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Tag: B5.5

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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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

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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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