Sale of the Week

Like cool wagons? W8 until you see this $11K Passat

by Andrew Newton
22 September 2023 4 min read

Like any group of car fans, the writers here at Hagerty have wide ranging and (mostly) good tastes. We have our American muscle guys, our JDM freaks, a couple of Bimmer boys, and of course a few Porschephiles. I, for one, love my underpowered British heaps and euro oddballs. One thing we can all agree on, though, is that the latest Sale of the Week is a damn cool car, even if none of us would ever want to actually own it.

Fascinating eight-cylinder powertrain? Check. Six-speed manual gearbox? Check. Wagon body? Again, check. It even has a lovely color. It’s a 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 wagon, and it sold this week for $11,652. Seems cheap for something that ticks all of those cool car boxes, but there are reasons why it didn’t go for more.


The “B5” generation of Passat came out in 1997, and it received a significant update called the “B5.5” for 2001. These were strange, interesting times at VW. The Germans were buying up premium badges like Bentley and Lamborghini. They even brought Bugatti back from the grave. Meanwhile, company boss Ferdinand PiĆ«ch was pulling Volkwagen, the brand of Golfs and Beetles, upmarket with more sophisticated models. Sometimes, a little too sophisticated. The ill-fated Phaeton executive sedan is probably the most famous example of this early 2000s over-engineering, but before that was this truly wild version of the B5.5 Passat.

The star of the show was the W8 engine, and the fact that this thing made it into a family car like the Passat is crazy enough. Sort of like Toyota slicing two cylinders off the Lexus LFA’s V10 and dropping it into a Camry. The W8 was something of a test run for VW’s later W12s used in Bentleys and Audis and the W16s used in Bugattis. Essentially two narrow-angle 15-degree VR4s arranged in a 72-degree V-shape on a common crank, it offered V8 power in a more compact package. Calling it half a Veyron engine isn’t a huge stretch of the truth, but in the Passat the 3999-cc W8 was rated at just 270 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. It did at least garner praise for smoothness and delivering solid oomph on the highway. It’s the only engine with a W8 configuration to ever make it to production, and given the way the car industry is moving, it probably always will be.

The W8 Passat was available in either four-door sedan or five-door wagon body styles, and buyers could choose between a 5-speed auto or a 6-speed manual. All W8s came standard with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive. Base price was around the $40K mark.

An intriguing car, then. Even 20 years ago an eight-cylinder family car with an available stick was a rare and exciting treat. Writing for Car and Driver back in 2004, our own Aaron Robinson praised the suspension for “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.” He also noted that “if you can live without rings, spinners or silver stars on the hood, perhaps the W-8 six-speed is worth your attention.”

But just because a car is intriguing doesn’t mean it’s easy to sell. There were contemporary Audis and BMWs that would do everything the W8 Passat could but did it for less money, and they did have premium badge on the hood.

In the end, only 11,000 W8 Passats sold worldwide, and just a tiny fraction of those buyers ordered theirs with a long roof and third pedal. Some sources say fewer than 100 manual W8 wagons came to the U.S., and it’s probably a safe bet to say significantly fewer are still on the road.

This one, though, is. The Blue Spirit Pearl over Flannel Gray leather wagon has 17-inch BBS “Madras” wheels, sport suspension, sunroof, heated power front seats and roof rails, while mild mods include EuroCustoms Tuning engine management software and a cat-back exhaust with four tips to clue you in that this isn’t an English professor’s Passat. Its New Jersey license plate reads “6SPDW8”. Nice.

Now for the not-so-good stuff. It has nearly 150,000 miles, and all the usual chips, dings, wear and tear of a 150k-mile car. According to the seller, the engine was replaced in 2009 after a mechanic dropped a bolt down into the engine block before somebody else started the car. That’s one expensive oopsie.

The car, on the other hand, is not so expensive, and another example of how easy it is to lose money in this hobby. The seller has enjoyed the car for 10,000 miles, but he bought it a year ago for $13,400, and that doesn’t include the maintenance he’s done.


That doesn’t mean there won’t still be plenty more maintenance for the new owner to enjoy. They didn’t sell many W8 Passats, but the Internet is still full of horror stories by former owners and mechanics, and just the timing chains look like the stuff of nightmares. Finding engine parts would be a headache, and of course the rest of the car is a 20-year-old VW, so there’s plenty of stuff to go wrong outside the engine bay, too.

Just like when it was new, this is a badass car. But it takes a special kind of person to actually want to put it in their garage. It’s hard to find that kind of person, in the Hagerty office or anywhere. That’s why it sold for cheap.


  • paul s murray says:

    This car is almost as curious as the attempt to bring Volkswagen upmarket and going with a W-8, almost. What do you do with it? For under 12k with a factory fresh bullet it’s a steal but as a drivers car how long (and how many miles ) before it needs some ‘good luck finding one’ timing sensor or. Then, while it is an attractive wagon, it’s a Passat not some head turner that you only drive on perfect spring days and take to an occasional car show. That kind of puts it in a no mans land. So I’m thinking. You know that guy that never put the new clutch in his 944 and disassembled the engine for no real good reason too? Yea, that guy. Now its parked next to the garage under a tarp. I’m not opposed to some engine swaps but I do prefer they stay, at least somewhat, in the same family and the Passat does already have a six speed. Easy? No . Practical No. Cheap? Hell no! Doable? Don’t ask me? But I would think that might draw a crowd and stranger things have happened.

  • Rick Reeves says:

    The person who buys this had better be a Senior Technician at a major city’s VW dealership.
    I doubt that any independent Euro car service techs would dare to service this car.

    We have owned two 2001 VW Passat 4Motion wagons since new. 150k and 250k miles, respectively.
    Both cars have received all of the (expensive) engine and suspension maintenance and remain
    good daily drivers. BUT – many ‘small’ components (electric door locks for example) are reaching the
    end of their service lives and each repair tends to cost $800 – $1000.

    What to do? NO good answer. The 2024 Mazda SUVs are looking pretty good.
    We may have to throw in the towel and buy new gasoline powered cars while they are available.

  • Ed says:

    Considering the “easy to lose money on” 16v and VR6 VWs I’ve had the, er, pleasure of owning the last few years, a 20 year old W8 is enough to take someone from nightmares to the need for ongoing, intense therapy for PTSD. There is a reason these are cheap – and $11k at 150k miles is the complete MOON, and possibly Uranus, no matter what the condition or spec. Have fun, good luck and godspeed is all I can say.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    What a nice looking car with a great spec. Too bad it’s likely a maintenance nightmare for it’s next owner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic

Hagerty Insider Newsletter

Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.

Thank You!
Your request will be handled as soon as possible
Hagerty Insider Newsletter
Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.