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.:
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