Ask Jack: You Shall Not Passat?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Long-time readers of this site know that your humble author was once a salesman at an Infiniti dealership. At the time, I’d have much rather been a salesman at a Lexus dealership. Perhaps it’s better that I didn’t get my wish, because being a Lexus salesman is an actual career that enables people to buy luxury homes and save for retirement and hold their heads up in their community. If I’d started working for a Lexus dealer back in 1994, I’d still be working at a Lexus dealer today, which means I would’ve missed out on a career that took me everywhere from the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg to the podium at Sepang to the county jail.

You know, I’d be okay with that. Being a Lexus salesman would have been great. There would, however, have been one continual annoyance: explaining to people who bought the original 1990 LS400 for $35,000 that their replacement 1998 LS400 was going to cost a minimum of $53,999. That’s a hefty bump for what was basically the same car. I suspect that a lot of first-gen LS400 buyers ended up buying an ES300 for their second Lexus; by 1998, the well-equipped sticker on that car was $35,000 or slightly over.

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as finding out that your budget doesn’t allow you to purchase the modern equivalent of the car you already have. But that’s the situation facing today’s “Ask Jack” participant.


Brandon says,

I currently own a 2007 VW Passat V6 4motion wagon. It has been the perfect car and a jack of all trades. No major repairs have been needed and all electronics work perfectly (memory/heated seats, sunroof, power windows, power hatch, etc). The V6 has been great and I probably take the power for granted. The utility of the wagon has always been helpful with house and yard items, dogs, moving, and the like.

All of that said, the wagon is now getting close to 200,000 miles and I’m sure there are repairs looming that will cost more than I want to put into the car.

I have been looking at a replacement but nothing has really stood out. I’m in my 30s, married with two large dogs, and my budget is $30,000.

The obvious choice would be a GTI, but I’m not sure it would have the cargo space and room I’m used to. Maybe a Golf Sportwagen 4motion, but would I be unhappy with the lack of options as it’s only available on the base S? The Alltrack has more options, but I hate the pretense of people thinking I bought a CUV, as I think the whole CUV craze is crap and what we really need are more wagons.

Wait for the new Buick Regal wagon and hope for major discounts? I’ve heard the soon to be released Elantra GT sport will have more room than the GTI and Civic hatch, and the sedan has been getting rave reviews.

Brandon’s facing a couple of major problems here. The first one is that Volkswagen no longer offers a Passat wagon. But even if they did, it would most likely cost more than the base V6 4Motion sedan, which runs about $31,000 after destination. Equipped like Brandon’s description of his current Passat, it would likely be closer to $36,000.

The closest thing you can buy to a loaded Passat V6 4Motion sedan right now is the Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring, which retails for $39,070. That’s a whopping thirty percent above his max budget. Keep this in mind, however, because we will circle back around to this idea in a minute.

The only options that Brandon mentions with any enthusiasm are lesser VW models and the Buick Regal wagon, which is fundamentally a European Opel with a splash of woodgrain and Chinese-market cred. From this, I’m going to make the assumption that he’s a bit of a VW/Euro snob. Well, Brandon, I’ve been there. If you look at my personal vehicle ownership history you’ll see over a half million dollars’ worth of new Volkswagens sprinkled in there with the Porsches, Bimmers and Benzes. There was a time in my life that I didn’t even think about buying anything without “German engineering”.

The day came, however, when I followed the example of the Apostle Paul. I put away childish things. I started looking at all the options and judging them on their merit. I recommend that you do the same thing. The Golf Sportwagen is going to disappoint you. It’s considerably smaller than the vehicle you have now.

Your mention of the Elantra GT makes me think that you might be open to the idea of something that isn’t European or Euro-influenced. But the Elantra, too, is going to be awfully small when compared to the Passat. One does not simply walk out of a mid-sized wagon into a compact wagon. Not unless he wants to start packing light.

Here’s what you need to do. You need to put on your negotiating hat and you need to visit the local Subaru dealer. The Outback 2.5i Limited is equipped the way your Passat was. It’s $33,000 but you should be able to chop a little bit off that sticker and get close to your budget. If that $30k is what they call a “hard stop” in modern corporations, you’ll have to drop to the 2.5i Premium.

You’ll miss the power of the V6, but there is no V6-powered conventional wagon out there for thirty grand out the door. Especially not with AWD. The closest thing is a Hyundai Santa Fe at $33,000.

Get the Outback. It’s not quite as cool or as Euro as a Passat, but there are compensations. Resale value is good. There’s plenty of room in the current model; it’s bigger than your current Passat. And you’ll be in good company. It’s not quite as disappointing as replacing an LS400 with an ES300, that’s for sure. You might even end up regarding it as fondly as you do your Passat. Stranger things have happened.

[Image: Rudolf Stricker/ Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY-SA 3.0)]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • 05lgt 05lgt on May 10, 2017

    Slightly similar situation; more years, 1 kid vs. 2 dogs, and fewer miles in a car no longer like anything made for close to the old price. The answers that speak to me (if I stay wagon) are the used Caddy and the possibly affordable if sales fall flat Buick. For me a switch to a used lux sedan makes more sense, I nearly never use the cargo space anymore prefering to let contractors do that crap now.

  • Tjh8402 Tjh8402 on May 11, 2017

    Brandon sorry I haven't read every comment so sorry if this was addressed already , but have you considered going the carmax route? It'll probably be a bit pricey, but you can ship one in from any of their stores and put a big nice long warranty. You may have to compromise on something (mileage or AWD), but they have V70s, CTS's, and TSX's that might meet your requirement. The F30 328ix wagons are showing just over $30k with low mileage. You might luck out with a CPO V60 as well. I'm guessing the Cooper Clubman isn't big enough? Good luck!

    • JimZ JimZ on May 11, 2017

      CarMax doesn't operate in every state.

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