The Rare Rides series featured a Passat wagon once before, in the long ago time of 2018. It was a 1992 G60 with all-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and supercharged engine. Staying true to quirky form, today’s newer and more luxury-oriented Passat pairs its all-wheel drive grip with an eight-cylinder engine.
The B5 generation Passat debuted for the 1997 model year in Europe but did not appear in North America until 1998. Larger and more rounded than its B4 predecessor, it was also more upscale. Available with four doors as a sedan and wagon, the Passat shared its platform with the original Audi A4 Americans were offered since 1996. The Audi platform sharing was a return to form for Volkswagen, which used the Audi 80 as the basis for its B2 Passat, a car North America received as the Quantum.
There were many different engines used in Passats globally, which ranged from 1.6 to 4.0 liters in displacement. The majority sold were inline-four configuration, but there were also five- and eight-cylinder options, as well as V6 power. Initially, all examples were front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive arrived by 1997 in Europe as 4MOTION. Transmissions were offered in five- and six-speed guises if manual, and four- or five-speeds if automatic. The majority of North American Passats were equipped with an automatic transmission.
The smaller and more basic Passat trims were not available in the North American market, as Volkswagen positioned the Passat as a premium family sedan a cut above the likes of Camry and Accord. Volkswagen took another step toward premium in 2001 when it facelifted the Passat into the B5.5 generation. Reworked styling brought more modern looks, especially with regard to front and rear lighting. More chrome trim was added, while other trim became body-colored instead of black.
The update also brought with it the ultimate luxury Passat. It used a new 4.0-liter eight-cylinder engine, in W configuration. To create such unusual power, VW took two complicated narrow-angle VR6 engines and removed two cylinders, making them VR4s. Then they mounted them next to one another at a 72-degree angle and put them on a single crankshaft. Boom, W8! The new engine produced 271 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque and was the only W8 configuration engine ever to reach production. An offering exclusive to Passat, the engine was entirely different to eight-cylinder power in any other VAG product. Though it was less powerful than a traditional V8, the W8 was notable for its smoothness, complexity, and generally high running costs. It was Volkswagen’s first W-type engine, and the company used the engineering experience with the Passat and applied it later to the W12 made for the Audi A8 and VW Phaeton, and the eventual W16 in the Bugatti Veyron. All cars equipped with the W8 engine had 4MOTION as standard, and the engine was fitted into sedan and wagon versions of the Passat, and with manual and automatic transmissions.
The new ultimate Passat was really expensive though and sold poorly. Just 11,000 W8 Passats were manufactured in total between 2001 and late 2004. After the 2005 model year, Passat began its fall from premium grace. De-contenting occurred, and its platform switched from longitudinal to transverse engine layout. You know the rest. The most exclusive W8 variant in North America by a mile is the wagon with manual transmission, but this automatic will have to do for today. It’s for sale presently outside the quaint blue-collar city of Vancouver, for $8,795 CAD.