2003 Volkswagen Passat 4MOTION W8 Wagon

This 2003 Volkswagen Passat 4MOTION W8 wagon isn’t old by classic or vintage car standards but by sheer complicated car standards, seventeen or eighteen years is a long time. Thankfully, this one has been maintained to a tee by just two owners and the seller has it listed here on Barn Finds Classifieds, and also here on craigslist. It’s located in beautiful Palm Springs, California and they’re asking $11,500 or best offer.

We don’t usually show vehicles this new here but this one is so unique, not to mention nice. Don’t let the station wagon body style fool you, this is a driver’s car. If you haven’t been behind the wheel of Volkswagen’s Passat, they’re nice cars. Grab the wheel of a 4MOTION W8 variant and you’ll see why this car is being shown here. I have to believe that this is a future collectible, whether it’s silver, a wagon, a late-model Volkswagen, has an automatic, or any other things that would seem to theoretically rule it out for a lot of people.

The fourth-generation Passat had a mid-cycle update in late-2000 and for my money, this is the best, tightest design of all for the Passat. This example has Volkswagen’s AWD system which they call 4MOTION and the seller mentions that this car has been meticulously maintained and it sure looks like it.

The Passat is a great road trip car, the leather seats are wunderbar and the legroom is amazing, even in the back. A good friend of mine had a similar car with the V6 and at 6′-7″ tall, he had more than enough legroom. Being a wagon, there’s enough room to load it up for a cross-country trip and the sunroof brightens things up inside. This car has an upgraded Pioneer Bluetooth and iPhone-friendly stereo system which is a nice feature. It’s also loaded with factory features such as headlight washers.

The big deal with this car is the unusual engine, Volkswagen’s W8. It’s a 270-horsepower 4.0L/244 cubic-inch engine with four banks of two-cylinders each, basically, two VR4 engines mounted at a 72-degree angle. Volkswagen is the only company to have offered a W8. They also made a W12 engine for the Phaeton and also for Audi and Bentley which are both owned by VW. The seller says that it’s a beast but has decent mpg if driven normally. With new coilovers, tires, and a battery, this one is ready to fly in and drive it home. This may not be an “old” car, but the question remains: have any of you owned a VW Passat? If so, was it a W8?

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  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Never even drove a Passat before Scotty but this one sounds sweet! Been looking for a sport wagon for some time now. A nice 2003 BMW 540i Touring M Sport sold for $27,500 yesterday on Bat. What I wanted, but not what I wanted to pay. Thanks to this article maybe I can open some new search results! Thanks, Mike.

    Like 3
  2. alphasud Member

    I was with VW and Audi during the time these were being sold. The Passat is a nice driving car and is more useful than the Audi A4 being larger in size but still using the same architecture. They are not cheap cars to maintain. The multi link front suspension is a weak point so plan on upper and lower links from time to time. The V6 engines were plagued with oil leaks and timing belts need scheduled service to prevent catastrophic damage. While the W8 engines are pretty good it’s a halo car for VW and parts are expensive. Same issue with the Touareg V10 TDI. Certain basic repairs require engine out so consider if you buy you need to be a skilled tech or be willing to pay a good shop for repairs.

    Like 12
  3. dsafian Member

    Not a single indication of any fluid leaks, and with the motor oil, transmission and all 3 diffs just serviced – it’s good to go, and man does it go. It was all SoCal for the first owner, then was a grocery getter in Austin, and Denver, now back in Cali – Always garaged, and serviced at VW. No cracked boots, rubber or mounts. Have clean Carfax with all records, OG manual, 3 key fobs, and it has the factory roof rack. The car is a creampuff, and with less than 600 imported to the USA – is a scarce collectible and driver. As soon as I figure out how to get the videos on BF, I will, but they’re up on Craiglslist now.

    Like 9
  4. Redwagon

    I owned a 1998 Passat wagon 1.8L 5 speed from new until we junked it at 240,000 miles. It wasn’t always cheap to keep but the driving experience was excellent for the time frame. My online name honors that vehicle.

    The W8 wagon is a holy grail for some, esp with the manual. Be prepared to spend a lot on maintenance but if you have to have one you want one like this, that has been maintained religiously by all owners.

    BTW the wheels are wrong. W8’s had specific wheels these are typical Passat.

    Like 1
    • CW

      This car must not have the sport package as these are the base W8 wheels. The sport package added the 17-inch wheels and the sport suspension that you typically see on a W8.

      Like 1
  5. XMA0891

    Five years ago I passed on an ‘03 with a stick(!). It had 90K on it, and wagon + stick + V8 = me really wanting that car. The owner was asking a too-good-to-be-true $1,500, but I did my due diligence, and the above-mentioned maintenance/cost-to-own steered me to a ‘04 Legacy wagon. That car unfortunately ended up redoubling my belief in “Monday Morning Cars”, but that’s a whole other post. Sharp eye on the rims, @redwagon, still a handsome vehicle, but no thanks.

    Like 1
  6. Jim

    What still amazes me about Volkswagen is that people actually buy a second one. I bought a new one about 10 years ago on the advice of a buddy – and the shifter broke because the linkage was plastic, the O2 sensors went bad numerous times (they kept replacing bad sensors with the same stock of bad sensors), the check engine light was always on no matter what, the illumination bulbs behind the dash blew, when a headlight blew (which was often) it would set off a cascade of erroneous check engine codes, driving down the freeway at night the interior lights would come on randomly, the paint flaked off the interior door handles, it used a quart of oil a month (which VW said was ‘in spec’), the window switches broke off and fell into the door, even the little DIC cluster in the dash that told you what was broken was broken (dead pixels). The car had 13K miles on it when I sold it. Had a buddy who bought an Audi at the same time and had similar issues. Hot tip; never trust a car manufacturer who halves their original warranty for the second owner.

    Anyone who buys a used VW better be a masochist with the patience of a saint, have deep, deep pockets and a second reliable car to drive.

    Like 10
    • Redwagon

      So weird. I’ve only had good luck with mine – granted I’ve bought 2 new but 1 used and it’s been just fine.

      Like 1
    • Jason

      I owned one and I doubt I’ll ever buy another one. My 2000 Golf was a fun car and very well put together. The fit and finish quality at the time was miles ahead of the competition. But when something finally did go wrong, it was very big and very expensive to fix.

      Like 4
    • Radiofreesean

      I’ve bought 2 new and one used VW – never had any major issues other than regular maintenance – and only one bad window motor that was fixed for free. The used ’07 Passat wagon I have now is a great car I found in 2017 with less than 50k miles. Peach of a car. I was looking for one with the W8 + 4Motion, but none to be found for sale… This one looks like a champ. Wish I had space for it.

    • William Walsh

      I’ve had two 2004 Passat GLX 4-Motion wagons with the V-6 and automatic transmission plus two 2012 Jettas with automatics and the 2.0L I-4. I loved them all, particularly my Passat (which we just sold last fall). We still have one of the Jettas and my next car will certainly be a VW.

  7. Redwagon

    So weird. I’ve only had good luck with mine – granted I’ve bought 2 new but 1 used and it’s been just fine.

    Like 4
  8. dsafian Member

    Tough crowd. I guess this is an Outlier, as it runs and drives like a dream. Maybe it’s been the consistent maintenance. Replacing the AC compressor and components aside, I haven’t seen evidence of any major issues.

    Like 3
    • alphasud Member

      Didn’t mean to be negative on your car. Passats are one of the nicest driving cars. Unfortunately they do tend to be more expensive to own than others. If you don’t mind working on your own cars a lot of service and repairs can be done by yourself and parts have come down considerably in price. I have owned a lot of European cars over the years and while the cost of maintenance is high the joy of driving offsets that. I remember those years as a service manager and they were tough times. It seems like Mercedes and BMW also suffered during those times.

      • dsafian Member

        Thanks for that – yeah, I think it’s easy to forget that there’s someone on the other end trying to sell their baby. Just because you have an opinion, doesn’t necessarily mean you should share it. I think this forum, and BaT are good to get valuable info from other enthusiasts that you may not have, but there’s a way to put the info so you’re not simply crapping on someone’s car -and I’m not directing this at you – you’re obviously an enthusiast with valuable experience. I think you have to look at these forums, as if you were at a car meet with other enthusiasts, you might phrase things a little differently with a seller standing in front of you…but I digress.

        Like 4
  9. grant

    The problem with VWs is that if something breaks, it goes up on a rack next to a Porsche, and the parts from me from the same place.

    Like 1
  10. Douglas Hunt

    I luv it, wish it was a manual trans though……….

    Like 1
    • dsafian Member

      Thanks Douglas, the 5-speed auto (manual shift) works pretty well, but yeah, nothing quite like a 3rd pedal and an extra gear ;-).

      Like 2
  11. Rich Richer

    I must have a strong masochism streak since I’ve owned several VWs in the Jetta/Passat range and a few A4 and A6 Audi’s as well. These seem to fall into the category of don’t buy one made on a Monday or Friday since they are high maintenance and vary from rock solid reliability – literally oil changes only for many years – to in the shop every other week and driving me and the mechanic crazy chasing ghosts. If this one is the solid end, then just expect the relatively higher maintenance cost of a luxury German car but get the very nice rewards of the same; if not then prepare for a test of your patience and wallet. This one looks beautiful and has the advantage of uniqueness and low production. GLWTS!

    Like 3
    • douglas hunt

      i have to agree, as an owner of a 2005 mk4 GTI 1.8t 5speed] and also a 2001 mk1 Audi TT quattro [also 1.8t but being upgraded to k04 hybrid with supporting mods] i expect to do all the work on these cars, and enjoy it. i also had an E46 330ci and did the maintenance on it as well. what can i say, i have a thing for German cars

      Like 2
  12. dsafian Member

    If you’re a driving enthusiast, there is no comparison to the joy of driving a tight German performance auto. Dollar for dollar, in this era, this car is about as good as it gets for having very solid sports car, combined with a compact utility platform. If maintenance costs are your main concern, there is no marked difference to maintaining a BMW, Mercedes, or Audi. If you’re going to dealers for your maintenance, Ford can also be expensive depending on what you’re doing. IF your main concern is economy, and maintenance costs vs. performance and driving experience, then this PROBABLY isn’t the car for you. I’m sure driving a Camry wagon would cost less for maintenance, but it would be apples to oranges with regard to driving experience. This is a very fun car to drive.

    Like 3
  13. charlie Member

    You want reliability, get a Toyota. You want fun, my ’02 Audi A4, with the V6, which shared alot with the Passat, was great until it wasn’t at 185,000 miles when a NOS timing belt broke (at about 10,000 miles since its replacement) and engine was toast, was about to replace all 8, yes 8, ball joints in front suspension for another $1800, I liked it so much, but we could not find another V6 engine to replace the dead one with even though everything else but ball joints was just fine. It “outdrove” my ’93 Allante, my ’14 Audi Q5, and certainly my Toyota 4Runner on twisty mountain roads. Friend got 380,000 out of his, rust killled it. LESSON, do not put a NOS, but 17 year old, timing belt on your car, or any other part that can deteriorate sitting on a shelf. (The rubber shift boots on my ’69 Camero suffered the same problem, but the consequence was not so drastic – NOS got worse and worse as they got older and older.)

    Like 3
    • dsafian Member

      ouch, that’s a good lesson for sure. NOS is great for cosmetic, hard pieces, but anything to do with drivetrain (and made with rubber) should probably be newly made.

      Like 1
  14. Lee Higgins

    I owned a similar 2003 Passat Wagon. Mine was a 2.0, FWD car. One of the best cars I’ve ever owned. Bought it from a used car dealer, which I hated to do, but I needed a car immediately as my V70’s transmission died. I put about 80K miles on it in about 3 years, Had a cracked wheel repaired and replaced the altenator, axles and one sensor. Delightful car to drive, more rear space than my Outback, delivered about 33 mpg on trips. I let it go to a friend at 215K miles 3 years ago and it’s still rolling around town.

    Like 3
  15. Patrick Curran

    Look at it this way, it is probably cheaper and easier to work on than the Phaeton!

    Like 3
  16. Ray Welter

    I had an ’04 with the 1.8T engine. I put about 150k miles on it with very little issues. Great build quality and the leather interior is fantastic. Lost it in a divorce, but sure wish I had it back!

    Like 2
  17. lary waldman

    Not as fancy as a Passat the 2003 Jetta TDI Wagon could be mistaken for this car. I have a Jetta with 350,000 KMS. and it has served me well. I will kep it maintained and expect to get many more trouble free miles from it. Everything works, and it has not cost a fortune to maintain. Vancouver, Canada.

    Like 3
  18. Kurt

    There is a You Tube video on the challenge of rebuilding a W8 engine. Yikes.

    Like 2
  19. Nick

    Nice one. You know you can find its fancier cousin at a similar price (or less) Audi Allroad C5 with a biturbo 250HP V6 and manual transmission (or a 300HP V8 Tiptronic), and you get 4 level air suspension as a bonus..

    Like 1
  20. Erik

    When did the water-cooled “VW Vortex” crowd crash our classic car party over here at Barn Finds? Thanks for visiting but stay in your lane guys….Please? Maybe this is why our classic pre-1970s and pre-1980s iron is becoming way overpriced and unobtainable due to youngsters raised on “romantic notions” pandered towards their impressionable minds via Reality TV, Fast and Furious movies, Televised Auctions, and eBay and as such all of which have resulted in them not knowing the true value of classic iron but rather some perceived value due to financial ignorance.

    Like 1
  21. chrlsful

    very tempting, but no thank you. Wagon, 1 of the 2, 3 best AWD, mani, o0OP – that motor, those maintenance costs…can’t gamble. No time for wrenchin myself…wrong offshore direction.

  22. zuul

    W8 ownership requires either an intimate relationship with one’s german car specialist and or, in the immortal words of jeff spicoli the “ultimate set of tools.”

    should be fully realized w/ a manual swap.

  23. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I owned an ’02 A4 Wagon, a distant cousin to this. It had the 1.8T with 5 speed manual that I had modified with an ECU replacement. That thing was fun to drive!
    It would have been a long term keeper if it hadn’t been broadsided and totaled by a couple of joy-riding kids in a Civic. I was surprised that none of them were killed. It threw us across on-coming traffic and into a stone wall. It hit on my wife’s side and so many airbags went off that she only had a few bruises.
    This car here is now GONE, but someone has picked up a very nice, and safe, vehicle.

    Like 1
    • dsafian Member

      Great to hear that the safety features did their job. One thing I love about this car is the confidence of a solid, and planted German auto.

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