Thursday, August 7, 2014

5k: Worth The W8: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 Wagon 6-Speed B5.5

The B5 generation Volkswagen Passat was built at a time when VW and Audi shared many components between their mid-sized sedan families.  It was also built at a time when VW received  abysmal quality scores from the lopsided yardsticks of survey companies like JD Power.  Rumor has it that the Passat did not suffer from the same constant issues as the Mexico assembled Jetta/Golf/Beetle because the Passat and A4 were assembled in Germany at a greater cost and probably with more experience/automation from the folks on the factory floor.  This will give you some peace of mind when you consider picking up the most complicated of all B5 platform vehicles -- the Passat W8.  Find this 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 Wagon 6 speed offered for $7,200 in Richfield, WI via craigslist.


The B5 generation Volkswagen  Passat received a mid-cycle cosmetic update mid-year in 2001, with the 2001.5 models getting the designation of B5.5.   Most of the update included some fancier headlamps and more belt-line chrome, but there was also the addition of  W8 powerplant.  It was an extremely odd addition to the mid-sized family sedan and bumped the MSRP from $21k (with the base 1.8T) to $37k with the W8.  Needless to say, few were purchased with the W8 engine (considering you could step into a nicely optioned A6 for that kind of money) and an even smaller number left showrooms with the 6-speed manual gearbox.


The B5 chassis is one of the few modern cars to use a longitudinal engine/trans in a front wheel drive automobile, but the compact W8 engine is sitting in front of the front axle.  It displaces 4.0 liters and puts out 275 horsepower and 273 ft-lbs of torque -- which doesn't sound too bad, until you realize that the W8 wagon tips the scales at 4000 lbs, compared to a FWD 1.8T sedan at 3000.  The extra 75 horsepower over a chipped 1.8T isn't enough to overcome the additional mass and only the traction benefit of 4WD at low speeds helps maintain any semblance of performance advantage.


This is one of the precious few W8 Passats to come with a clutch pedal and a 6-speed manual gearbox.  All W8s came with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, so at least you aren't doing peg-leg front wheel burnouts when you mash the go pedal.


As cool as the W8 engine mated to a 6-speed gearbox might be, is it really worth the added complexity when a chipped 1.8T will probably be faster from 30 to 60 mph?  tips@dailyturismo.com

H/T to brewman15 on oppositelock

Update: Carter from germancarsforsaleblog pointed out that this very car was offered for sale on ebay almost a year ago from what appears to be the same seller -- read his article here.

16 comments:

  1. That's Frikin' 1/2 of a Bugatti for 300th of the price.

    Pretty neat car. I would rock that after lowering it a bit.

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  2. Keep it clean. This is a very tempting package.

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  3. Y'all hit the nail on the head: the W8/6sp combo is car-guy-cool (CGC?) but would get walked at the stoplight by the aforementioned chipped 1.8, though. The upside of the w8 is that the buy-in was fairly steep when new so one hopes the PO had the discretionary funds to support the maintenance of that unicorn. Legend has it unicorn feed and grooming is super spendy.

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  4. As the former owner of a Jeff Moss tuned B6 A4 Avant 1.8TQM, I beg to differ. It certainly felt fast, however even with a very aggressive launch, the car refused to break out of the upper 13's at the track. The thing was a pig, and the gearing wasn't doing it any favors either.

    I think the complexity / character of the W8 is well worth the maintenance and repair fiasco this thing is bound to become over the next few years.

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    1. I had an opportunity to ride shotgun in a chipped/tuned B5.5 1.8 and it sure felt fast off the line per butt chrono... Admittedly, I haven't driven a w8 with cruel intentions, but it felt motivated, but not excited, off the line. Moot, regardless, as the comments here would've scared me far, far away were I in the market.

      This may be a notable exception to my I Ching.

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  5. It will definitely take more than a chip for a 1.8t to keep up with a W8 Passat. The 1.8t was not a performance motor, nor did it have any pretensions as such. Stock it was rated at 150 hp, with a chip you're lucky to see 190, a pathetic gain considering the power and torque gains the older Audi 5 cylinder turbo could achieve with just software tuning. That's a far sight shy of the W8's admittedly anemic 270 (considering the 3.6 liter VR6 made more power). Making W8 power with a 1.8t requires an upgraded turbo, exhaust manifold, exhaust system, injectors, and the right software to make it all work. Add to all of that the suspension, brake, wheel, and tire upgrades needed to handle the added power and you could simply buy a W8 for what you just spent. But that's all academic. What the W8 really gives you is quite possibly one of the best sounding 8 cylinder engines ever made. The noise it makes is epic! Compare that to the 1.8t which sounds like a garden variety fart can equipped Honda Civic.

    Yeah the W8 was down on power, thirsty (US bound W8s had excessively tall gearing to get the fuel consumption numbers in line), and it's an orphan motor (I.E. it was offered in one model for just a couple years...which in VW speak is code for RUN AWAY!!!), but if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to choose between a Passat 1.8t with a K04 or a W8, I'd go with the W8 in a heartbeat. But perhaps I'm biased...I've worked on thousands of 1.8t equipped cars and I'm convinced it's a vile, hateful motor.

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  6. More tempting scary than a hot hooker in a bad neighborhood. Drive away, you must resist.

    The W8 uses variable camshaft timing. The intake is infinitely variable over 52 degrees. The exhaust covers 22 degrees. To control the positions of the camshafts, the system uses oil pressure, whose flow is regulated by the ECU via the hardware in the camshaft adjuster housing. This hardware consists of two each filter screens, check valves, and magnetic proportional solenoid valves (AKA actuators), one set each for intake and exhaust, per head. Pressurized oil flows from the oil galley in the head/block through the filter screens, through the check valves, and the distribution of oil to either side of the adjusters' piston vanes is controlled by the magnetic solenoid valve position !!!!!!!

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    1. Ohh, and I forgot to say... That picture is the side of the engine that faces the transmission.
      So for all that you get less horsepower than a secretary Mustang V6.
      I think a type 44 Audi 5000/200 Quattro Avant is the best way to cure the wagon itch.

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  7. That I wrote this car up the best part of a year ago and it remains for sale is a suggestion that, despite being a serious unicorn, it's a unicorn that most people aren't excited to jump into. Here's my article on this car from last November:

    http://germancarsforsaleblog.com/2003-volkswagen-passat-w8-4motion-variant-6-speed/

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    1. By the way, per my research this car is one of one in this color combination and drive train in the U.S., for what it's worth. Doesn't get more rare than that, unless they didn't make it.

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    2. Carter -- thanks for the link, I'll update the post to include that info.

      Also, since this car is now below your $8k threshold (per your article) does that mean you are going to buy it?? ;)

      Vince DT EIC.

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    3. Vince - You know, if I didn't already have a 2002 Passat 1.8T GLS 5-speed Variant, I'd probably strongly consider it. Yes, the engine is complicated, but I've had great luck with both my Passat Variants and both 1.8Ts, for what it's worth. They're great drivers, offer a lot of the luxury of the Audis but I think the B5.5 has aged better than its contemporaries. They also function amazingly well as a wagon, with plenty of space for what appears to be a car not much bigger than a Jetta. Were I to buy it, I'd probably stash some money aside and pick up a TDi motor for a swap down the road, but that's just me! Thanks for posting the link!

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  8. Great comments on this thread!

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  9. Clark, it's your Pacific Blue super sports wagon with the optional Rally Fun Pack!

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  10. I've known two owners personally and their w8's were nice rides. Sadly they were also the most unreliable monsters imaginable. One was bought back under a lemon law and the other was traded after 2 replacement engines and 1 replacement 6spd. Plus countless interior electrical issues. After all they had to uphold the VAG quality experience.

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  11. Hey Carter, same car that was on ebay but different owner...ME. We bought it for son and he doesn't want manual trans. We have too many cars already and hope to find a good home for the W8.

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