2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-Speed

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.:

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

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2002 Volkswagen GTI 337 Edition

This car sold for $7,000.

I have to admit that when I initially heard the details of the 337 Edition GTI, I was very excited. To me, it seemed like Volkswagen had finally gotten the message and brought us a modern interpretation of the car that I loved, the 1990-1992 GTI 2.0 16V. After a period of low performance 4-cylinder variants, the pokey 1.8T was now pumping out 180 horsepower and matching torque – finally, the car had the go to match the show. While the VR6 had continued into the fourth generation GTI, the accompanying weight, luxury items and electronic throttle meant that while horsepower numbers went up, the seat of the pants kick and thrill that was the hallmark of the original and 16V GTI – and even the Mk.3 VR6 – had been replaced by a stout highway cruiser. As if to answer critics and revisit the original formula, in 2001 Volkswagen introduced a stripped down, turned up version of the GTi called the 25th Anniversary edition, celebrating the original 1976 launch. For me, it was a return to form for the original hot hatch with some great updates. Unfortunately, it wasn’t heading to the U.S., because of course we didn’t receive the GTI until the 1983 model year. But U.S. fans were taken care of too when the nearly identical GTI 337 was launched. Outside, it got some awesome shot-peened BBS RC wheels that looked stunning compared to the rather bland wheel styles that had adorned the GTI since the BBS RMs on the 16V. Behind those wheels were beefed up brakes and red calipers, because red is of course faster (or, slower in that case?). It also sported a new body kit that highlighted the lower stance – hunkering the GTi down over those great wheels. After a period of hidden tailpipes, a polished exhaust tip emerged from the rear valance – a nice change for sure! Inside, special details like brushed trim, red-stitched shift boot and special “Golf Ball” knob for the 6-speed manual and some awesome Recaro seats greeted you. And to keep weight down, no sunroof was offered. This was a sporty car that went like it looked for a change! Limited to 1,500 examples, it was an instant hit and apparently a good bet for a future collectable:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Volkswagen GTI 337 Edition on eBay

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2000 Volkswagen Beetle GLS

Okay, so although the New Beetle definitely isn’t the most exciting car we’ve written up on these pages, there were some bright points. Since the architecture was essentially just a Golf underneath, you had some pretty fun performance options, like the Turbo S:

2002 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo S

Then, of course, to kick it up a few notches there was the Volkswagen Motorsport Beetle RSi – a 3.2-liter powered, all-wheel drive monster. It was basically an R32, but it was somehow way, way better – but only 250 were made, and we’re unfortunately not here to look at one. There were plenty of other special editions of the New Beetle produced, but this isn’t one of them, either. No, this is a fairly basic 2000 GLS – replete with a 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 115 horsepower and a 4-speed auto. So why are we here? Well, it’s 2021, and things are about to get interesting!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Volkswagen Beetle GLS on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Golf R32

For a few generations, Volkswagen fans were denied the cream of the crop for Volkswagen products. It took several years to finally get the original GTi to these shores, and then it wasn’t quite as hot as the European version. The second edition might have sported twin cams and 16 valves, but Euro customers got the addtional option of a supercharged, all-wheel drive version. There were plenty of cool options missing from the U.S. lineup in the 3rd generation, too – including the 2.9 liter VR6 Variant Syncro. So there was a bit of rejoicing finally when the all-wheel drive hot hatch was finally added to the U.S. lineup after the initial launch in 2003. Sporting the same 3.2 VR6 found in the TT, unlike the Mk.1 TT it was 6-speed manual only. It was also only available as a 2-door model, with special body kit unique to the R32 and dual exhaust to help announce its sporting intentions. With the best part of 240 horsepower on tap, it certainly seemed like the ultimate Golf and the sound generated from the narrow-angle 6 was mesmerizing. While heavy weight meant it wasn’t considerably quicker than the 1.8T models, it nonetheless has secured a spot in U.S. fans hearts as the top trump from the Mk.4 generation:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 on eBay

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1998 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6

Purists decried the arrival of the “grown up” A3 chassis Golf and Vento, sold as the Jetta in North America. It was expensive, it was heavy (relative to the A1 and A2 chassis, anyway) and the performance was dulled – that was, until the introduction of the GLX model that replaced the earlier GLI models. Now sporting the VR6 that had debuted in the Corrado and Passat a few years earlier, the GLX was all around a screamer. It might have been heavier than the GLI it replaced, but it was quicker to 60, quieter on the highway, more comfortable and better in crashes (if things went south), and returned close to the same fuel economy as the thirsty, buzzy and boxy 16V had. The Volkswagen Jetta III, as it was known in the US, was introduced at a time when US sales were at their lowest and it appeared as if VW was considering pulling out of the US market, but this generation Jetta became the best-selling Volkswagen by the time the production run ceased in 1999. It was insanely popular and seemed to be the defacto college car of choice for both men and women. Because of that, many of these Jettas fell into disrepair or were totaled, so it’s rare to find a lower mile and clean GLX these days:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6 on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Passat GLX TDi 4Motion Variant 6-speed

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLX TDi 4Motion 6-speed on eBay

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2.Slow Double Take: 1996 Volkswagen Jetta and 1998 Volkswagen GTI

I was thinking about how to relate my feelings about the first few generations of water-cooled small VWs, and I came up with the analogy of the BBC Doctor Who! reboot in the 2000s. The first generation was Christopher Eccleston; edgy, completely different from the prior generations with a fresh face, impossible not to view with a smile but also something you didn’t completely trust. The second generation? David Tennant took ‘The Doctor’ to new levels of popularity; more refined, more fun and with an infectious smile, he was quirky but somehow much easier to live with than Eccleston had been. He also developed a rabid fan base that consider him the best (this author included) even if he had some faults.

Then came Matt Smith. There’s certainly a fanbase who appreciates Smith’s rounder, softer and…well, weird portrayal of the Doctor. I’m not a fan personally, and often find myself pleading with other Who watchers to go back farther because the earlier variations were much, much better. Yet floppy and oddly proportioned, Smith was nonetheless very popular and took the show to a wider audience. See the Mk.3 VW.

Not really the best at anything aside from being pretty expensive relative to its contemporaries, the 2.0 inline-4 ABA-equipped VW’s nonetheless outsold the prior versions. The were poorly built and even more poorly owned; this was clearly a move towards disposable automobiles for the company, and it worked. I never really got the appeal of the third generation until I somewhat reluctantly owned one. And you know what? It wasn’t as good-looking as my ’86 Golf was to me, but in every aspect it was better. It was more reliable (amazingly), got better mileage, had a nicer interior, was faster and had both heated seats AND air con. And both worked! Plus it had fog lights and more stuff fit inside. In short, it was just better at being a car.

While I still don’t lust after Mk.3 VWs, I can appreciate them much more when I see them today. They’re affordable and fun transport that’s quite efficient. In 1993 they felt huge compared to their predecessors. But today? They’re downright tiny. And though this duo has high mileage, they don’t often come to market looking anything like these two anymore:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Jetta on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2002 Volkswagen GTI 337 Edition

As I talked about in the recent post about the 20th Anniversary Edition GTI, the 2002 ‘337’ was the GTI to get when they launched. The moniker derived from the original project code – EA337 – for the first generation GTI, and effectively the 2002 337 was a carbon copy of the 25th Anniversary model that was a Europe-only special from 2001. Hunkered down with the 1BE sport suspension, the 337 wore 18″ specially painted BBS RC wheels with low profile 225-section tires. Red calipers grabbed 12.4″ front vented discs and 10″ in the rear, also with veining. Powering the 337 was a 1.8 liter, 20V turbocharged motor, good for 180 horsepower, mounted to a new MQ350 6-speed manual gearbox. Underneath was a stainless steel exhaust system tuned to emit a bit more noise than a standard model. Inside the GTI got Recaro “Le Mans” red and black cloth seats, a special golf ball shift knob, aluminum interior accents and Monsoon radio system. Finally, a unique Votex body kit and retro badging helped to distinguish this model as the one to get for 1,500 lucky U.S. customers:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Volkswagen GTI Edition 337 on Autotrader

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

I always get a bit of a chuckle at the keyboard warriors who love to denigrate manufacturers for not offering the full European catalog to U.S. customers. Really, you’d buy a RS6 Avant if it was offered here? You and what bank account, Mr. Sittinginhisrentedapartmentstealinginternetfromtheneighbors? Manufacturers need to live in the real world, and in the real world of the United States, while there is in fact a market who would purchase top-tier cars like the RS6 Avant, the reality is that the vocal majority of enthusiasts barking about how they’d snap them up like hotcakes would – at best – be hoping to buy a lightly used one downstream. At worst, these super wagons would only become affordable after ten years, at which point their complicated systems would render ownership prohibitively expensive for most. So, they kick tires, simultaneously ruing that such options aren’t available to them while secret thankful that they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are. We don’t have to look back far to find why this market departed the U.S., because when we were afforded the option to buy these cars, we found them unaffordable. Witness the very expensive W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed:

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

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2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant

When it comes to sporty wagons in the mid 2000s, your only options were really Audis and BMWs, right? Well, wrong – because Volkswagen dropped one pretty hot sleeper on our shores before elimination of the Passat wagon from the lineup. Granted, Volkswagen’s hottest entrant into the sport wagon market – the R36 – wouldn’t come here, but the normal 3.6 4Motion was darn close. With 280 horsepower on tap from the enlarged narrow-angle VR6 channeled through all four wheels, the unassuming Passat was the second most powerful wagon offered on these shores from VAG. Unless you spent another 50% to opt for the Audi S4 V8, this was as quick as U.S. bound German wagons got. Unlike the B5/5.5, the B6 chassis returned to the Golf-based platform, which was both a blessing and a curse. From a performance standpoint the change was a good one, as many of the items intended for the R32 model worked on the Passat now. However, the change to transverse engine placement from the inline Audi setup in the B5/5.5 meant that the “true” quattro drivetrain in the earlier 4Motions was replaced by the Haldex setup found in the R32 and Audi TT. Is this the end of the world? No, not really, and in fact because of this change you can opt to alter the power distribution with aftermarket control units. These 3.6 models were expensive and fully loaded, so they’re somewhat infrequently seen and generally unknown and unappreciated even in the German-specific realm:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 19 on eBay

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