Saturday, May 9, 2015

10k: 1000 Miles Per Tank: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDI

In 1995 Volkswagen restyled the B3 Passat and called it the B4, but it was built from most of the same stuff underneath.  Many B4 Passats have gone to the great junkyard in the sky, because they suffer a perception of poor quality and poor performance, but if your chief concern is miles between fill-ups, this next one is a winner.  Find this 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDI here on eBay bidding for $7,400 with 2 days to go, located in Silver Spring, MD.

A big part of the reason B4 prices dropped so quickly is because the B5 was a better car in just about every conceivable way -- powertrain, suspension, interior quality, handling...the list goes on.  However, if you value rarity above fit 'n' finish, the B4 longroof with TDI engine is indeed a unicorn with only 1000 of the B4 wagons built in German for US export in '96 & '97. (I couldn't determine how many came with the TDI, but perhaps a reader can enlighten us in the comments).

Under the hood is the old 1.9 TDI, a turbocharged transverse mounted 4-banger that puts out 90 horsepower and 149 ft-lbs of torque.  It is going to make that glackity-glackity racket of a classic heavy fuel burner and it is slower than one legged man riding uphill on a scooter, but if you don't mind going slow, you can get 50mpg. Combined with the 18.5 gallon fuel tank you can get almost 1000 miles on a tank before you need to find your nearest green handled pump. 

The B4 Passat doesn't have the best reputation for ruggedness or durability, and taking it to your local VW dealer or an indy mechanic will quickly eat away those fuel savings. But, with the help of active user groups like the TDIClub forums, you can do most maintenance yourself and parts prices aren't that bad.

See a car with a longer range on a single tank of gas?  Send it here:


  1. Huh: a 20 year old, unreliable, oil burner, with nearly 80K miles, and there is a bidding war? I must be missing something. Someone please enlighten me.

    1. Whew, what the h*ll was that "I am not a Robot" thing? It asked me to pick all the pictures of Sushi, for crying out loud. That was awful! Gimme back the creepy photos of peoples' house numbers.....

    2. I saw it too, B. When I brought it up before, I was ignored by my fellow DTers. I won't be so cruel; it's not just you that sees it! It certainly is bizarre, to say the least. Once I created the Google account and used that to log in I don't see it any longer of course, but I know exactly what you just saw.

    3. Thanks K2. I was starting to doubt my sanity (well, I figure I might as well join so many others who already doubt it). I wonder if there is an entry in the DSM-5 for "an irrational fear of being asked to identify bait-served-as-a-meal".

    4. Well, it's your fault that I've been thinking about maybe buying a 2CV someday, which I've never even considered. So, who is crazy now? I could seriously go for something like this;


    5. Interesting. Black was not a factory colour for the 2CV, but it looks good.

      Anyway, if the urge does not subside, treatment is available on our club website. Two decent 2CVs for sale in the Ottawa area . And with that Canuckistani Petro-Dollar trading so low, you could land a real bargain.

    6. Good to know. I was wondering, actually. Thanks for the clarification. What do you think of this one?

    7. Much of the B4's poor reputation for reliability comes from the auto trans, gasoline VR6 shoehorned into the small engine compartment. Manual trans diesel is quite different, and not as slow as DT would lead you to believe. Slow off the line, yes, but as soon as the turbo spools up, you have excellent mid-range torque for passing.

    8. Much of the B4's poor reputation for reliability comes from the auto trans, gasoline VR6 shoehorned into the small engine compartment. Manual trans diesel is quite different, and not as slow as DT would lead you to believe. Slow off the line, yes, but as soon as the turbo spools up, you have excellent mid-range torque for passing.

    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    10. I was just curious. From

      Acceleration (0-60 mph): 11.6 sec.
      Braking Distance (60-0 mph): 131 ft.
      Road Holding Index: .79 g
      Base Number of Cylinders: 4
      Base Engine Size: 1.9 liters
      Base Engine Type: Inline 4
      Horsepower: 90 hp at 3750 rpm
      Torque: 149 ft-lbs. at 1900 rpm
      Turning Circle: 35.1 ft.
      MPG: 38 city/47 hwy

      C&D sedan review...they say 0-60 in 11 seconds. I haven't driven a car that slow in a long time but I haven't driven a diesel in a long time, either. The few modern diesels I've been a passenger in have been extremely impressive including -dare I say it- the new BMW 3 "d".

    11. @K2MC - that car on Hemmings has had just about every metal panel replaced, so it seems. Each of those is fairly common, but seeing the entire set implies that the car was heavily rusted. The post '86 cars were built in Portugal, and were significantly more prone to rust than the earlier cars. Citroen even had to replace some chassis (how would you spell the plural of "chassis") under warranty.

      Anyway, if the work was done well, it probably is a solid car now. Price seems high, since $15K will get you a perfectly preserved very low mileage original car in Toronto right now. Check this site:

      it is the White one. The seller is a Citroen expert, and a totally straight up guy.

    12. Excellent info, B. Thanks once again.

      How hard would it be to buy a Canadian 2CV and bring it to the States? No different that any other car of vintage? My first thought would be to just buy one here instead of worrying about any of that. It seems like a decent price here is anywhere between $15K and $20K, which is way out of my league. My only other concern is that when I leave my driveway, it's into fast moving traffic. Once we're on our way, it's no problem but folks are coming over a blind hill doing anywhere from 40 to 60 mph. Think the 2CV is going to safely handle that?

      I'd like a project that I could build in my basement, then disassemble when it's time to move it out. I've already done a motorcycle. A simple small car seems like it might just be the ticket, something like the 2CV, an original Mini or some other microcar. What 2CV parts are difficult to obtain? Clearly, the starting point would be a decent chassis.

      A dude can dream...


      PS Please do not make this a feature, DT. I am not actually on the hunt for a car at this time; just daydreaming.

    13. I'd like to learn more about the mineral-oil hydraulic braking system. What can you tell me, B?

    14. There are some really cool cars on this site. I particularly like the DS20 Break.

    15. @K2MC - I'd be happy to provide you with more Citroen info. Please contact me through this link .

    16. Holy cr*p, that time the "I am not robot" demanded that I identify pasta dishes. This is getting weirder than the Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief LP that had three sides.

  2. There are two of these listed (nationwide) for sale on; one for $4,300 and the other for $2,100. The price for this one does seem rather steep, even if the mileage is quite low.

  3. I like this thing. It'll drift gradually up to 80mph, very comfortable, 76K miles, the old 1.9 TDI wasn't all that bad in terms of reliability, and smog-free in California.

  4. Seems like it's had some paint work on the passenger side?

  5. Every time I look at these photos, I momentarily think the car is sitting in a large puddle of bunker oil that has leaked out of the right-rear corner. Might be just my anti-diesel bias showing.

    Anyway, despite all my nit-picking, I do like the wagon config, with the manual gearbox. The price continues to rise, but the bidders must know what they want. Someone will be happy in a day or so.

  6. I had this exact car only in burgundy color. It averaged 42 MPG when diesel fuel was much cheaper. It was reliable, to a certain extent, but the belt tensioner lasted about 20,000 miles or so before you had to replace it. I gave the car to my daughter when it had 155,000 on her. She drove it through 2 years of high school and four years of college.


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