While the name of its parent company literally means “people’s car,” today’s Nice Price or No Dice Volkswagen Passat W8 is a car for only a select few; those willing to put up with some quirks and expenses. Let’s decide what that limited audience should rightfully pay for the experience.
Speaking of experience, the one thing that quelled enthusiasm on last Friday’s 2001 Chevy Camaro SS SLP was the absent experience of being able to pop a clutch or row through a series of gears, as it was saddled with an automatic. If it had been a stick, its $12,995 price may have proven more palatable. With its automatic trans, however, that ended up in a narrow but ultimate 58 percent No Dice loss.
Based on Friday’s response, we should note that today’s 2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 thankfully does have a stick. And that’s only one of the many tricks it has up its metaphorical sleeve.
This up-market sedan is a model that would not have existed were it not for one man, then Volkswagen Group Chair, Ferdinand Piëch. The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Piëch had a vision to move the entire Volkswagen brand up market. As such, he was the driving force behind such pie-in-the-sky cars as this fancy Passat and the even fancier Phaeton.
His vision was that Volkswagen needed to expand its market presence upward in order to grow profits. This resulted in cars like the range-topping Phaeton, the fancy off-roader Touareg, and the most expensive Passat the world had ever seen.
Volkswagen introduced the Passat nameplate 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 fitting different grilles, badges, and lights. The Passat was intended to be a sensible family car, but not really anything fancy.
Over the years VW would switch between Audi-style inline overhang engines and Golf-like transverse setups for each of the Passat’s redesigns. By the time the B5 dropped in 1997, it was again using the longitudinal layout and the same AWD setup as Audi’s Quattro, just rebranded for Volkswagen duty as the 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-liter V6, a 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 in retrospect as a ‘test bed’ for later W12 and W16 engines, that motor would eventually make its way into much more expensive cars. The 271 horsepower eight-cylinder would be slotted into the Passat as part of an effort to make a shorter leap between it and the upcoming Phaeton. In layout, the engine was two VR6 motors, each with two cylinders lopped off and then wedded together in an unholy fashion. Shorter than a traditional V8, it still completely fills the Passat’s engine bay.
This one comes in Reflex Silver with black leather and a remarkable 193,128 miles on the odometer. How jaw-droppingly amazing is it that a car of such complexity has made it that far in life? According to the seller, this is one of only four W8 cars in this color scheme from this model year.
The seller also describes this as an “early 2004” car as evidenced by its smaller side-view mirrors. Sadly, the original fourteen-spoke Madra wheels don’t come with the car. Neither seemingly do the BBS alloys the car is shown wearing in the ad. According to the seller, it will come with some other wheels but the ad does not disclose what those might be. I’m hoping for steelies with a proper offset.
Aesthetically, the car looks good but not perfect. There are a number of scrapes on the bumpers, both front, and rear. There also appears to be some denting on the curb-side rear wheel arch and related damage to the rub strip on that side’s back door. Inside, the driver’s seat has suffered a tear in its leather upholstery and the steering wheel looks to need a good cleaning. On the plus side, there are rubber monster mats on the floor, meaning the carpet below should be in decent shape. Nothing else seems untoward in here and the dash still carries its factory stereo.
According to the ad, the car doesn’t suffer from any obvious mechanical maladies either. The seller claims it “runs incredible” and has “NO check engine lights.” Maintenance and repair records have been kept since new on this two-owner car. The only major fly in the ointment in the ad is this:
The exhaust is open right now before the mufflers because it sounds amazing...it can be connected if you want, but why? Once you hear that famous “working growl” of that W8 engine, you’ll understand and appreciate it.
Now, I agree that VW’s W8 has a distinctive and enjoyable growl, but why is the exhaust cut off ahead of the mufflers? Based on that bit of disclosure, I’d want to check and make sure that it still has its cats in place. Oddball exhaust or not, at least the car comes with a clean title.
With all that in mind, let’s now turn our attention to this Passat’s $8,800 price tag. So many competing cars could be had for that, but few would have the weird history of the Passat W8. And there seems to be plenty of life left in this one.
What do you say? Is this top-of-the-line Passat worth that $8,800 asking? Or, at that much would you rather W8 for something cheaper to come along?
H/T to James Chase for the hookup!
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