By on January 29, 2014

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Life is sometimes about extremes, and with the extreme life of buying and selling cars comes two cars, recently purchased by me, which easily represent the polar opposites of all things automotive.


Last week, as many of you know, I bought an 03 VW Passat with about 157k and the completely unloved W8 engine.

w81

This Passat was easily the dowdiest looking of all the German V8 cars from that era according to our august founder Robert Farago. Plain jane 10 year old VW exterior. The same cheap interior panels as a $25k Passat. It consumes gas like a 15 year old minivan and yet… the damn thing has a beautiful ride.

w83

 

Strong, stable, commanding, all the things that you find with the top dollar German luxury machinery back then with a pretty wicked four-wheel drive. But it would also be one nasty bastard to maintain if you kept it.

w82
This Monday I bought this Passat’s alter ego.

corolla1

 

A 2007 Corolla CE with the 5-speed, roll-up windows, power mirrors and locks, 145k miles, and a CD player. How Toyota came up with the idea of offering power everything but windows I can’t say, but this car is pretty much the most easy to drive car I have ever owned. Well, the other 30 or so Corollas I’ve bought are pretty much from the same ilk.

corolla3

 

I’m sure it would return 35 miles per gallon and then some if you did plenty of highway and country driving. The only problem with it is the interior is like dwelling in some remote corner of a Tupperware party.

corolla4

You have to keep one car for the next five years, and suicide is not an option. Which one would you chose?

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126 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Automotive Extremist...”


  • avatar
    hreardon

    As much as it pains me to say this: The Corolla.

    That W8 would bankrupt me. I know this because I have a friend who runs an indy VW shop and the few times he’s had one in the bill was never short of $2,500.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      +1. I’d never buy as used VW, let alone a high mileage W8!

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      I would also choose the Corolla. Had one as a rental in 2008. Nothing exciting about it, but I think if I owned one and maintained it like I do my VWs, it would probably last a long time.

      Even though I love VWs and currently own 3 of them spanning 3 generations (A4, A5 and NCS), I don’t think the love affair would last long with a W8/4motion Passat between the time, money and frustration that would likely need to be spent on it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Do you have a garage with a lift, a full set of metric tools, a VAG-COM, and a backup Corolla?

      If not, then the Corolla.

      (I kinda like that exterior, but as a recovering Old German Car fan, I wouldn’t envy you your crazy repair bills on the VW)

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Agreed. My mother sold her 2003 Corolla LE back in the fall of 2012. Had 90k on it and was loaded (leather, sunroof, etc..). I sold it for more than I was asking because the buyer knew he would be able to drive the (well-cared for and documented) car for the NEXT ten years. I never enjoyed driving the thing, but have to admit that it would run damn-near forever, without major issue, kind of like my son’s current 1997 Tercel with over 200k that is still on the original clutch and has never had any major repairs done to it. Sure, they’re not going to get your heart racing, but one has to appreciate the efficiency at which they go about their business, and for a lot of folks, that’s the most important aspect of owning a car.

  • avatar

    I’d choose to walk!

    How you doing with the weather Steve? Saw yesterday that people were taking 7 hrs to cross Atlanta.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “I’d choose to walk”

      No you wouldn’t.

      It’s cute (and trite, and overused) to say that on the internet, especially about Toyotas, but no one on any kind of schedule would choose a bus or huffing across town over a boring car that saves them time & convenience.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s the beauty of the market place. There are always other options. In the Corolla segment, I’d take a Focus. In the Passat segment, there are also other choices.

        Let me put it this way, if given a Corolla I’d sell it. If absolutely forced to choose between the 2, I’d take a Passat. Then I’d sell it.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Well in this specific case, that era/price range for Focus would be one of the gen 1.5 cars (03-07ish) in the US, which would probably have rotted out rocker panels and a myriad of other built-in Ford ‘goodness.’

          $4k wouldn’t get you any flavor of 8th gen Civic either as another commenter compared this corolla to, it’d be a 7th or even 6th gen, which are nowhere as smooth and quiet on road as the Corolla (good or bad depending on priorities).

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            $4k gets you a REALLY nice Volvo 940, which has long been my goto cheap set of wheels.

            I’m the same, I’d take whichever is worth more and sell it.

            Though if I had to keep one, the VW all the way. I have a garage with TWO lifts, lots of tools, and I do in fact own a VAG-com. VWs dont scare me, I have a 13yo Range Rover. But I don’t have much use for sedans.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Check ebay, I’ve seen really nice base 940s go for less than 2K. I imagine turbos would be harder to find, but I’m sure they aren’t much more.

            “I have a garage with TWO lifts”

            Living my dream.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            An interesting suggestion. If it were my own $4k, and with the caveat that I had a short commute, I’d be shopping Isuzu Troopers and 1995-2000 full-size Mitsubishi Monteros. But I like overbuilt older SUVs.

            If I needed the most efficient and reliable commuter possible, that Corolla just about takes the cake. Age related issues are still 5 years away (along with rust), that chain driven 1.8L had the oil burning bugs of its predecessor worked out of it, and there’s really not much else to break.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I bought a perfectly usable 205K ’95 945 for $1200 back in ’11 as a stop-gap daily driver between selling my Saab and taking Euro Delivery of my BMW. Put maybe $4-500 into it, drove it for 9 months, and sold it for $1750. You really can’t go wrong with them. They are as complicated as an anvil, drive nicely, project a good image to others, are quite safe, and get reasonable fuel economy. Not fast, but neither is a Corolla.

            $4K will get you a NICE one. $2K will get you a very serviceable one.

            One 4-post lift that I have had for ~10 years, and recently bought a mid-rise scissor lift. I only have 8′ ceilings, so a 2-post lift won’t work.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I’m fine. Most of the family made it back home. My daughter was picked up by friends of ours and is enjoying today with a boy who has a secret crush on her.

      Or it could be the other way around. You never know about these things when you’re dealing with teenagers.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Corolla, without so much as a second of hesitation.

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    Dump the VW. You fell for the bombshell without looking at whether she had a good heart. And this being North America, you can throw that idea out the window…

    Go for the Corolla. You’ll grow to love her over time.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I would rather drive a Yugo with three pedals than a Bentley with two. I would pick the one with three pedals. I also prefer wind up windows.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Having already ended up with something on the Corolla side of the equation, suicide looks sort of attractive right about now. That Passat looks even more attractive, if I could just get myself into a lifestyle where a running car was not a necessity. If I have alternate means to get to work, I’m fully willing to take a chance on something that might be out of commission a couple times a year. Life’s too short to spend that much time in a penalty box.

    Also, as adamant as I am about saving the manuals, the few Corollas I’ve tried with the third pedal have been inexplicably terrible. Heavy clutch (relatively), stiff shifter, just completely the anti-Civic. Stranger still is that Matrixes don’t seem quite so terrible, even being built with the same parts.

  • avatar
    Toad

    For most drivers the Corolla will do 95% of what the VW will do, with roughly 5% of the maintenance cost. That makes the decision pretty easy.

    Sort of like choosing between dating the cute local girl vs. Lindsay Lohan.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      With the Passat, you’d spend a lot on parts and labour. With Lindsay, you’d spend a lot on coke and booze. So yeah, Corolla and a girl that had a normal childhood for the win.

      • 0 avatar
        yesthatsteve

        Exactly. I’d consider the VW only if my 17-year-old daughter suddenly announced she wasn’t going to college. I couldn’t afford both. Hell, I’d still probably take the Corolla.

        Never sleep with a woman who has more mental problems than you, and never buy a car your checkbook can’t maintain. BTDT both ways; don’t care to return.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Besides, if you’re going to go Absoluter Vollidiot, go for the Phaeton W12 ;)

  • avatar
    NN

    A stick shift, bare bones Corolla is actually somewhat desireable as it represents the traditional Toyota brand values in the most concentrated form. Basic, frugal, and will survive the apocalypse. Toyota built an empire from this car, and the stick makes it liveable.

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    A very tough conundrum, but the Corolla gets my vote. Living with the financial pain of keeping an E39 5er on the road, I dream dreams of boring, reliable four-wheel appliances.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Passat, because it’s a quality of life issue. Sure, the very real potential is there for expensive repairs but the advantage is owning a unique German luxury sedan without the snobbery associated with the other brands. I have a good friend who loved the Audi S8 ever since it was featured in the movie Ronin. I encouraged him to purchase a 2002 example for $15,500 with 67k on the odometer. He understood that maintenance could be frightful and anticipates at least $5,000 of expenses each year. That was four years ago and he’s only spent about $6000 total. For that modest investment he gets to drive a $80,000 (when new) piece a machinery every day in style and comfort with more than a little performance to make it interesting. He knows the air suspension, Quattro system, or myriad electronic systems could fail and has an F-150 backup in case he needs an alternate car. So far, that hasn’t happened and the day it does he’ll have this aluminum wonder towed to the junk yard, happy that he got his money’s worth over all the years. There is so much fear propagated by well-meaning car enthusiasts, that makes me question whether they truly like cars or not.

    Daily driving a Corolla would be my own private Idaho.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Oh come on, it’s not that bad here in Idaho!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “It’s a quality of life issue”

      I don’t know about you, but my quality of life depends more on getting the places I want to go than feeling special whilst behind the wheel. By that metric, the Corolla is far better at preserving quality of life.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        Well, we’ll have to disagree on that, because driving a Corolla every day for five years would make me miserable. I might be on time, but I’m going to be grumpy…

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      First, $15.5K is a lot of money for an 8 year old car. Then, four years and he’s at $6K in repairs already? And should we allocate some portion of the F-150 expense to the Audi as it’s a “backup?” How many times was he late for work or inconvenienced with trips to a shop?

      Your friend’s auto expenses are way beyond my comfort zone… I hope he’s getting $thousands in actual driving pleasure out of this car every year but I doubt that I would.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        15.5k is a lot of money for a car that listed a 80k? It seems like a deal to me.

        He already had the 1996 F-150, long paid for and costing nothing but insurance and annual license tag fees — about 1k a year total. How many times has he been late for work or inconvenienced by the Audi? Zero.

        As I said, he LOVES the S8. It is his dream car and he now owns one. It puts a smile on his face every day. This is what Steve is getting at in the piece labeled “The Automotive Extremst”. He is extreme in his love for this car. You don’t share that opinion. There’s nothing wrong that, it’s just where you are coming from.

        • 0 avatar
          guevera

          Tom and Ray — the car guys with the long-running show on NPR — would happily give all sorts of practical advice to people considering what car to buy. But they also would always say “Well if you love it, then of course that’s what you should buy.”

          There really is something to say for that feeling you get when you walk out the door in the morning and you get excited about driving to work because you love your ride.

          Also, Ronin was a mediocre movie with some of the best car chases ever put on film. I’ve wanted an S8 ever since watching it.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s not a BAD price considering it’s an S8, which is sort of special/rare. Now, could he get a very similar A8L with the same miles for $8k? Yes. But it’s not quite the same. But for $15k it should be mint, and have full service recs.

        But $6k in 4 years is ridic-balls, and I would’ve sold it already.

        Experience: Had an 00 A8L for a year.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Despite the internet hyperbole, I suspect the friend with the Audi is right about on the money as to the real world cost of maintaining a big German in middle age. A couple grand a year on average. Keep in mind tires alone of the correct spec for that car are $800-$1200, and they don’t last all that long.

      They are not cheap to run, but they are hardly ruinous.

  • avatar
    Syke

    There are two things in this world that I will never, ever, ever drive again: A 70’s brougham and a Toyota Corolla.

    In the case of that latter, there is more to car ownership than squeezing one’s nickles so tight that the buffalo screams.

    Give me the W8. Unique, subtle, and just for the experience of driving something this nice, I’ll pay the freight.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Someone who gets it! So often we get the opinions of The Curmudgeons About Cars, who think that driving a manual transmission Corolla for twenty years, replacing it with another, and then another before they head off to Sun City Retirement Center is what everyone should do.

      If that is what makes you happy, then more power to you. But Syke and I will be much happier doing things a little differently and be willing to pay accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      calgarytek

      You need a third option.
      A used W126 Mercedes Benz, so long as the transmission is good, it’s not the 380 or 350SDL, and the rear load levelling ‘accumulators’ have been replaced.

      Or a W124 with a standard transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        If you can find a 350SDL with 300k miles, get it. If it got that far, it’s because it had its head replaced or its engine replaced. The 300SDL is a lot more reliable, but at this point it’s going to be quite expensive to service unless you pay up front for a really mint version with less than say 150k miles.

        Though the real tricky one to find is a 1987 300TD. If I could find one of those in good shape I could go full-electric for my primary vehicle (though I still lean towards a beater pickup truck, being Texas and all)

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    There are two types of car people; those that know what a long term experience of automotive unreliability does to the human soul (and wallet), and those who do not.

    Make mime the Corolla, because “[a]ll drive, no drama.”

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      Having been recently raped by an olds bravada I have to +1 to dead weight. In fact, I did just take a Toyota for that very reason.

      For those that say life is too short to drive a boring car I have to reply: Life is too short to be owned by a car.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I traded a troublesome 02 Passat for an 05 xB once. The xB was far, far batter. Corolla for me, even though I always had W8 envy.

  • avatar

    “Get a Corolla” is basically my stock answer to any non-enthusiast looking for a small car. If you could only keep one car, it would win.

    That said, if you could budget for expected repairs, the Passat would be more enjoyable to own.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Are you sure I can’t just kill myself? That seems so much better than the alternatives.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Corolla. If I’m going to spend a ton of money and downtime repairing a fickle car, it had better be something more interesting than a Passat, W8 be damned.

    As a purveyor of used automotive goods, Steve, you should know that the Corolla of that generation had a better interior than most everything else in the segment. The dash is an example of how to grain hard plastics so they look decent. The upper door sills were padded, and the switchgear felt pretty good. It was the car after this one that became the Tupperware Disaster.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Agreed, while this interior was a step down from the 93-97 cars, and maybe even the 98-02s, it is VASTLY better than the 09-13 version. The grey-on-grey 2012 LE I test drove was really depressing in the interior department.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Yep.

      That Corolla was probably the last generation that roughly approximated the general qualities that built what once was Toyota’s legendary reliability.

      A headache free, A to B point and squirt, my job depends on my attendance, life is complicated enough WTF, mode of transportation, which is a pretty important thing to have in a country where the grid is laid out the way it is as ‘Murica, with suburban sprawl, satellite crawls, wide highways and byways and common 20 mile+ one way trips to work.

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez_Returns

      30-mile, I scrolled down looking for a comment like this. Completely agree. The Corolla is very solid feeling for its class and well put together. Maybe not as far above the competition as the previous two generations (they called them baby lexuses for a reason), but still totally competent and non-offensive. I mean seriously, if you want to talk “tupperware” interiors, look at ANY American car from that period.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      The 10th gen Corolla was a true low for the car. I liked the exterior styling over the 9th gen, but not much else. We had a 2007 Corolla for a rental in Hawaii and a few of my friends have one and I always thought it was a great car. Nice steering feel, weirdly peppy in its own way, nice interior, and dead reliable.

      The 11th gen is much more like the older ones than the previous one, thankfully.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    The problem with the Passat is that its not worth the extra expense. A BMW/Audi/Mercedes might be worth it due to the image they portray and nice interior etc. A Passat W8 on the other hand is just a funky german car with a hot motor in it.

    I would pick the Corolla, and bankroll the extra cash on other fun items.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Corolla, of course. Times two if Toyota ever brings the Corolla wagon back to the US.

  • avatar
    mhickman73

    I’ll take the VW and become a W8 repair specialist in the process.

  • avatar
    S1L1SC

    W8 – The Corolla I had was a basket case that went through 2 engines and leaked oil like noones business. Never again.

    Considering what that experience cost I am sure I can afford the W8 maintenance. At least I know up front it might need a few repairs.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m with “Syke”… Go with the VW. Find a good VW repair guy {not a dealer}. Life is too short to be using a Corolla as a daily driver. The Toyota, vs the VW may save you a lot of money over five years. Is it enough money to give up the comfort, and ride of the VW? Five years in the penalty box!…Not for me.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Problem is, if you buy the VW you’ll still need something like the Corolla for a daily driver. That Passat will look real nice sitting in your yard with the front half disassembled, though.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I owned a 1994 Geo Prizm, basically a Corolla. Wonderful little car, did everything I needed it to, but it was so BORING! After 6 months I couldn’t take it anymore and took a bath on trade with something less perfect, but with more “personality”.

    I would take the VW, but I’m a glutton for punishment.

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    One of my coworkers owns the W8 and it’s surprisingly been pretty damn reliable for him.

    Me, I would pick the W8 only after reading schematics and repair manuals and verifying that I can fix stuff on it myself. I HATE that generation corolla. It’s loud, slow, cheap looking, unrefined, and the interior is lame.

    A Honda Civic of similar vintage is 100 times better of a car, and is one that I would buy no questions asked. It’s just as roomy, looks nicer, rides lower, has a more stylish interior, a pleasant engine noise, handles really nicely, is a little bit faster, and won’t make me hate life by driving it. And somehow, the coupe’s back seat is actually roomy. I fit a rear facing car seat into my brother in law’s 8th gen coupe without having to destroy the front passengers’ leg room.

  • avatar
    Chris

    Corolla. At least it has a stick.

  • avatar
    ancientofdays

    My first instinct was “Duh, the Corolla” and I’m sticking with that. Maybe because I already own one and it’s so reliable that it’s almost eerie. Not to worry, though, I also have a 1985 AMC Eagle, for enthusiast cred.

  • avatar
    Timothy

    Currently experiencing an acute case of automotive Stockholm syndrome. Hasn’t been a full year since “the incident” with my 02 V6 Passat and subsequent purchase of the ST and I would take the W8 over the Toyota.

    As I told my father when deciding between the GTI and the ST “Dad, it’s a VW thing. Until you own one you just don’t understand”.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy

      Wonder if people would change their minds if this was a rare manual W8 wagon?

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        If it was a manual wagon I might do it. The automatic in Steve’s purchase is just another potentially expensive failure point. At least the manual wagon is a true rarity for that generation of Passat so it would be something special.

        • 0 avatar
          Timothy

          Amazingly the one thing that didn’t break during my ownership with the Passat was the tranny. There was always a slight shudder when it would shift from first into 2nd but that was it. Never did figure out what that was caused by.

          Truth be told I never had an electrical fault with it either…

          • 0 avatar
            1998redwagon

            i was thinking of how much harder this choice would be if the w8 were a manual. esp a wagon.

            even w the auto i would enjoy the w8 more. i absolutely abhor poor seats or poor seating position.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Ok, let me offer a few monkeys and their wrenches to this mix.

    The 2003 Passat W8 was bought for $2755 and will need a few hundred dollars in cosmetics along with a module and maybe something else. If you get that, you end up right around the $3k to $3300 in day 1 condition (depending on if you want to cure the cosmetics.)

    The 2007 Corolla CE was bought for $3455. Even though it’s labeled a CE, it has the same level of features as a 5-speed LE model with the exception of the roll em’ up windows. It needs a $70 detail. Anywhere from $60 to $235 in new tires, and may have a wheel bearing issue which should be maybe $100. If you pick the Corolla. You may have anywhere between $3600 to $4000. The later is if you decide to give it the best tires possible and begin the process of upgrading everything else.

    • 0 avatar
      kyleck

      Still would definitely be the Corolla. Now, I just purchased an 01.5 Passat 1.8T 5MT Wagon, and I’m pretty satisfied with it, aside from a few questionable interior quality items (center console finish is peeling off, fabric on door panels is loose and hanging) but that W8 is very risky, and honestly without any more reward than a 1.8T. As you said, many parts of the Passat feel like a much more expensive car, but the W8 sort of negates that, because it will be an expensive car. Obviously it’s the safe choice, but the Corolla is the smart choice, plus Corollas can’t be THAT bad to drive, right?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        They ARE bad to drive. So slow, so loud, so unrefined. And the seats are terrible. The stereo is terrible.

        Fuel mileage is excellent though. But not worth the sacrifice IMO. Plus I hate seeing other examples of my car on the road every 24.5 seconds.

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          Oh please, I’ve driven several 9th gen Corollas. They really aren’t any slower than most compact cars of the era and as far as comfort and refinement go, were at the top of their class. Civics were always louder and Honda seats are the worst, the Sentra was a steaming pile of crap, and the Cobalt isn’t even worth mentioning.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a Silver XV20 Camry with a 2.2L and 4-speed auto and 193k on the clock.

      If anything, the Corolla would be more engaging. I wouldn’t touch the Passat if you gave it to me.

    • 0 avatar
      mankyman

      I’m a little surprised at the disdain shown for the Passat’s interior Steven. I own a meticulously maintained ’04 GLX Wagon with the 2.8 and I think the interior is every bit the equal of my ’99 A4. The components feel well-made and solid and the leather (is it leather or some VW imitation?) is holding up fine. The wood hasn’t cracked and there’s very little apparent wear. Every electrical component and doo-dad works fine, for now.

      Of course I don’t know about that W8 engine but the “quirks” of the 2.8L Audi/VW engine and the B5.5 series are well-known and if you’re even somewhat handy, you can do a lot of the repairs yourself. Is that W8 really a maintenance nightmare? What do the internet chat boards say about it? I suspect you’re probably right though. You can pick these up for pretty cheap.

      Known passat problems: plastic water pump impellers(WTF?), early timing belt replacement, TCM failing due to water ingress, coolant temp. sensor failing, ABS module failing, turn stalk failing, etc. What else do I have to look forward to?

      Known corolla problems: ?, but so boring to drive man. Go for the Passat!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I opined below, but on the W8 I might fix what needs done but hold back on other cosmetic issues short of a basic detailing. I don’t see its potential buyers being too particular about oddball cosmetic details which eat into your margin.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    A bicycle…. But on serious note, I’d seriously start studying public transportation options before I’d buy either of these. VW due to it’s potential problems with W8, as it’s not on of the “usual” engines that VW produced. Corolla….my only experience with one was my father in law bought one for his other daughter, since it’s supposed to be reliable. Last I checked the bearing was going out, for some reason alignments on that thing could never be done properly, combined with electrical issues. This sounds like your typical lemon, so perhaps that’s what they ended up getting…

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Corolla, but wangle drives in your friends nicer cars.

  • avatar
    rdchappell

    If it was a Golf/Rabbit I’d pick the VW. But in this case it’d be the Corolla.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    My job would dictate that I’d be totally embarrassed regularly pulling up in the Corolla.

    My job would also dictate that I don’t get something which will regularly NOT start.

    Corolla.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I would pick the VW because it has an automatic.

    Why?

    To make enthusiasts mad.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    To use a hackneyed expression: “at the end of the day” the VW is just a Passat with a funky engine. It’s not a BMW; it’s not a Mercedes. It’s a “people’s car.”

    So, I rather doubt that this would entice me to assume what sounds like a big repair risk with the VW.

    And, we all must answer the question YOU asked, not some other question we would rather answers (like having a Civic as the alternative), so, yeah, I’d take the Corolla because odds are, it’s going to be much cheaper to own.

    If the alternative to the Corolla was some other German car, I might give a different answer. . . but a Passat? I don’t have to think hard about that one.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’m going with “Corolla, then sell it IMMEDIATELY”.

    Number one, I don’t even know how to drive stick…

    And number two, I’d end up ruining the thing by trying to turbocharge it or something.

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    It would depend on my existing car.

    Right now, that car is a Volvo 245. Since it needs a bit of work to get back on the road, the Corolla would be a perfect runabout while I wrench on the brick. If the 245 was in perfect working order, the Passat would be a greater temptation, but I know I couldn’t put many miles on it before it would reach too deeply into my pocket.

    A 1.8T/manual Passat (with a fat stack of service records and Volkswagen coolant in it!) would actually make this a difficult choice.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’m going to add a condition to this: how often and how far do you drive.

    In my case, my bldg is 2.5 miles from work one way and most of the additional miles I incur are highway jaunts to see my old work friends, my gf, and shop at Sams/Costco. If I cut out those additional changes and say shop at the local grocery store I could probably curtail my driving to local only and end up sub 5K per year. In this case, the lux’d out low mileage VW is more appealing. If I had to work in Cranberry again (roughly a 60 mile round trip commute) Corolla is a no brainer.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Good answer.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Thx. Feel free to use that as a selling point on the VW. I like to think if a customer comes in to your shop with specific needs (i.e. I commute long miles from the suburbs into Atlanta) you’re not immediately showing them complicated German stuff or XJ40 Jags but sensible cars.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          With a 2.5 mile commute, I’d actually start worrying about the long term longevity of my catalytic converters, not to mention the rest of the exhaust system. Add to that frequent oil changes that meet or exceed the specs for “severe use” in the manual. I think a Corolla would stand up much longer to the abuse of a super short commute, albeit a VW with seat heaters might be nice in the winter when the car never actually warms up over the course of the drive.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Seat heaters FTW. Heartily endorsed by our friend POLAR VORTEX.

            My take is this, if tomorrow my fleet of cars went away I would probably only have one and it would be no older than my current “new” one, a 2008. My short commute consists of two steep hills (one of which is over road in near third world condition), a seldom plowed long back road for a mile, and a number of small hills/valleys where ice/sleet like to build up, so I’m a firm believer in the primary/beater strategy. While I would think in general the Corolla would stand up to more abuse and of the two is much more likely to stay out of the junkyard longer, for my purposes it would be irrelevant. For a 3K- 4Kish beater, heated seats and awd seem like nice features in poor weather conditions. So what if the dash light ups or the emissions system gets cute, ways around everything. If I get three years out of it with bare minimal maint and it explodes, it served its purpose. Now if I’m going to be tight about a beater car, I will probably lose little money unloading the Corolla to the next owner, but sometimes you pay to play.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The single worst car I have ever had the displeasure of driving was a Toyota Corolla. I’d rather be dragged over broken glass on my lips for a week that have to ever drive one of those POS again. VW FTW!

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    The Passat is in this case just a very decontented Audi, with half a Veyron engine. It’s not ‘just another Passat’ It may look and feel cheap, but should drive almost like an Audi. I vote for selling off W8 exclusive parts that are not needed to keep it running, to pay for needed service parts. Replace as much as economically possible (IE, parts that you get cheaper than the ones sold off) with normal Passat parts to make it a real sleeper. Then just drive until not repairable anymore, and strip and sell remaining parts with profit.
    PS, it will sound awesome with unmuffled sidepipes as soon as the ‘cats’ need replacement, remove check engine light to save cash. :)

  • avatar
    April

    Miss Sensible Shoes picks the Toyota…

    :)

  • avatar
    kuponoodles

    Keep the VW, since you’ll probably take a loss on it anyways.
    Tax Season is coming around, you’d probably sell the Corolla for s2pid profit.

    Take the Corolla profits and buy an even older, more boring 90’s Sentra as your backup hoopty for when the VW craps out.

  • avatar
    thunderjet

    If I can have another car at the same time: Corolla.

    If I’m stuck with one car: Corolla. Hey I have to get to work.

    The VW might be fun but most people I know with old/oldish VWs have a couple. Probably in case one breaks.

  • avatar
    Atum

    Even though the Corolla has less options and is more expensive, it’d be worth it. Little technology, so no fear of anything technical going wrong, Toyota, who makes some of the most reliable cars on the road, and good gas mileage.

    The choice is obvious here. I knew VWs were unreliable, but I didn’t know they were notorious for it. From what I recall, the new Passat and the Golf have decent reliability.

  • avatar
    TL

    Corolla without a second thought. I’ve got a 2000 in the driveway now. Stock, it is about as exciting to interact with as my refrigerator, but even with 160K miles it just works every time. An aftermarket heated driver’s seat and stereo improve the interior enough to make it a great long distance commuter beater.

    As a bonus cost of ownership is low enough to justify a far more exciting weekend toy.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Sigh… Corolla, although I’d likely forget why I love driving.

    There’s a 2005 Corolla wagon – er – Pontiac Vibe as my wife’s daily driver. 5-speed manual (it’s most redeeming feature), manual windows, manual locks, the only thing powered is the mirrors. Has almost 100,000 miles and does NOTHING well other than start and stop.

    Ugh. Maybe I could live with the VW…

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    After driving two rental corolla’s last year i would have no interest in purchasing one. They are tin can’s on 4 wheels. Would rather drive a Smart car. I would buy the VW as a winter beater if i knew who worked on it. If the average Midas grease monkey did the work i would pass on it. I know how to wrench on VW’s and enjoy doing so. Have worked on many Passat’s and know their weak spots. It would be fun they are nice cars.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    The Corolla. Not only would the W8 be a maintenance nightmare, it’s got to be next to impossible to work on with that motor stuffed under the hood. Although the Corolla would be boring as all hell, I’m sure it’d return many thousands of trouble free miles – and it’s a manual.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Truth is, I would change the rules. Playing along with it as a thought exercise I’d take the Toyota. And hate the rules for five long years at the end of which I’d buy something fun AND reliable.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Ok I am a gluten for punishment sign me up for the VW , hey it can not have a worse rep than the saabs I owned , which were fine btw, also I think you have to factor in what car your coming from , if it is a compact than maybe you could make the Toyota a one step up or down bit if you came from a accord sized car with creature lux like power windows and good seats, I doubt I could spend 5 years in a less safe, less comfyy car. Plus if the W8 blows up drop a regular passet engine in. Steve how’ many owners did the Vw have ? YOLO so go W8 at least it is rare

  • avatar
    claytori

    I just woke up from a dream where I was Archie and I had to choose between Betty and Veronica. Hmmm…

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    The Corolla. I like those generation Corollas and absolutely see nothing exciting about that generation Passat, which looks like it’s been blown up like a balloon and has nothing interesting looks wise. Throw in VW “quality” and the Corolla looks even better.

    Life’s too short to drive an ugly, unreliable POS.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’d be doing any repairs and maintenance myself, so I might be willing to roll the dice on the Passat, assuming it has a longitudinal layout with the torsen-type center differential rather than something electronic. The Corolla would be the economical choice though, and the manual is a big plus, so it’s hard to say for sure without driving both. Unless the Corolla doesn’t have cruise, or at least an easily-installed non-hack Toyota-supplied add-on version. I don’t want a vehicle without cruise.


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