I know I just said that we were on Passat overload, so why are we here again? Well, I certainly haven’t written up many newer Passats. And, truth told, while competent the U.S.-specific B7 Passat hasn’t really given many reasons for fans to celebrate. Instead of leading the market, VW chose to give consumers what they thought consumers wanted. They reacted….sorta. B7 sales spiked with its introduction in 2012 to 125,000 until in the U.S.; respectable for what has always been a slow seller for the company. That was more than the B6 ever sold in a single year by a factor of 2.5, for example. But every year since has been a downward slope; 110,000 in 2013, 96,000 in 2014, 78,000 for 2015, 73,000 in 2016, 60,000 for 2017 and just 41,400 for 2018. Sure, sales of normal sedans are slipping all around. Compare that to the Honda Accord; a popular, “sporty” alternative, and it’s drawn into sharper contrast. In 2018, Honda sold 291,000 Accords. And that was an uncharacteristically bad year for the model.
So to help prop up sales towards the end of the B7 run, Volkswagen introduced new trim packages – no surprise there. And one came out in 2018 called the “GT”. Now, traditionally VW hasn’t done a stellar job on its GT packages, but hear me out on this one – because it’s pretty special. Outside, the Passat GT distinguished itself with red-trim grill like the GTI, blacked out roof panel and big dual exhaust. 19″ ‘Tornado’ wheels filled the lowered arches; the GT was a bit over half an inch lower with stiffer shocks. Inside, contrasting stitching and two-tone sport seats were met with carbon-like and aluminum trim. But the real news was what made this car sing; under the hood was the 3.6 liter DOHC 24 valve narrow-angle VR6 rated at 280 horsepower and barking through that big exhaust. Shifts were handled solely by the DSG 6-speed dual-clutch box, meaning lightning-fast changes and a manual mode. While VW has seldom given you something for nothing, the Passat GT also rang in as one of the cheapest 6-cylinder cars you could buy last year – base price was $29,995, making it one of just three sub-$30,000 sixes on the market. But today, you can grab one a whole lot cheaper:
At the risk of bordering on Passat overload, I want to take a look at another. VW’s radical redesign on the B3 resulted in a unique, angular look at still stands apart from the crowd today. And because the internals were based on VW’s A2 chassis like the Corrado, when the 2.8 VR6 debuted in the sporty coupe for ’92 it was only a matter of time until its four-door friend got it too. That happened in ’93 with the release of the GLX VR6.
To help distinguish the GLX from the 2.0 16V GL and GLS, the VR6 sported badges front and rear indicating the new motivation. 15″ BBS-made wheels hid upgraded 11″ brakes and ABS was standard, as was electronic traction control. The GLX got a unique bumper with integrated foglights, too, as well as a body color integrated rear spoiler on the trunklid. You could opt to have the GLX in Variant form as well – something unavailable on the GLS for ’93. GLXs came standard with premium sound and could be opted with an all-weather package and leather interior – options you couldn’t get on the base model. All this luxury added up in weight, and the GLX tipped the scales a full 200 lbs heavier than the base GL. But it more than made up for it with the extra 40 horsepower and heaps of torque from the 2.8 VR6. This was a two-year only model, as the B3 was shortly replaced with the heavily revised B4; of course, that coupled with VW’s early 90s sales slump means coming across a clean B3 VR6 like this Alpine White ’94 is something you don’t do every day:
Not everyone agreed with my thought that the low-mileage 1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 Variant I looked at a few weeks ago was overpriced. I really do understand in many ways; a well-cared for, low mileage example of an unusual car can be virtually impossible to replicate.
Lo and behold, here we are again. Admittedly, none of the trio I have here is quite as low mileage or quite as mint as that October example. But all are also priced a bit more competitively. We’ve got two sedans and a wagon to jump through, with two being automatics and one a manual. All are basically very clean stock examples. Are any of them for you?
Earlier this week I just about broke my neck to catch a second glimpse at a car which probably went unnoticed by nearly every other driver out there. It was a new what appeared to be a B8 Passat Variant, and you don’t have to know a lot about Volkswagens to know you haven’t seen one recently – or, probably ever – on these shores since VW dropped the large wagon from its lineup after 2010. Is this an indication they’re coming here? Unlikely, at least according to VW. With the Atlas and Tiguan relatively fresh and still selling like proverbial hotcakes, along with the many iterations of the Golf Sportwagon available, there just is no need. More likely than not, the car I saw was part of a VW testing program which makes sense since I live very close to one of the importation ports.
So that leaves fans of the larger VW wagon to clamor over older examples. So back we go fifteen years to a B5.5 again! This one, like the last, is a silver example from 2004. Also just like the last, it’s a manual and all-wheel drive. But unlike that rare factory 1.8T 4Motion manual, this one is a home brew, mating a 1.9 TDi out of a Jetta, a 6-speed manual from Europe, and a GLX 4Motion chassis into a neat and thrifty all-wheel drive combo that was never offered here:
One of the reasons that I felt the B4 Passat I just looked at wasn’t a great deal was that there are just a lot of other great models you can get for less. Case in point, today’s 2004 B5.5 1.8T 4Motion Variant 5-speed. Sure, you loose the great growl of the VR6 – but what you gain far outstrips that auditory shortcoming.
Produced only for the 2004-2005 model year, Volkswagen linked the 4Motion all-wheel drive borrowed from Audi to the AWM 1.8T. Rated at 170 horsepower, it was down a few ponies on the 30V V6 GLX 4Motion that preceded it. But while the GLX focused on luxury and was only offered with the Tiptronic transmission (unless you stepped up to the W8), you could opt for the 5-speed manual with the 1.8T. It was something few people did; a scant 2,333 manuals were sold in North America, with just 657 of those being wagons. 516 made it to the United States, and this is one of 16 Stonehenge Gray over Anthracite leatherette 2004s originally sold:
Update 11/17/19: This Passat sold for $5,950.
Without a doubt, wagons are one of the favorite subjects here at GCFSB, 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 “TDi” option, and you had a hyper-miler capable of over a thousand miles on a tank of gas. 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. While both of those engine options were also available in the Golf lineup at the same time, if you wanted a true 5-door you could only select the Passat. Admittedly that’s a niche market, so it should come as no surprise that this is a fairly uncommon car to see today:
The lineup of offbeat VAG survivors continues today with this second generation Volkswagen Passat, of course badged the “Quantum” for the U.S. market. Volkswagen was happy to tout the Quantum as the sole “German engineered Grand Touring car sold in America that was available as both a sedan and station wagon and came equipped with a 5-cylinder, fuel injected engine, front-wheel drive, power assisted rack and pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension AND cruise control”. You don’t say, VW? Seriously, I think they could have left a few modifiers off that description and it still would have been true. This model replaced the lovely and popular Dasher model which had been available in several configurations. Briefly, the new B2 continued that and if you’ve ever seen a 1982 Quantum 2-door hatchback in person in the U.S., you might be alone. The model was dropped quickly, though continuing on was the Variant (VW-speak for wagon) model. And because the underpinnings were shared with the B2 Audi, things started to get pretty interesting for the upscale VW. And, confusing.
The weird part is that this model actually tread on the toes of its even more upscale competition – the Audi 4000. Though early 4000s had the 5-cylinder available as an option, when it came to the mid-80s Audi saved the inline-5 only for the quattro models and Coupe GT/5000 front drivers. The 4000 grabbed the engine from the GTI, instead. But you could still get a 5-cylinder Quantum, and you could get a wagon version – something Audi didn’t offer at all in the B2:
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 22″ 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.
Over the past year, there’s been quite a bit of buzz about the Volkswagen Arteon. These reviews tend to focus around two main points; that the Arteon is quite nice, and that the Arteon is quite expensive – at least, for a Volkswagen. The model starts at $35,000 and if you add a few options it’s not hard to crest $40,000. I did manage to find a SEL 4Motion under $40,000 but it has few options. The 2.0T is rated at 268 horsepower in base form, and you can select front- or all-wheel drive variants and a ton of tech as the price climbs, but initially they’ll all be offered only with an 8-speed ZF automatic. Although outwardly it looks a lot like an Audi A7, and indeed features the same hatchback configuration, like the previous few Passats and Passat CC it is based on the Golf MQB platform.
All this got me to thinking; is it really that radical a departure from the last CC?
In the early 1970s, a major change swept through Volkswagen. For some time, Volkswagen attempted to create unique ways to fit more people into a Beetle. The Type 3 abandoned the Beetle’s 2-door, fixed sloping roof profile for a (slightly) more conventional sedan, fastback and even variant wagon platform. That developed ultimately into the Type 4; the 411 and 412 again further moved VW “mainstream” with their Pininfarina bodies and more practical 4-door layouts.
Still, the writing was on the wall. Corporate partner Audi’s launch of the B1 chassis 80 model complete revolutionized both marque’s lineups over the next decade as rear-engine, air-cooled products were phased out and steadily replaced by new front-drive, water-cooled efficient and cheap to manufacture designs. The Audi 80’s design was refined by Giugiaro, so VW turned again to him to work his magic on the 412’s replacement.
What emerged after brief flirtation with the NSU-based K70 was the Passat. Unlike the traditional sedan that Audi got with the 80, the B1 Passat featured a dramatically sloping rear hatchback which picked up styling cues from both the Type 3 and Type 4, but of course was much more angular. Volkswagen offered three configurations for the first Passat; 3- and 5-door hatchbacks, and a 5-door variant wagon. These were introduced before the A1 Golf debuted in the U.S., and like the Golf, the Passat was given a North America specific name – the Dasher: