2004 Volkswagen Passat

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$21,780

starting MSRP

2004 Volkswagen Passat

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Ride comfort
  • Quietness
  • Automatic-transmission response
  • Seat comfort
  • Handling and stability

The bad:

  • Engine noise with four-cylinder
  • Seat-adjustment controls
  • Price of Passat W8
  • Diesel-engine performance

11 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2004 Volkswagen Passat trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Turbocharged four-cylinder or V-6 engine
  • 4Motion all-wheel drive available
  • Sedan and wagon body styles
  • Electronic Stability Program available
  • Unique engine in Passat W8
  • New diesel engine

2004 Volkswagen Passat review: Our expert's take

By

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

A Smooth Alternative to the SUV
2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 4Motion Wagon

Our Mini Cooper couldn’t handle the luggage. Nor could our Mercedes-Benz C230, or Toyota Echo. Carting suitcases and valuables here in the open bed of our Chevrolet S10 pickup truck was out of the question. Nothing says “easy mark” in this town like large pieces of tourists’ luggage riding exposed in a pickup’s cargo bay.

We considered using the 2004 Chevrolet SS-R roadster, which actually is a pickup truck with a retractable hard top. It’s an odd piece, reminiscent of the classic Chevrolet pickups of the 1940s and early 1950s. But it has none of their utility.

Instead, the SS-R eschews practicality in favor of a roadster’s romance, charm, and fun. Its hard-covered cargo bay is inadequate for anything except a few overnight bags.

Salvation arrived in the form of the 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 4Motion wagon, which, by default, became this week’s test vehicle. The Passat wagon has 39 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up. That space grows to 54.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The wagon swallowed the two huge vacation suitcases and various tote bags transported here from Northern Virginia to New York for a flight to Vancouver, B.C.

We didn’t have to fold down the Passat’s rear seats to accommodate that luggage. It was remarkable! We had all of that room for all of that stuff in the rear and, had we wished, enough space remaining to seat three more people comfortably.

That made me nosey. At rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike, I peeked inside of various minivans and sport-utility vehicles on apparent holiday treks. They were easy to spot — with bicycles hanging from their rear hatches and kayaks and water skis attached to their roofs, that sort of thing.

Empirical observation showed that those larger vehicles, many of them substantially bigger, had no more cargo space, carried no more stuff, or were capable of carrying no more people than the Passat GLS 4Motion wagon. Many of the behemoths were equipped with four-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, as noted by exterior labeling. As its name implies, the Passat GLS 4Motion wagon comes with all-wheel drive, too.

We weren’t going off-road; and judging from the pristine, shiny, unscratched, dent-free exteriors of the behemoths, none of them had been off-road. That means their drivers were relying on the four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive systems of those vehicles in the same way we were depending on the drive system of the Passat GLS 4Motion — to give us extra traction on wet or muddy roads.

But although we didn’t take up as much space on the highway as the gargantuan runners, we seemed to use almost as much gasoline — especially considering that the GLS 4Motion is equipped with a relatively small, in-line four-cylinder, 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower, turbocharged engine.

We averaged 23 miles per gallon with a total onboard weight — driver, front-seat passenger and cargo — of 586 pounds. We ran at an average speed of 65 mph. We thought we should have been doing better than 23 mpg, that we should have been getting close to the 28-mpg highway rating bestowed on the Passat GLS 4Motion wagon by the Environmental Protection Agency. But the wagon’s fuel gauge moved toward empty with alarming speed.

Perhaps it was the all-wheel-drive system, which sends drive power from wheel to wheel on an as-needed basis. That requires the car to do extra work, which means the consumption of more energy. Passenger and cargo weight also add to that burden.

It brought to mind something that many car and truck owners frequently forget: Fuel-economy numbers usually will go down — even in a four-cylinder car or truck, including models equipped with diesel or gas-electric hybrid systems — in response to the amount of work the vehicle is asked to do.

We were asking the Passat GLS Wagon to do a lot — to carry our abundant cargo, transport our bodies, keep us in a 70-degree Fahrenheit cabin environment on a 97-degree day, entertain us via an onboard sound system, keep us safe in a crash of up to 35 mph, and accelerate on demand.

Luckily, we had neither reason nor opportunity to test the wagon’s crash system. We discovered that its braking system (four-wheel anti-lock brakes, ventilated front discs/solid rear discs) could use some improvement. But everything else worked perfectly. Verdict: We added it to our list of candidates to replace our Chevrolet S10 pickup and/or augment our beloved, but not always practical, Mini Cooper.

2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 4Motion Wagon

Nuts & Bolts

Downside: The brakes were mushy. They need improvement. Also, it would be nice if the four-cylinder Passat GLS 4Motion wagon could get the EPA’s 28 miles per gallon on the highway with a heavy load in the cargo bay.

Head-turning quotient: Conservative but elegant styling. It’s just what the middle class ordered.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent ride, competent highway acceleration and excellent overall handling and maneuverability, even with a heavy load.

Body style/layout/trim lines: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, four-door wagon with rear hatch. There are five different trim levels for the Passat wagon. They include the base GL 1.8T, tested GLS 1.8T 4Motion, GLS V-6, GLX, and the really-ought-to-be-an-Audi $40,275 Passat W8 wagon.

Capacities: The Passat GLS 4Motion wagon has seating for up to five people. Cargo capacity is 39 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 54.6 cubic feet with rear seats down. Fuel capacity is 16.4 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: We averaged 23 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving carrying a heavy load.

Engine/transmission: The GLS 4Motion’s 1.8-liter, turbocharged, 20-valve, 170-horsepower engine is linked to a standard five-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually.

Safety: Loaded! Standard side and side-curtain, head-protection air bags. Standard traction control. Optional stability control.

Price: Base price on the tested 2004 Passat GLS 4Motion wagon is $27,205. Estimated dealer’s invoice price on the base model is $25,129. Price as tested is $29,460, including $1,680 in options and a $575 destination charge. Estimated dealer’s invoice price as tested is $26,000.

Purse-strings note: The Passat GLS 4Motion wagon offers good value for the dollar. Bargaining possible. Compare with the Audi A4 and A6 Avant, Mercedes-Benz E Class, Subaru Legacy and the all-wheel-drive version of the Dodge Magnum RT.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior design 4.2
  • Performance 4.1
  • Value for the money 4.1
  • Exterior styling 4.2
  • Reliability 4.0

Most recent consumer reviews

4.9

Extremely comfortable, spacious cargo area. Clean.

Plenty of legroom in front. Surprisingly large cargo area. Great car for errands and shopping as well as long road trips. Back seats fold flat. VERY clean. Versatile for transporting/hauling or going out for dinner.

1.6

least reliable car i have ever owned

this thing will break down if you look at it the wrong way. plastic crap breaks on it all the time. right now i have to tear the console out to replace a broken piece of plastic, which means i have to go to a junk yard to tear their car apart for a 10 cent piece of plastic. if i can replace just the broken part...if not i have to replace the entire linkage.

4.3

Owner update: 9 years and 125,000 miles later

I'm "VW guy in Richmond", I wrote a first review in August 2012. I had bought a used 2004 GLX in 2010, it was a one owner with 47K miles. Essentially this is a "poor man's Audi A4". It has leather, moonroof, alloys and power everything. I've now driven it 9 years and over 125,000 miles (current mileage is 172K). The car is still outstanding. Unlike my prior 2000 Passat wagon, I have not had nearly as many mechanical problems, probably because this car was built later in the production cycle (it was the next to last year of this style Passat). The exterior style is STILL very modern in comparison with new cars, it does not look 15 years old. The 190 HP V6 engine and 5 spd manual make the car fun to drive. Friends who drive it, who are used to driving average cars with auto transmissions, are amazed to rediscover the joy of driving (this happened during a 1400 mile move from VA to Texas). During a 15 month period in 2017 to 2018 the only expense I had on the car was a set of tires. I'd love to find another lower mileage Passat of this vintage similarly equipped.

See all 58 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Volkswagen
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
MY 2015-MY 2017 vehicles/75,000 miles; MY 2018- MY 2019 vehicles/72,000 miles; MY 2020 and newer vehicles/75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
Vehicles purchased on or after 1/5/21: MY 2017 & older, 2 yrs/24,000 miles (whichever is 1st) limited warranty; MY 2018-19, 1 yr/12,000 miles (whichever is 1st) limited warranty; MY 2020 & newer, 2 years/24,000 miles (whichever is 1st) limited warranty
Dealer certification required
100-plus point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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