2002 Volkswagen Passat

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2002 Volkswagen Passat
Available in 12 styles:  2002 Volkswagen Passat 4dr FWD Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

18–22 city / 25–31 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 10
2002 Volkswagen Passat 3.7 35
$ 1,538-7,150
September 14, 2002

A unique new engine pulls Passat way up the food chain, as well as underscoring Volkswagen's legacy of innovation.

Called Passat W8, it is the first eight-cylinder VW in the United States. And unlike essentially every other eight-cylinder vehicle on the road, the engine is not a V-8. It's a W-8. Rather than two banks of four in-line cylinders that form a V, it's made up of two banks of staggered cylinders, somewhat like two V-4 engines joined to a common crankshaft.

The four-liter, twin-overhead-cam W-8 is created using two of VW's already remarkable narrow V-6 engines, named VR6, with two cylinders lopped off of each bank. The result is a compact package that fits well under the hood of a midsize car.

Clear as sludge? Not to worry. Just know that W8 is a smooth, powerful engine that helps lift Passat above the common run of family sedans, where its turbo-four-cylinder and six-cylinder models compete directly with Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Taurus. The Passat W8 is a luxury craft, both in style and price, going up against the wide run of premium sedans including, oddly, VW's own Audi division.

The 270-horsepower W-8 engine feels very refined, silky smooth and muscular. Low-end torque is somewhat sparse, creating leisurely acceleration off the line, but once it gets going, the engine sings with a strong voice.

Freeway merging and hill climbing are effortless, and VW claims a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds. Variable intake and valve timing help keep it on top of its game across the rpm range.

More luxurious than the lesser Passats, the W8 also trades off some of their sharp drivability. The top sedan is more softly sprung with less of a sporting character and more of a grand touring aspect. Still, W8 exhibits VW's hallmark steering response and handling prowess.

A five-speed automatic with a Tiptronic manual-shift system is the only tranny available, but an upcoming sports package will include a six-speed manual, along with a sportier suspension and performance wheels and tires. As it is, the automatic shifts seamlessly, barely noticeable, in true luxury-car mode.

The interior is roomy, with VW's usual sturdy trim and attention to detail. The W8 comes standard with a complete range of convenience and safety features, and nothing to add. All-wheel-drive, an electronic stability program and antilock all-disc brakes also come standard. The only addition to the base price is destination at $550.

Overall, a lovely sedan. Still, one has to wonder whether the addition of the new engine justifies the hefty price-tag boost. With the W8, Passat jumps from the mid-20s to an eye-popping $38,000 in a single bound. With such cars as the Audi A6 in that same territory, it seems that VW could wind up carving into its sibling's territory. Also, the V-6 Passat is such a slick driver, it seems hardly worth a five-figure leap for th e additional power.

And how many wealthy buyers are willing to shop Volkswagen instead of comparable products from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Volvo, Saab, Cadillac or Lincoln? Has Passat pushed out of its pricing envelope into uncharted territory?

There might be trouble brewing for the W-8 engine. According to some news reports, VW is grousing about the high cost of producing the W-8 and might end up using something else in future top Passats.

As well as its W-8 engine, VW has created a W-12 from a similar merger of two VR6s, which it plans to use in a flagship Phaeton sedan due to hit showrooms sometime in early 2003.

There's also development of a W-16 for something really special, a future Bentley, from the British company now owned by Volkswagen. And in that way, Volkswagen will leave its "people's car" legacy far behind.

Volkswagen Passat W8

Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sedan, a heel drive.

Base price: $37,900.

Price as tested: $38,450.

Engine: 4-liter W-8, 270 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 273 pounds-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed automatic.

Wheelbase: 106.4 inches.

Curb weight: 3,907 pounds

EPA mileage: 18 city, 25 highway.


Engine refinement.

Luxury features.

Attractive interior.


High base price.

Soft handing.

Must repeatedly answer question: What's a W8?

    Expert Reviews 3 of 10

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