I’ve been collecting a list of my dream cars this year from a cute Honda Beat to a ridiculous Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI. Through all of this, there has been one car that has eluded my watchful eye: A Volkswagen Passat TDI wagon. After over a year of searching I finally brought a working version of one of the best diesel wagons home, and the best part is that it was local.
If this car or this story sounds familiar to you, it could be because you’re remembering my early November 2020 story about how I’ve had to give up on two broken examples of these cars.
A 2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI wagon with a huge boost leak was my first ever Volkswagen and I credit it as being the catalyst for me deciding to expand my car collection beyond my rabid obsession with the Smart Fortwo.
But I wasn’t in a great place at the time, and I didn’t have the motivation to do even a free fix. I ended up selling it in April 2020 and regretted it the instant I saw it drive away. Ever since then I had a Passat TDI wagon-sized hole in my heart and fleet.
I bought one in August 2020 that I convinced myself wasn’t broken, ignoring all of the red flags about its engine’s health before the oil pump completely failed and the engine ran for miles without oil pressure.
It would take until this Sunday before I would finally find the one, a 2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI wagon with known detailed service history, no serious issues, fully-loaded and sold by a reputable seller.
I couldn’t suck the $3,000 out of my bank account fast enough. So what did I get for well over a year of waiting?
This wagon is based on the Volkswagen B5 platform that underpinned vehicles like the Audi A4, S4 and RS4 Avant of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Under the hood is Volkswagen’s BHW 2.0-liter turbodiesel four making 134 HP to the front wheels.
This engine shoots diesel directly into its cylinders at 30,000 psi, theoretically leading to a more complete combustion. Of course, since Volkswagen of the 2000s had to be weird, this engine wasn’t found in any other car.
It’s not a lot of power, and as you’d expect, a 0-60 sprint takes 10 seconds. But what the engine lacks in speed it makes up for in fuel economy.
Even broken, my old wagon scored an easy 40 mpg, and this one looks like it’s doing about the same. It also makes 247 lb-ft torque at 1,900 rpm, giving the wagon a decent punch.
That B5 platform lends a multi-link suspension connecting the front wheels with pairs of upper and lower control arms.
Out back is a simple beam. It handles better than you’d expect a car of its type and size to, with little body roll and decent communication between the road and the wheel.
Inside, you get a roomy interior with comfortable heated leather seats and miles of glass.
There are practically zero blind spots in this car.
Trunk space is phenomenal, being large enough to swallow whole 50cc scooters without folding down the rear seats.
Getting behind the wheel of this wagon was like meeting an old friend with the warm and fuzzy feelings that accompany it.
I know calling this one of the best diesel wagons ever is a grand claim to make, and I stand by my word.
This car came from an independent VW mechanic, who got the car on trade from its original owner. The original owner was a private pilot and the stack of records show that they got absolutely everything done by the dealership.
Perhaps that’s why this car doesn’t even have a check engine light on.
Of course, being a Volkswagen of this era means that there are some known issues.
As I learned the hard way with my last wagon, the engine’s balance shaft module — a part that reduces vibration and has an integrated oil pump — can fail leaving the engine without oil pressure and with costly damage. Thankfully, it can be deleted with an oil pump from the Jetta TDI’s engine of the same era fitted in its place. The mechanic I got the car from has already offered to do the job.
It also has some common rust. Volkswagen put these blocks inside of the fenders and they have a tendency to absorb water, rotting out the fender from the inside.
Thankfully, finding a rust-free fender is easy.
These cars are also notorious for gobbling up transmissions and torque converters. Thankfully, mine has a new transmission that’s buttery smooth, so hopefully I don’t have to worry about that for a while.
Nearly a year ago I said maybe the third time would be the charm with one of these wagons and this might just be it. I’m so excited that you still cannot wipe the smile from my face.