the U.S.; after that, though, the lines diverged. With the start of the C4, Audi offered the S4 in two configurations, sedan which was shared with the U.S. market, and Avant form which never came here. Additionally, there were two engine configurations; you could also get the 4.2 V8 and a 6-speed manual in your S4. When it came to the renamed S6, Audi upped those options with the addition of an automatic and the hotter “S6 Plus” version of the V8 wagon. But there was also another wagon available; the B4 based S2 Avant. The S2 came in three variants; the Coupe which many are familiar with, the quite rare sedan version, and the slightly less familiar Avant which didn’t come to the U.S.. I say slightly less familiar, because the S2 Avant was the notable base for one of the greatest wagons the world has ever seen – the iconic Porsche-built RS2. The RS2 was a fitting replacement for the equally iconic Sport Quattro, but the RS2 offered better road manners, more versatility and if anything was a bit quicker overall. It should be no surprise that, like the Sport Quattro, the limited run RS2 spawned a series of imitators who mimicked everything from the motor to the outside styling:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Audi S2 Avant on eBay

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1995 Audi 90 quattro

The good week for Audis continues with another car that’s frankly rare to find in reasonable condition anymore; the B4 Audi 90 quattro. The 90 was a bit long in the tooth in 1995 and slated for replacement by the updated A4. However, squint a bit and you realize that outside of the reshaped bumper covers the A4 shared many design cues with the B4 Audi. It’s a handsome car, and like the ’95 A6 I wrote up the other day it’s extremely competent. The V6 was coupled to the venerable but updated quattro all-wheel drive via a 5-speed manual transmission. While not the fastest car out there, the B4 focused on more luxury at a time when all of the major manufacturers seems to be backing away from sport just a bit. You won’t confuse this car with an M3, but that said it’s a fair bit more quiet, refined and quicker than a 4000 quattro. However, the car was a veritable sales flop compared to the 4000 – Audi only sold about 3,330 of the B4 90 quattros in the U.S. in total, compared to the nearly 16,000 4000 quattros sold. Rare? You bet:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi 90 quattro on eBay

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Coupe Week: 1995 Audi S2

For many people, the third generation Audi Coupe wasn’t quite the match for the car that it replaced. Launched in 1988, even Audi would seem to agree; it continued to produced the original Quattro through 1991, alongside its seeming replacement. While the looks of that replacement – the 20V turbocharged S2 – were considerably more sedate than the Quattro, it was nonetheless a handsome car. Though the iconic flares and chunky styling was replaced by a more rounded look, there were many advantages to the newer cars. First off, they were considerably safer with a stiffer structure and passive safety systems to protect drivers and passengers (anyone else remember the seatbelt pretensioning “PROCON-10” system?). Additionally, the smoother styling meant the car was much quieter at speed than the Quattro ever had been. The drivetrain was nearly identical to the end of run “RR” Quattros, right down to the new Torsen differential in the rear with electronic lock. And unlike its predecessor, and though few people remember, there were three versions of the S2 available; the oft-emulated Coupe, the highly desirable Avant, and the quite rare sedan of which only around 300 were produced. But as this is Coupe Week, we’re taking a look at one of the 2-door variants, of course!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S2 at Classic Park

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1996 Volkswagen Passat TDI

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The Volkswagen B3/4 Passat has always been a rather anonymous sedan, not as sporty as the Jetta that it stood above nor sharp compared to the other blocky European sedans of the day. Anonymity is valued by many, however, and in the world of commuter cars, it can pay to fly under the radar. This black on tan 1996 Passat just does that, and has the 1.9-liter diesel to make it a great commuter choice. Bland looks and personality aside, this is one of the cleanest B4s I’ve ever seen, looking nearly showroom-fresh inside and out. Roughly 130k miles on a TDI is similarly “good as new,” making this a unique chance at a model that would otherwise be completely unremarkable.

Click for details: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDI on eBay

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Odd timing or choice? Audi Cabriolet Roundup

Why am I doing an Audi Cabriolet post on Christmas Eve? Well, mostly because it’s a model that we generally ignore. I’m not even sure why – the B4 Audi may not be the most attractive Audi model ever, but I’ve always found the Cabriolet to be the best looking of the bunch that came to the U.S. The sleek lines of the 3/4 view are especially pleasing. With refined good looks and a relatively bullet-proof drivetrain, they should be a common choice for those looking for a cabriolet. Couple that with typical ’90s low residual value for nearly all of the Audi lineup, and you’d think everyone looking for a occasional drop-top would be snapping these up. But they’re not. Perhaps it’s worry about unreliability of older Audis or perhaps it’s the lack of sport offered by the package, but the result is that if you like these 2-door drop top Audis, you can get a pretty good deal on one today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Audi Cabriolet on eBay

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Dwindling Supply: 1996 and 1997 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 Variants

The Volkswagen Passat has always been a bit of the odd-man out in the Volkswagen lineup. Not as wildly popular as the Golf or as trendy as the Jetta, the Passat has alternated between the smart choice if you wanted quiet and capable German luxury to the odd choice if you just wanted to be a bit different than the norm. Volkswagen also can’t seem to make it’s mind up on which platform it wants to utilize with the Passat; the B1 and B2 generations, for example, shared their DNA with Audis. But with the B3 and B4 generation, Volkswagen moved to its own bag of tricks and developed a new Passat which mixed items from the Mk.2 and Mk.3 Golf chassis. For the B5 and B5.5, once again Volkswagen turned to the upscale Audi platform and the Passat was more popular than ever – effectively, it was a budget Audi A4, right down to the same powertrains and all-wheel drive systems. As effective as the B5/5.5 was for sales, when the B6 launched it was once again a return to the Golf chassis for the new Passat – and now we hang in limbo with a U.S. specific B7 Passat. But if the B5 and B5.5 were popular as a smart and upscale choice for budget Audi fans, the B3 and B4 seemed a bit odd. First there was the B3, with it’s grill-less design. I always thought it was pretty cool, personally, but apparently it offended actual buyers so much that Volkswagen redesigned the car and in 1993 the car received new body panels and a normal grill. That didn’t seem to bring with it massive sales, though – the Passat was still quite expensive and effectively the same size as the Jetta it was sold alongside. There was really only one trump card that the Passat had – denied the Golf Variant in the U.S., it was the only Volkswagen wagon you could buy here at the time:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 Variant on eBay

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10K Friday 20V Turbo Edition: S6 v. 200 20V v. S2 v. S2 Avant v. S4 v. 200 20V Avant

Most of my 10K posts have been a balance between finding examples of cars that just squeak under the 10K limit (sometimes, a little liberally) but aren’t complete wrecks. Typically, they’re examples of cars that you just don’t often think of as being cheap or don’t typically see fitting into a budget. But, it’s always a bit of a compromise – seldom are they exactly the cars that I’d buy. More often than not, when it comes to these comparisons I’d spend a little bit extra to get a better example of the car I wrote up than the budget one. Any number of enthusiasts will tell you why; a higher priced but better maintained car is almost always a more sound investment than a lower priced, questionable history example. There are, however, some cars that fall in general well below our self-imposed 10K cap. Most notably, when comparing packages and what one gets for a moderate investment, it’s hard to argue with the early 1990s Audis. Though Audis reputation was, in many ways, in the toilet at this point of history, arguably this is when they reached their zenith of design, performance and build quality. Certainly, newer Audis are more quiet, faster and have gorgeous interiors – however, they also have a reputation for being overly complicated, expensive to fix and often on the IR list with dashboards lit up as if we were a few months closer to Christmas.

But in the mid to late 1980s, Audi spent millions of dollars developing their turbo technology and the inline-5 motor into a world-beating engine. They raced several different race series with this flexible platform, dominating with their quattro technology. Simultaneously, Audi developed two new chassis to hold the 20V power plant – the B3/4 90 chassis and the C4 100 both would receive versions of the 20V Turbo, along with the last run of Quattros in the form of the RR. Both of these chassis were painstakingly designed to not only take on the competition from Munich and Stuttgart, but indeed to best them. This was a time when Audi was alone at offering all-wheel drive turbocharged performance sedans, coupes and wagons in the luxury market – something we’ve since come to associate with most major manufacturers. Despite the innovation, good looks, notorious long-lived reliability and performance potential of these cars, though, most of them remain the most affordable of their contemporaries. I’ve lined up a group of most of the 20V applications here – which would be your choice? Let’s start with the S6:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S6 on audifans

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1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX/TDi Variant

Yesterday, the blog Daily Turismo wrote up a 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 Variant 6-speed, the very car I wrote up about 10 months ago here. In looking back at my original article, I suggested that at under $8,000 I’d be interested, but that part of that interest was going to be setting aside enough money to do a TDI motor swap when the inevitable problems popped up with the W8 mill. I find the idea of a performance oriented chassis with a fuel-sipping TDi swap intriguing; the exterior of the W8 just looks that little bit better than the normal Passat with a few small details that make a big difference, but the complexity and inability to use the power of the engine means day-to-day, and for the long run, the TDi would probably be a better engine choice for me. I’m not alone in thinking this, apparently – though the VR6 isn’t known as being as finicky as the W8, here’s a 1995 Passat GLX VR6 Variant that’s undergone the swap I propose:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX/TDi Variant on eBay

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