2003 Volkswagen Passat GLX V6

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As I prepare my departure from the Washington, DC region next year, one skill at which I’ve become quite adroit during my stay is the ability to know my audience. Sometimes it’s best not to interject personal opinion around here unless you want to start a war. But you know what? Given it’s the holiday season, I felt like I needed to spread some cheer. Or, in this case, grief. And it’s directed squarely at Volkswagen and their discriminatory and downright disappointing product decisions which they have taken in the US market. I’ve got a short list of grievances to air, so let’s run down the list:

1. Please don’t create a whole subset of models specific to the US market. Sure, tastes differ across the globe, but individuality is king. Not only that, “global” models will save development costs.

2. Tell the product planners over at Audi that we need less SUVs, more Avants and a halt to the removal of manual gearbox options year on year. You might not have noticed, but we witnessed another three-pedal death with the redesigned 2016 Audi TT.

3. Audi needs to rethink their move in not bringing the A3/S3 Sportback stateside. While not as hideous as the Mercedes-Benz CLA, not everyone wants to do yoga moves to get in the back seat of a small sedan like the A3 and S3 or lose the convenience that comes with the larger load bay of a hatchback.

4. The Volkswagen Routan. If the person who gave this model the green light is still employed with Volkswagen, they should stand trial for a crime against humanity. Is it any wonder this badge engineered turd only lasted five years? Bring the Transporter/Eurovan back, please. Those who enjoy the great outdoors will thank you.

5. US Scirocco sales should commence. Immediately. Your argument that the Scirocco would cannibalize GTi sales is invalid, Volkswagen.

6. Let’s talk about the 500 pound elephant in the room that is the Volkswagen Passat. The car which led the VW renaissance in the US almost 20 years ago is now nothing more than a German Ford Taurus. At least there was a diesel option with a 6-speed manual before the emissions fiasco this year, but now the oil burner has been removed from the lineup. Additionally, not everyone who opts for a new Passat with a manual gearbox wants the bare bones trim level. Let those who enjoy the manual gearbox choose all the options they want, please. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, it is that we can still buy the attractive Passat CC (but I’m guessing not for long).

7. Will we ever see the Volkswagen Polo in the US? The Polo GTi would be a worthy competitor to the current MINI Cooper S, which has gotten hideously large. Also, how about the Passat Alltrack for kicks? This would give the Subaru Outback a run for its money and you would certainly grab the interest of the VW faithful still running the few Quantum Syncro Wagons left.

I’m sure there are other complaints which I might have failed to address. To be fair, it’s not entirely Volkswagen’s fault, as the rules and regulations to sell a car in the US would make dictators of a one party state cringe. Needless to say, the old adage holds true here: freedom defined is freedom denied. One thing is certain, though. I almost feel as if the diesel emissions scandal that shook VW to the core in September is, in a sense, a bit of karma for a car company which strayed too far its roots and lost some of its most loyal customers in the process.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s dial back a few years when you could still get a well equipped Passat with a manual gearbox. This 2003 Passat GLX V6 hasn’t even cracked 60,000 miles yet but harkens back to a time when the Passat was the darling of the mid-sized segment. This was the car that brought Audi levels of luxury to the masses.

Click for details: 2003 Volkswagen Passat GLX V6 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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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant with 46,000 Miles

Does the Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Tiptronic make any sense as a driver? Not really. If you want something as quick, a chipped 1.8T will easily keep up and is available as a manual. If you want something as luxurious, for much less money than this example you could get into a very pretty, bigger, and all-wheel drive Audi A6 quattro Avant. And if you had to have a Volkswagen Passat with 4Motion, the V6 model represents most of this car minus a bit of grunt, but what it lacks in power it makes up for in reliability and cost of bills compared to the W8. But shouldn’t we celebrate that Volkswagen even offered us this car? It’s easy to forget that this was top of the heap in 2003 for VAG wagons; the B5 S4 was out of production, and even then this car made more power than the twin-turbo V6 did stock. The B6 S4 was yet to be introduced, and while the engine in that one was a screamer, you’d need to wait another year to order one. On top of that, we often lament as enthusiasts that we didn’t get the top-spec model; not true of the W8 Passat, which minus a few minor details was the same car offered in Europe. A little over a decade later, most are heading the way of the dodo; this is likely to be a car you seldom see anymore in just a few years. There are a few devoted fans, but few who will contemplate taking on a complicated, one-off motor like the W8 as a daily driver. But what if it appears to be nearly new?

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

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2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed with 41,000 Miles

I’m obviously a big fan of the B5/5.5 Volkswagen Passat Variant, having now owned two. They’re fun to drive, have remarkable ride quality and a near-luxury feel, and are hugely capable carriers. Notably, one time I got an entire Ikea kitchen inside the rear of the my 1999 – aside from too-soft springs for really heavy loads, the 5-doors have shrugged off every single crazy task I’ve thrown at them and though parts can be a bit expensive they’ve been very dependable. But there is one thing that really flummoxes my Passat of choice, the 1.8T. Put a few people in it, turn the outside heat up above 90 with high humidity and crank the air conditioning, and the turbocharged inline-4 can barely get out of its own way. The lag, which in most other situations is barely noticeable, suddenly becomes laughable – especially if there are any hills involved. Of course, in the Passat, you had several options for engines which had more power than the 1.8T out of the box; the 2.8 30V V6 wasn’t a bad option, but if you wanted all-wheel drive, too, then you could only get an automatic. But move up to the 270 horsepower 4 liter W8, and you could select a 6-speed manual mated to the 4Motion drivetrain in Variant wagon form. That was something that only 95 people did from 2003 to 2004, making these Passats highly sought “unicorns” for some VW faithful:

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

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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

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10K Friday: Practical Performance Edition – S4 Avant v. 944 Turbo v. S600 v. Passat TDi Variant v. M5

One of the things I love most about these 10K posts is the breadth of selections and ideas that I dream up to try to pull together. Today’s thought was about practical performance – what’s the most your can buy for $10,000? As a result, we have quite a diverse selection to make it through today, ranging from a 2.0 TDi gas sipper through a 5.5 liter, twin-turbocharged V12 torque monster. In their respective ways, each is a great car (at least, in premise) and probably defines its category. What’s your favorite of this group?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi S4 quattro Avant on eBay

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How rare? 2003 and 2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion 6-speed

We talk at length about the rarity of various cars, and when it comes to the W8 Passat 6-speeds, that’s more than just lip service. Only a bit over 450 6-speeds were imported to North America in sedan and Variant form, making them quite rare amongst any measure of car. But when you break down the color combinations that were available and especially factor in the wagon, you can get production numbers down to single digits in some configurations. Considering the sedan outnumbered the wagon over three to one, you’re more likely to find a 6-speed sedan than wagon, but today we’ve got one of each to look at. Which is the rarest of the rare?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion 6-speed on eBay

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Duocorns: 1987 Volkswagen Quantum GL5 Syncro Variant and 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

In yesterday’s Audi project post, I wrote up two more-rare Audis with potential, though both would require some work and dedication to get to daily driver status. Today, I’ve got two more “project” cars – though, if anything, these two are considerably more rare these days than either of the two Audis. Both are all-wheel drive wagons from Volkswagen, but if you can quint and see a family resemblance, that’s about all that links them together. The first is the B2 Audi-derived Quantum Syncro – essentially, an Audi 4000 quattro with Volkswagen hubs, wheels and brakes and a unique rear suspension under the Quantum body. The Passat W8 also shared Audi A4 all-wheel drive components but essentially was a completely different offering, from the 6-speed manual transmission this model sports to the unique W8 motor stuffed into the discreet Passat Variant package. While there were considerably more Quantum Syncros produced than W8 6-speeds, finding one today can be quite hard – many succumbed to poor residual value, rust and neglect; though not complicated cars, the were more expensive to work on than the standard 4-cylinder models. The W8 is at the verge of falling into the same fate, with the exception of original production numbers – with only a handful of W8 Variants imported originally, both of these cars are serious unicorns these days. Which is your style?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Quantum GL5 Syncro Variant on eBay

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10K Friday Family Truckster Edition: E500 Wagon v. 530xi Touring v. Passat 1.8T 4Motion Variant v. S6 v. Touareg v. Cayenne S

Family life – it’s a mixed blessing. I could never have imagined the unintended consequences expanding my family by 50%; in terms of space consumed, physics and logic told me that there was no way that the amount of space required with a small child would increase any more than…say, 50%. Yet, the reality of adding to my family is that the amount of space required for even what seems like the most miniscule trip increases disproportionately to the size of the package that arrives. Babies are a bit like those magic sponges in a capsule I got when I was a kid; once they hit air, they expand to 200-300% the size they were. So, long story short, when you have a family you likely need more space.

Over the past few years we’ve seen a general backing away from wagons towards the bane of most enthusiast’s existence, the S.U.V. and the “crossover” – many of which are really just tall wagons. So what are the options if you want to maintain an enthusiast’s lifestyle whilst still surviving the onslaught of baby-themed items? Well, for around $10,000 you can get some pretty diverse rides – so let’s see what’s the one you’d choose:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Mercedes-Benz E500 4Matic Wagon on eBay

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Wednesday Wheels GCFSB Project: 2002 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant Part 1

While we all want to have a classic, sporty German car in our lives, the reality of daily driver duty often falls onto less exotic cars. Several years ago I purchased a 1999 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T GLS to do just that; it replaced a 97 Golf as my daily driver, and I enjoyed over 100,000 miles behind the wheel. Unlike the reputation these cars have gained, I found my Passat to be very reliable – it never once left me stranded or failed to start, it could get 36 mpg if I didn’t get too deep into the throttle, and it was comfortable, quick and fun to drive. After a year of company car duty, the time had come for me to purchase another daily driver, and my immediate thought was that I wanted another Passat.

The search began, and it wasn’t very easy. There are two classes of Passats; devoted owners that keep their cars in great condition, and wrecks that will bankrupt you trying just to pass emissions. But in general the wagon versions were better kept than the sedans; likely a testament to their high sticker prices. It’s hard to fathom, but in 2002 my current car’s sticker price was over $26,000 – more than a brand new Passat will set you back today. As such, the Variants seem to be better kept than the sedans in general, and that was certainly the case when I finally found the car to buy. Priced higher in the market, it was a one-owner 100,000 mile Ink Blue model with grey leather. A GLS spec, it came with many nicer features and alloys, but wasn’t the wood-lined V6 luxury model. The single owner had been meticulous and had every record from new. It was the first time I had ever bought a car like this, and it was clearly worth the premium.

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