Not all that long ago, Volkswagen made an attempt to eschew the whole “people’s car” schtick and sidle its product line up-market. The result was cars like today’s Nice Price or No Dice W8 Passat, which is the fanciest Passat there ever was. Let’s see if that makes its price a fancy feast.
There were quite a few of you who complained about the seller of yesterday’s 2000 BMW M Roadster Dinan seemingly flaunting his or her wealth by taking pictures of the car in the driveway of a fancy house. That castigation of conspicuous consumption was surprising considering almost all of us aspire to live the caviar life. Less surprising was the 85% No Dice dunning the car’s $25,000 price tag received. I guess most of us haven’t reached a level of financial obtainment where that might be seen as nothing more than a modest outlay.
Another complaint raised by a few of you over the Dinan was that it offered additional cost and complexity to maintain and repair over a stock M Roadster. If that’s a criterion for your automotive purchases, well, you may want to sit down before delving into today’s 2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion wagon.
We should start out our discussion with a bit of acknowledgment that this car would not have existed were it not for one man—Volkswagen Group Chair, Ferdinand Piëch. The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Piëch was the driving force behind such pie in the sky cars as the Volkswagen Phaeton and Bugatti Veyron. It was his vision that in order to grow and profit, Volkswagen needed to expand its market presence upward. This resulted in cars like the Phaeton, the fancy off-roader Touareg, and the most expensive Passat anyone had ever laid eyes on.
The Passat story begins years before that, with the car debuting in 1973 as a fastback doppelgänger to Audi’s model 80 saloon and coupé. Both models shared the same estate body style with brand separation handled by the fitting of different grilles and lights.
Over the years VW would switch between Audi-style inline overhang engines and Golf-like transverse setups for the Passat models. By the time the B5 dropped in 1997, it was once again using the longitudinal layout and the same AWD setup as Audi’s Quattro, just rebranded for Volkswagen duty as 4Motion.
This generation of Passat was initially made available with a spate of four-cylinder gas and diesel engines, topping out with the quad-cam 2.8-litre V6 that was also the mainstay of the competing Audi lineup at the time.
That would all change in late 2001 with the introduction of the W8 engine in the newly restyled Passat. Alarmingly described as a ‘test bed’ for later W12 and W16 engines that would make their way into much more expensive cars, the 271 horsepower dub’ya-eight would be slotted into the Passat as part of an effort to make a shorter leap between it and the upcoming Phaeton. In effect, the engine was two VR6 motors, each with two cylinders lopped off and then wedded together in unholy fashion.
This ‘04 wagon represents the holy grail of W8 Passat obtainment. It features not only the standard 4Motion AWD but also a six-speed stick and the capacious and handsome estate body.
That body looks to be in fairly nice shape for its age. There are the expected murky headlamp covers and what appears to be a misalignment of the hood and front clip, but those seem to be the only major complaints. It should be noted that on this generation of Passat you need to take the entire front clip off to do major engine work like changing out the thermostat, so a recent service could be the explanation for the wonky hood gap. The factory alloy wheels are fairly beat up as well, and could stand replacement or refinishing.
Inside, you get Audi-levels of luxury with faux woodgrain accenting a two-tone black over gray leather cabin. VW has always had top-notch interior styling and this Passat is no exception. Another plus about VW products is their Lego-like ability to take parts from other models and just have them work. Need a new window switch? That Golf your neighbor foolishly leaves parked unlocked would be an excellent source for a replacement.
The ad notes that the car has 134,000 miles on the clock and that it “Runs and drives great.” The interior is described as “8/10” while the exterior gets no similar numeric value. The timing guides—a known weak point on the W8—are said to have been replaced and the car is claimed to have done vacation house duty for the past decade. Oops, I guess we’re back to complaining about rich people again.
This is a unique and most likely rewarding car to drive what with its smooth and torquey W8 and a rare six-speed stick. It’s also an incredibly complicated car from an era when VW wasn’t making the most durable products it could. The Passat badge on the hatch doesn’t really do it any favors either as that’s not something people generally get impressed by.
Still, if you are unfazed by such notions and love the novelty of this rare wagon, we’re only left to address the price. The asking is $6,800, and that gets you the car and a clean Rhode Island (which is a bald-faced lie because it’s totally not an island) title.
What’s your take on this W8-powered Passat and that $6,800 asking? Is that a deal to get an interesting and enjoyable piece of VW history? Or, is that just the tip of the iceberg on a car that will do nothing but empty your wallet?
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