VW Passat W8 | Spotted

Any 4.0-litre Passat is interesting, but there can't be many left as good as this

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, 25 July 2023 / Loading comments

Even by the silly standards of the early ’00s, the Passat W8 was an ambitious idea – to put it politely. This was the era of big engines going into unsuitable places, from the availability of the 350Z’s V6 in a Renault Espace to the Mustang-powered Rover 75. Yet even by those standards, the Passat stood proud. There was no great clamour from enthusiasts for a VW super saloon, it didn’t make all that much power from 4.0 litres, and this was made long before 4Motion got interesting – the W8 wasn’t that great to drive, either. On top of being fiendishly complicated.

But with VW set to be an electric car company before we know it, so those interesting combustion-engined cars from its history – whether they came with two, three, four, five, six, eight or ten cylinders – become all the more intriguing. The W8’s unconventional layout, which effectively brought together a pair of VR4s, meant it didn’t have the traditional V8 sound, but that can surely be worked on with the right exhaust. It’s all the more fascinating when you consider that the W8 engine didn’t go anywhere else – it was at least 25 per cent larger than any other engine offered in the lineup, and sat longitudinally in a car best known for using transversely mounted turbodiesels. The idea of it providing a bridge between the humdrum VWs and the Phaeton didn’t really work. Two decades ago, that meant the W8 was shunned in favour of a more traditional top-of-the-range saloon. Now it’s impossible not to be just a little curious.

The W8 earned itself a bit of a reputation in time – you don’t make it to Brave Pill without one – and working on it was made difficult by just how much engine was crammed into so little space. The fact that so few sold, that they depreciated so fiercely and proved less than perfectly reliable soon sounded a death knell for numbers. You just don’t see very many at all. In fact, given the very deliberately under-the-radar look of the W8, one could pass you by and it could be mistaken for any other B5 Passat.

But then there’s this one, surely one of the best now left remaining of a car that went out of production 18 years ago. As is often now the case for cars like the W8, this estate is actually a Japanese import; originally EU-supplied but right-hand drive, it was sold new from BMW Japan. If somebody can make that make sense, please let us know. It’s believed to be one of the very last sold, which would make sense with the replacement standard Passat coming in 2006, and has covered just 58,000 miles.

This era of Passat was always a handsome car, and it’s aged really nicely, still confident and well proportioned all these years later. The condition of this W8 wagon is next to flawless – it looks 18 months old rather than 18 years. It was apparently a Grade 4B import, one of the best around, and the condition is testament to that. Everything looks fresh and well-preserved, from the lustre of the paint to the plumpness of the seats. It’s a surprise that a car can cover this amount of miles with seemingly so little wear.

Now, of course, any Passat W8 is to be approached with some caution, because they are notoriously complex. On the other hand, this one seems properly lovely, and is for sale at less than £10,000. Only £60 less than £10,000, sure, but it’s not a huge amount of money when you consider what everybody wants for anything vaguely interesting these days. And it’s a large, useful family estate, assuming you dare sully its impeccable condition. Fortune favours the brave and all that.


Engine: 3,999cc, W8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 275@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 273@2,750rpm
MPG: 21.9
CO2: 299g/km
First registered: 2005
Recorded mileage: 58,000
Price new: £38,000
Yours for: £9,940

See the original advert here

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