Short Take - Volkswagen Passat W-8 4MOTION six-speed

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Dec 24, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    A gear shifter blossoms. So does our interest.

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    BY AARON ROBINSON
    PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL V. WINTER
    January 2004

    So much of driving is now ceded to the bland dictatorship of computers that when an eight-cylinder sedan suddenly sprouts a manual gear shifter and third pedal, we sit up and start scribbling. Even more so since you can count on your writing hand the number of four-door V-8s sold in America with a stick (the Audi S4 Quattro, the BMW 540i and M5, and the Cadillac CTS-V).

    Now joining this league of great eights is Volkswagen's attempt at a miniature Mercedes, the Passat W-8. Finally available is an optional six-speed toadstool springing forth from the center console, sure to pleasure the palm of any practiced gear jammer.

    Wait, haven't we already drained India of its ink writing about the $40,000 Passat W-8, what with a July 2002 road test and a comparo the following October ("Waiting for a Bimmer Beater")? Normally, we wouldn't buttonhole you quite so fervently about a Passat. But this one is especially inkworthy.

    Except for the hot-rod S4, the Passat W-8 is the only eight-hole motor in its size class. It is the only car sold with an ain't-seen-that-before engine configuration, which is two compact V-4s joined by a flat-plain crank in a 72-degree V. It also has all-wheel drive.

    Despite these attributes, the W-8 not only failed to beat the Bimmer in '02, but it was thoroughly drubbed down to last place by five cars with less power.
    A major kvetch, apart from the VW's high price, was that the 270-hp, 4.0-liter W-8 and its five-speed automatic were deemed not simpatico. The robot transmission is programmed to race to the higher gears and kick down to the lower ones only grudgingly. That keeps the peaky W-8 confined to the limp end of its power band and made the two-ton Passat the slowest mover of the Bimmer wannabes.

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    Shorn of its motherly automatic, however, the W-8 has no protection from drivers who want to spank it. Drop the clutch off the line, and the Passat passes 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, a full second quicker than the automatic. Snick down from sixth to third for a corner, and squash the outboard Michelins into the asphalt. The W-8 answers with a husky snarl and a heady shove of thrust. Pin it to the redline after the apex. Then, when the Passat's disciplined suspension is settled at the exit, fingertip the lightly sprung shifter into fourth and warp yourself to the next bend.

    Computers be damned!

    Uh, not so fast. The manual may force the W-8 to spin at the driver's whim, but the computer still runs the mixture, the spark, and the electronic throttle. Under acceleration the W-8's power begins noticeably bleeding off around 5000 rpm, well short of the 6000-rpm horsepower peak. But only in first gear! In other gears the engine keeps pushing right into the red. Is the computer now protecting the gearbox? Apparently so, at some cost to the W-8's smooth power delivery.

    Volkswagen figures if you enjoy playing with shifters, you'll want the W-8 automatic's $1500 Sport package as well. Hence, the package is standard kit on the $40,735 W-8 manual, including firmer shocks, stiffer anti-roll bars, and 17-inch spaghetti-spoked alloy wheels dropped into 225/45HR-17 all-season tires. The suspension does good work keeping the 3918-pound Passat from bobbing like a bath toy over fast-changing cambers, and the cleaver-sharp steering is from the Audi kitchen.

    To nudge the six-speed W-8 closer to perfection, VW could lighten and shorten its clutch pedal. As it is, the third pedal earns frequent-flier miles with each arc to the floorboard, even though all the clutch engagement is at the top. Working the pedal can be fussy, especially when you need power right now, such as when scooting into traffic.

    Our Passat, showing just 588 miles on the odo, suffered a persistent singing whine somewhere in the driveline. It also developed a disconcerting rattle in the front suspension after only a few miles. Plus, it comes with one really huge price.

    At $40,735 the Passat is $7105 more than a base Audi A4 3.0 Quattro six-speed and $3490 more than a BMW 330xi five-speed (which also weighs about 400 pounds less and scoots to 60 a second quicker).
    VW will no doubt protest that the Passat has more than a few optional trimmings tossed in—a sunroof, a leather interior, a Sport package, and, of course, the W-8 engine. What it doesn't have is a prestige nameplate. If you can live without rings, spinners, or silver stars on the hood, perhaps the W-8 six-speed is worth your attention.

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    Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
    Price as tested: $40,735 (base price: $40,735)
    Engine type: DOHC 32-valve W-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
    Displacement: 244 cu in, 3998cc

    Power (SAE net): 270 bhp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 273 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm


    Transmission: 6-speed manual
    Wheelbase: 106.4 in
    Length/width/height: 185.2/68.7/57.5 in
    Curb weight: 3918 lb

    Zero to 60 mph: 6.7 sec

    Zero to 100 mph: 17.5 sec
    Zero to 120 mph: 27.2 sec
    Street start, 5-60 mph: 8.1 sec
    Standing 1/4-mile: 14.9 sec @ 93 mph
    Top speed (governor limited): 130 mph
    Braking, 70-0 mph: 188 ft
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
    EPA fuel economy, city driving: 17 mpg
    C/D-observed fuel economy: 15 mpg

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  2. Mugatu

    Mugatu Ask me about market research. OT Supporter

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    :cool:

    but typical of the half-hearted effort I've come to expect from VW/Audi
     
  3. Mugatu

    Mugatu Ask me about market research. OT Supporter

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    and I'd rather get an A4 3.0q or a 330Xi
     
  4. Redline Racer

    Redline Racer Subaru Tecnica International

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    Completely pointless.

    Simply a reminder of Ferdinand Piech's failed attempt to take Volkswagen upmarket. Should be filed away along with the Phaeton.
     
  5. FryingPan

    FryingPan Certified Thread Killer

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    If I had 40 large and was looking for a midsize German car, that'd be my biatch right there :cool:

    More power than a 530 and E320 and costs less when fully optioned out. When equipped with V8's both of those cars become part of a completely different price bracket.
     
  6. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    40 large for that?

    Save a few grand for an S4 or even get a freakin' Volvo S40.
     
  7. vr6ofpain

    vr6ofpain Guest

    the passat is larger than both.
    the passat is sized between the Audi A4 and Audi A6
     

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