New Car Review: VW W8 2003


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SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide

By Bob Gordon
The Auto Channel

My first impressions of a $40K VW….”ooh boy this is a nice car…looks goods in its green paint…yeah yeah I know usually green is yuck unless it BRG…but this Teutonic version is pretty swanky…The interior is classic fancy VW which means that there are no frills other than wood trim and leather facings on the surfaces you would expect in a $40 K car…but other than that the W8 looks like it could be a base Passat with the Leather Package for at least $14 k less...but looks can be decieving

Ok, here is my first impression of the W8’s drivability.

The route of my first drive-around consisted of leaving my Louisville office parking lot and driving a couple of blocks to the interstate on-ramp and then on to the airport to drop Corey P the manager of Specialty Transport’s Atlanta office and a car guy in his own right off, so he could enjoy the rest of his holiday weekend.

Oh yeah first impression of the short drive…”ooh boy this is a nice car"…with its 6 speed transmission and generous V-8 engine this baby can fly…not with the raw power of an EVO but with a refined power befitting a luxury sedan of a car.

The AWD W8 with its 270 HP and 6 speed manual is an entirely different car then any other Passat. In fact when my wife was in the new car search mode she added the Passat to her “A” list based on a past drive-around that I took a couple of years ago...boy I really loved that Passat with its manual transmission and 6 cylinder engine, I just couldn’t wait to get in and drive it again.

But my wife wanted the cheap(er) Passat, the model with a 4 cylinder turbo and automatic transmission…a car that drove nothing like my first encounter with Passat and absolutely nothing like this W8…so let this be a lesson to you, don’t be influenced by an article or a review of a different version of the car you are contemplating buying, they are all very different…so you gotta throughly test drive the actual model you are considering for purchase.

When my wife asked how I liked her/my choice of new cars, I diplomatically told I thought it stunk…the transmission jumped around the gears so often that I felt I was driving a Japanese car from the 1970’s, a miss-matched engine and transmission combo if there ever was one.

“...But you said you loved the Passat”, said my very pissed off wife…“and now you say you don't like it...why can’t men make up their minds?”

Ok, back to my W8 reality. I am heading off to the Detroit Auto Show tomorrow morning and will see just how deeply I fall in love with my 2003 Passat with 8000 plus miles on it. If the weather woman co-operates I hope to put the AWD feature to good use...let it snow let it snow let it snow.

On the Road, Cruising along in 6th gear on a sunny winter day in a car that is special, is one of the perks of the job. The W8 has a speedometer that ends at 180 MPH and testing its veracity passed my mind, I didn’t, but did manage to keep this road car below 50% of the maximum...most of the time…but it was difficult. With straight smooth open dry pavement in front of me it took an overt effort to keep from becoming noticed by the omnipresent men in brown of the Ohio State Police.

This Passat was so smooth, powerful and stable, that I believe that if I wanted to, getting close to 180mph was at least possible, I believed, so it became reality.

Ok on to the snow…a couple of inches fell in beautiful Detroit but not really enough to fully test the AWD pulling power of the W8…but even so, the car did what it was meant to do and I gained enough confidence in its capabilities to not even concern myself about the weather down the road...maybe next time I can put the AWD through its paces.

With the snow it got cold cold cold …down into the single digits, but the heating system was up to it …in fact the heated seat was actualy too warm on the #5 setting.

The more than 8000 miles on my test car allowed me to evaluate this vehicle almost 10 months after its initial introduction... which is a good thing...It was still new car tight, and there were no rattles, rumbles and no anomolies in the handling. Although the brakes did squeak enough to be noticeable, if this was my car it would be back at the dealers for a brake service.

The VW Passat W8 did what was asked of it...and more, it was fun to drive, comfortable and a real drivers car...but if you want to impress your non-car guy friends with a new flashy $40K luxury sedan the W8 will only become braggable when you take them for a drive…and oh yeah I am deeply in love.

Here is what Forbes.com had to say about the W8

VW Buffs Up
By Michael Frank

Who needs an eight-cylinder VW?

That's the question everyone's been asking Volkswagen as it launches its first upscale car ever, the Passat W8 (not a V-8 by the way, this car has a W-shaped engine that we'll describe below). It went on sale the last week of April. VW doesn't intend to sell very many eight-cylinder Passats, only 5,000 per year in the U.S. But it does intend to sell them for far less than any other eight-cylinder German sedan in America, at $37,900. The next closest eight-cylinder German sedan? The A6 4.2 from Audi, which goes for $50,225.

Hmm. VW owns Audi, right? Yep. And, in fact, for years Audi has been billed around the globe as VW's upmarket division, the maker of the company's faster, swankier vehicles.

But now, with the introduction of this Passat, you can get a 270-hp German sports sedan for almost exactly the same price as the slower, 220-hp V-6-powered A6 Audi (0 to 60 mph for the A6 3.0 is 7.4 seconds, versus 6.5 seconds for the Passat W8). Oh, but that A6 has quattro all-wheel drive and the Passat doesn't, does it? Actually, it does, or a close imitation called 4Motion that works almost exactly the same way.

Well, okay, but the A6 is bigger inside, right? Bingo. You get about five more cubic feet of interior space in the Audi. And we also think the A6's interior is a bit sweeter. But still, how will you feel in your slightly more spacious, slightly swankier Audi as a once-lowly VW blows your more expensive V-6's doors off?

Well, according to VW, you won't care. Volkswagen of America's director of marketing, Karen Marderosian, says that currently Audis and VWs are only cross-shopped (buyers looking at both brands) at a rate of 4%, meaning that the A6 buyer wouldn't even think about getting a Passat instead of the Audi but, rather, may consider a BMW.

Still, VW plainly says the reason for the W8 is that because would-be Passat buyers couldn't get as much power as they wanted in a VW, they were opting for BMWs and Mercedes--Audi's competition. So VW wants to give those possible Passat buyers a reason to stick with Volkswagen. We still don't know where that leaves Audi, but we think out in the cold might be a reasonable guess.

Actually, VW really did answer this question about Audi by going upmarket in the first place--it will introduce a really swanky S-Class fighter next year called the Phaeton, by the way, as well as an SUV. See, the way VW figures it, whether it sells more VWs or more Audis, either way it's selling cars. And it also figures that VW is the stronger brand in this country, with a younger, wealthier buyer base than a lot of its competition that would purchase a more expensive VW if one existed, but wouldn't necessarily buy an Audi. So that's why the W8 is on sale.

Then again, if all this marketing illogic and brand crisscrossing is leaving you a bit confused and you just want to know how this latest VW drives, handles and accelerates--and whether it's worth $38K--well, good for you. And, uh, what's a W8 engine, anyway?

The standard GLX Passat with 4Motion runs $32,000. The W8 basically gets everything that Passat has, plus that redesigned rear suspension, four chrome exhaust tips, high-intensity discharge headlamps, bigger wheels and tires, a more sophisticated onboard computer, sportier gauges, a speed-sensitive audio system (volume increases with ambient cabin noise), better brakes and standard stability control.

And it's also starting with leather, walnut wood trim, an eight-speaker, 200-watt Monsoon sound system that not only sounds great but actually features retro controls for fader, balance, bass and treble (about time someone remembered that we like our audio controls to show), side mirrors that tilt down so you can see the curb to parallel park, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated windshield-wiper nozzles (wipers are also rain-sensitive), an automatic climate control, a sunroof and heated front seats. The only thing missing--if you in fact want the option--is a navigation system. Otherwise, this baby is loaded, with front, side and side-curtain airbags all standard, by the way.

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