Volkswagon Passat W8 Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
volkswagon passat w8 review

Here's a good way to lose money. Take a mass-market saloon and spec it to the max: sat nav, heat insulated tinted glass, parking radar, Bi-Xenon headlights, 17" rubber, alloy wheels, sports suspension, Tiptronic gearbox and the biggest damn engine money can buy. Come trade-in time, you'll get just about the same money for your superfast gin palace as Mr. Repmobile gets for his plain vanilla version. And yet…

Your hi-spec mass-market machine will cost less than a bare bones prestige model. Case in point: the Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Sport. For £34,070, you get all the goodies above (including an eight-cylinder engine) for two hundred quid more than a no-spec six-cylinder BMW 530i Sport. The VW gives you more German automobile for less of your beloved English pounds, ja?

Obviously, the "no" side of the argument is fairly persuasive. Start with image. Although Volkswagen has elevated the brand by its relentless focus on quality, the Passat could well be the dowdiest car in Christendom. From certain angles, it looks like a duckbill platypus. From every other angle it looks like nothing at all. Even an enthusiast deeply committed to the "Q-Car" concept would find the Passat's narcoleptic design insurmountably insipid.

To try to separate the hotter W8 from the mind-numbing variety of low-speed Passats, VW adds shiny quad pipes, 14-spoke "Madras" alloys and W8 badges front and rear. And that's it. No flared arches, wire mesh nose or Max Power appendages. It's as if VW's designers looked at Audi's failure to macho-up the RS6 and figured they'd quit while they were behind. The test car's Colorado Red "pearl effect" paint job did nothing to lift the W8 from the discretion of Passats cruising England's highways and byways.

Luckily, the visual Valium doesn't extend to the W8's cabin. As you'd expect from Wolfsburg's finest (at least until the Phaeton hoves into view), you can't fault the interior's build quality or materials – especially when compared to a cloth-covered BMW. Still, there's something distinctly odd about a Passat with butter-soft leather chairs and polished wood accents. At the risk of sounding like I've taken LSD, the W8's interior feels as if it wants to throw off its luxury trappings to pursue a simpler, more spiritual life. The instrumentation's bright blue backlighting, which looks fresh and funky in a Golf, exemplifies the aesthetic dissonance.

The W8's engine is the model's best attempt to make a case for itself. As a passing Passatophile told his son, "Look! That one's like ours with a V8!"

Actually, no. Think of the W8's powerplant as two V4's sharing the same crankshaft. This arrangement creates one of the world's smallest 8-cylinder engines, and a slam-dunk for VW's marketing department ("After 'V' comes 'W'"). Unfortunately, it doesn't create character. There's none of the burble, woofle or barrel-chested growl of a properly sorted V8. The technically minded will identify the W8's flat plane crank as the killjoy. The rest will simply wonder why the car's 4.0-litre engine is always working so damn hard.

Weight. The W8 tips the scales at 1902kgs. That's 337kgs more than the UK's favourite Passat (the 1.9TDI PD 130) and 217kgs more than the BMW's eight-cylinder 540i. Once the W8's tacho swings up beyond 4000rpms, the engine feels incredibly strong. But the unique design fails to deliver the trademark flexibility of a V8. The instant you ask the W8 to do anything other than amble, it's kickdown city.

That said, the W8's 4Motion system accounts for the extra kilogrammage. I'm convinced that four-wheel-drive mania is delusional, but then along comes a snowstorm to prove me wrong. In less slippery conditions, the Passat's chassis and suspension are up to the – Wait a second. Rating a Passat's handling is like discussing a Lotus Elise's reliability. Suffice it to say, the W8 corners better than you'd expect. More worryingly, a press-on driver is looking at 14 miles to a gallon of fuel. Or less. That's supercar class fuel consumption. From a Passat.

And there you have it: proof positive that Volkswagen's W8 4Motion Sport makes no sense whatsoever. Maybe if VW dropped the heavyweight 4WD gubbins from the equation, the lighter, faster car would…. Nah. The Passat is a sensible car that deserves a sensible engine. A few extra toys and luxuries wouldn't go amiss, as long as they're sensible priced. Which is exactly how 99% of the market buys their Passat. If VW wants to make a play for the sporting fraternity, they should turbo-charge the W8 and stick it in something small, light and drop dead gorgeous. Anything less (more?) is an expensive affectation.

Join the conversation
  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • MaintenanceCosts I saw my first IS500 out in the wild today (a dark-grey-on-black example) and it struck me that it was much more AMG-like than this product. (Great-looking and -sounding car.)
  • ToolGuy https://youtu.be/Jd0io1zktqI
  • Art Vandelay Props for trying something different. EVs should work well in this sort of race. The similar series running ICE run short distances like that