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For me the best B5 Passats are 1.8T with a 5 speed manual. I currently have two 1.8T's with automatics and two 1.8T's with 5 speed manuals.

2002 sedan with 110,000 miles and manual averages 24 mpg running around town. And a recent trip from western NC to southeastern PA towing a Sylvansport Go trailer at 70 mph average netted 28 mpg. It's a good car on which we recently redid the suspension on all four corners and replaced the steering components. It rides and handles particularly well. I'm the second owner of this one since 86,000 miles and it was very well cared for by its previous owner.

2003 wagon with 218,000 miles and manual averages 27 mpg on my 25 mile (one way) daily commute to work. I LOVE it's spaciousness and flexibility. If you pop out the rear seat bottoms, the load area all the way to the backs of the front seats is completely flat. With the flexible roof rack, anything that doesn't fit inside can go on top. It is a good tow vehicle for light trailers. It has excellent road manners and very comfortable and quiet interior (though not as quiet as a sedan). Sadly, this one has recently reported that it has an oil pressure issue. So it is off the road right now getting a new engine. I'm the second owner of this car since 98,000 miles. The previous owner was a woman and she was obsessive/compulsive about having EVERY maintenance performed by the book by a reputable VW dealer with original VW parts. Not being able to find a competent and capable replacement among any newer offerings is causing me to replace the engine and refurbish the suspension and keep on driving it.

2003 sedan with 186,000 miles with automatic. This one currently has an "underperforming" turbo. But it still goes like stink and averages 25 mpg on the daily commute in lieu of the wagon. It currently has a weird transmission issue where if you shift into reverse them back into drive it goes into limp home mode (forever in 3rd gear). At the next convenient place, if you turn off the engine and restart it, the transmission behaves perfectly. Oh, it has a bunch of dash warning lights illuminated, but nothing critical. The sensor for the parking brake is messed up and it thinks the parking brake is on. The airbag error light is on because the left front sensor connector is messed up. The CEL is on because of the underperforming turbo. And the ABS light is on because the right rear speed sensor connector disintegrated. Other than that it is a great car.

2004 sedan with 188,000 miles and automatic. This has been the bad apple of the bunch though its exterior and interior are the best one cosmetically. This one (and to a lesser extent the 2003 sedan) were victims of poor preventive care by previous owners. I bought this one at 181,000 miles. On the way home, coming up the mountains from the piedmont, I blew the head gasket and warped the head. We did a bunch of hopeful things to the cooling system before we finally surrendered and made and accepted the correct diagnosis. Once the head was resurfaced and overhauled, the car's performance and economy seemed much improved - until the transmission gave out. With further research, I have discovered that the automatic transmission is reliably good to about 150,000 miles. After that you are on borrowed time. This primarily seems to be the case because it is so difficult and "scary" (the manual makes it into a very long drawn out ritual) to check the transmission fluid levels and add fluid. (Oh for the days of a transmission oil dipstick and fill tube.) Research shows that the automatic transmission woes are pervasive regardless of which engine is coupled to it. And the cruise control hasn't worked since we bought the car. We had to replace the turbo on this one because the oil seal went out. And some combination of these problems poisoned the catalytic converter, so it had to be replaced. And now it seems to have leaky trunk seal.

In addition to these four in current use, I have owned four other B5 Passats. ALL have been 1.8T's. The 1999 was a little doggier than the rest, and the interior not nearly as nice. Two 2003's, one auto and one manual, met early demises when wrecked by my "adult" children. Another 2003 with manual was driven to the junkyard at 220,000 miles after going through a hailstorm that made the body surfaces look like a golf ball's and took out the back window and two side windows. It also had a weird brake sensor issue that only manifested itself on right hand descending turns - but never really was indicative of a brake problem.

But one of the primary things about these cars is that they are well engineered and have very predictable and comfortable handling. Maintenance and repair is also fairly straightforward and simple. And generally replacement parts are reasonably priced and readily available. The weight to power ratio is excellent. And the front to rear balance is also quite good. Having driven the V6 and W8 versions, they both seem to be nose heavy and sluggish. Particularly when compared to the sprightly performance of a manual behind the 1.8T. The V6 all wheel drive versions have a little better front to rear weight balance, but still have a bit doggy performance. A TDI with a manual transmission (yes there were a few in the US) is perhaps the best of all worlds - especially for mileage and acceleration. The TDI with the automatic isn't bad, but for me it is a compromise in the wrong direction.- unless you are planning on always driving it in manual shift mode, but even then you lose about 2 miles per gallon.

On the automatics especially, you can reset the adaptive learned acceleration profile. This reset can clear a previous owner's bad driving habits but it also can clear ones that have developed due to repetitive traffic patterns caused by commuting the same route. I suggest doing this about twice a year as it resets the computer to start learning your driving style all over again. This has remedied some of the sensation of sluggishness on acceleration at least temporarily.

I have noticed that the quality of the tires seems to have a larger impact on handling and performance on these cars than on some others. We have settled on Continental brand tires as the best, even better than Michelins and Perrellis in this application. The wider and larger aluminum rims are also noticeably better than the stock steel wheels, and I am running the larger 16" factory wheels on my wagon.

I've owned a lot of cars (102 at last count) in my 50 years of driving. And I've driven even more brands and types in all kinds of conditions on all kinds of roads in several different countries; and I rate the 1.8T, manual, B5.5 Passat as among the best.
 

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Is that a Blue wagon with a Beige interior? :love:
 

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Seriously? Now I gotta go shopping for another W8... I've only got 3.
 
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Thanks on the status, I'll try to make it five eventually.
I'm not a fan of this greener blue but I don't hate it. I'll end up repainting it soonish. This may be the one to get some work on it.
 

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Sadly yes. I really want to swap it out for black and grey. You want some creame colored interior?
Too late, I sold my wagon back in January. I just wish it was local, I would have picked it up even with a Tip trans.
 

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edited for grammar

So should I start a new thread for it now that I've had some time to look through it?
I would, that way it'll be dedicated to your case.
 
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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Congrats on the buy! Good to see went to someone who knows what to do with a W8. I'm honestly kind of curious how that one compares to others since I drove it.
 
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