Jan 23, 2003
Reviewed By Bengt Halvorson
Price as Tested $38,450

Tight, solid construction; roomy and comfortable; excellent materials and design; unique-design W8 engine is extraordinarily smooth; powertrain is in its element at (illegal) triple-digit speeds; stealth factor—fast but not too flashy.


Costs $16,000 more than a standard Passat; W8 feels less gutsy than expected and doesn’t have the low-end torque of other V8s; nose-heavy weight distribution takes some of the handling prowess away; blue-lit gauges and red-lit controls are distracting at night.


Eight cylinders and all-wheel drive on a relatively small sedan: It should be a dream come true, though in reality it’s just not worth the extra $16k over the base 180-hp turbo four, which is a balanced, fun-to-drive combination. The W8 simply doesn’t deliver on the performance end. Its torque curve and the five-speed automatic’s tall ratios seem ideally suited for autobahn duty, not for North American driving conditions. And luxury buyers expect special treatment. How are volume-oriented VW dealerships going to cater to $40,000 W8 customers, let alone the $75,000 Phaeton prospects?

Fun to Drive
3.0 rating
Fun to Look at
2.0 rating
Overall Experience
3.0 rating