Model Rewind: The Passat in North America, Part 2

Welcome to the second half of our two-part collection on the historical past of the Passat in North America. Within the earlier article, we coated the B1 Dasher by way of to the B4 Passat. The automotive by no means took off, sales-wise, however issues have been about to vary for Volkswagen’s sedan.

B5/5.5: 1997 – 2005 Passat

Whereas the B3/B4 fashions have been extra profitable than the 2 generations earlier than them, the fifth-generation Passat brought about consumers to take a seat up and take discover. To start out, there was a completely new and utterly refreshing styling path. The Passat was the primary mannequin to function Volkswagen’s new Bauhaus-inspired designs. The look is clear, clean, and uncluttered. The public beloved the brand new look.

And it wasn’t only a good-looking design, the B5 Passat rode on a completely new platform shared with the Audi A4. This meant the bigger sedan returned as soon as once more to longitudinally mounted engines, identical to the primary two gen fashions. A Four-door sedan and wagon have been provided. Early Passats had an all-new engine in the type of a 150 HP 1.Eight-liter turbocharged motor. And GLX fashions got here with the 190 HP 2.Eight-liter V6. Each engines have been shared with the A4. A 1.9-liter TDI engine was added later. The new Tiptronic automated transmission allowed drivers to toggle by way of gears utilizing the shift deal with, and guide transmissions have been obtainable with all engines. Passat wagons might be had with Four-Movement all-wheel-drive (as soon as once more from Audi).

Inside, new Passats had upscale “soft-touch” plastics, upscale material and leather-based seats, switches that “snicked” with precision, and dashboards that includes blue and pink lighting (I’ll by no means know why they ditched this design component – so cool). And never solely did the automobiles feel and appear upscale, however additionally they drove very very properly. The base engine made good energy and the V6 was even higher. The multi-link entrance suspension made the automotive particularly enjoyable to drive.

This new Passat was a certifiable hit. The highest gross sales yr for the B4 mannequin was 1996 with 19,850 bought. The 1998 mannequin bought near double that: 39,272 automobiles. Two years later the sale would greater than double once more: 84,521. Gross sales topped out at 96,142 B5 Passats bought in 2002.

Midway by way of 2001, the Passat acquired a considerable replace making the B5.5. The automotive had up to date interiors, chrome bits sprinkled in and out, and entrance and rear fascias have been utterly restyled. The whole entrance clip was widened to create space for a bonkers of a motor: the W8.

The outrageously complicated (and outrageously costly) engine arrived in 2003 and had Eight cylinders organized in a “W” format. The Passat W8 4Motion was out there in sedan and wagon type, with an automated transmission in the primary yr, and a 6-speed guide in the second. All W8s had all-wheel-drive commonplace, particular wheels, quad-exhaust ideas, bi-xenon headlights, and upgraded inside trim. Additionally they had large worth tags: $38,700. Utilizing a web-based converter, that equates to $51,000 in 2018 dollars.

I check drove a used W8 6-speed in late 2005. It was an outstanding automotive in an intriguing colour referred to as Samoa Purple (brown with purple metallic flakes) and it was initially titled close to Volkswagen’s Detroit headquarters; might it have been an government’s former journey? I typically marvel what occurred to that automotive. I additionally marvel how a lot a clutch alternative would value; it required the engine to be dropped out of the automotive. Oof.

Model highlights: Four-motion wagons, particularly in 1.8T trim. When you’re capable of flip your wrench, the W8s might be magical, particularly with the guide transmission and when the mufflers are eliminated. I’ve heard tales of those automobiles being fairly dependable, however that might be web rumors.

B6: 2006 – 2012 Passat

When it got here time to refresh the hit mannequin, Volkswagen took the B6 Passat in a brand new course once more. The new mannequin severed ties with its Audi cousin and returned to a Volkswagen shared platform: the PQ46 shared with the Golf and Jetta. And as soon as once more, the engine path flipped to a transverse format. The 2006 Passat was wider and longer than the B5.5, and the rear seat legroom grew. It was once more out there in a sedan and wagon. Consumers might select from Volkswagen’s all-new 2.0T FSI engine, or the up to date VR6. 4Motion all-wheel-drive was obtainable on V6 sedans and wagons.

Regardless of its reputation, Volkswagen deserted the Bauhaus styling for the B6 and moved to designs that seemed a bit just like the automobiles coming from Japan. The most noticeable flourish was the chrome “shield” grille. It was meant to impart visions of power, however multiple reviewer noticed it as a replica of those discovered on Audis.

The B6 inherited quite a lot of upscale options that trickled down from the Phaeton über-sedan. It had an early model of key-less ignition: you inserted the whole key fob into the sprint, then pressed it to start out the automotive. There was an umbrella pocket in the driving force’s door. It even had a simplified model of the Phaeton’s draft-free HVAC. The automotive had upscale leather-based, actual aluminum trim, and loads of up to date (learn: extra sturdy) soft-touch plastics.

However the swoopier new Passat didn’t woo consumers as its older brother did. The 2006 mannequin had the very best gross sales: 54,208. One other new path was wanted.

Model highlights: VR6 fashions have been entry-level luxurious automobiles, particularly with 4Motion.

B7: 2011 – 2019 Passat

The ups of the B5/5.5 and the downs of the B6 should have brought about Volkswagen product planners to take an extended exhausting look in the mirror. How might they go from almost 100,000 fashions moved in 2002 to solely 12,497 eight years later? What have been different producers providing that they weren’t? It was quite easy: worth and measurement.

To fight worth, Volkswagen moved manufacturing as near their consumers as attainable decreasing pricey delivery and tapping into lower-cost labor. the Chattanooga, Tennessee plant opened in 2011. And to supply a aggressive mannequin, a brand new platform was wanted (decreasing the quantity of upscale inside supplies additionally helped). The NMS, or North American Sedan platform was significantly wider and longer than the B6 mannequin.

The first fashions got here with one among three engines: the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder, the three.6-liter V6, and the 1.9-liter TDI. Throughout its life cycle, it will additionally obtain the 1.8T motor and the TDI. Each automated and guide transmissions have been obtainable. However one factor was dropped from the Passat lineup: a station wagon.

The updates to the automotive and the lower cost have been an enormous hit. The giant Passat was not a unusual German automotive; it was a critical household automotive. The Passat beat out formidable rivals just like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry in many vehicle journal comparability exams. In 2012, Volkswagen bought 117,023 Passats. The constructive evaluations helped gross sales, however so did the creative and unique commercials. To make sure the success of their latest mannequin, they created a business that Time Journal stated was “the ad that changed Super Bowl commercials forever.” Vader Child was launched on-line and it went viral instantly.

In 2016 the B7 Passat was refreshed with all new entrance and rear fascias, new sprint and door trim, and new wheel designs. For the primary time in its historical past, an R-Line look package deal was provided. It had a extra aggressive physique package and bigger wheels. Gross sales didn’t actually enhance with the replace however remained slightly regular. Gross sales tapered off fairly a bit in 2018, however all sedan gross sales took a nosedive as SUVs and crossovers continued to realize reputation.

Model highlights: Some individuals swear by the TDI sedans, particularly for street journeys. There was a “Sport” mannequin provided with giant wheels, a black roof, and a small spoiler. The mannequin to have although is the 2018 Passat GT. It had a model of the R-line physique package, 19″ Twister wheels, a black roof, and, better of all, the 280 HP three.6-liter V6.

B8: 2020 Passat

So the place does Volkswagen take the subsequent Passat? Properly, some would recommend shifting to an all-new platform. Some may say that aggressively styled sedans are the place the cash is (the Camry XSE could be very sporty wanting and promoting nicely). And others may say to pack it filled with the newest tech. We don’t know a lot concerning the 2020 Passat, however we do know that VW is charting a protected path with the brand new one. Curiously, in the period of “MQB ALL THE THINGS” they’ve chosen to maintain the Passat on the NMS platform. In fact, there shall be updates, however the information actually caught lots of people unexpectedly. The B8 may have totally new styling in and out; solely the roof panel is unchanged from the B7.

We will’t blame VW for being cautious with the Passat: gross sales for sedans are sliding downhill quick as shoppers transfer to SUVs. There’s nonetheless a marketplace for sedans, however why make investments valuable capital right into a mannequin sort whose gross sales might by no means return to the extent of 2012? And even the extent of 2006? Volkswagen closed out 2018 having bought 41,401 Passats. By comparability, they moved 59,677 Atlases. All indicators level to extra decline in sedan gross sales in 2019, so in the event you’ve received cash to spend, put it the place the consumers are going. Like in a 5-seat Atlas Cross Sport.

We’d say the Passat’s days aren’t numbered, however there’s loads of alternatives for it to proceed on as a strong vendor in the market, particularly as there are fewer and fewer rivals.

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