VW Passat Variant
The all-new fourth-generation Passat (sometimes referred to as the 5th generation Passat) (B5 platform) was launched in 1996 in Europe and 1998 in North America...More »
VW Passat Variant
The all-new fourth-generation Passat (sometimes referred to as the 5th generation Passat) (B5 platform) was launched in 1996 in Europe and 1998 in North America, and was an entirely new car design from the ground up. It was significant in that it returned to sharing a platform with an Audi (the Mk I Audi A4 from 1994), again using the classic "overhung" longitudinally mounted engine with front wheel drive.
The Mk 4 Passat was a very significant car in its class. Not only was it the first step of VW moving its products upmarket to plug a gap between the mainstream machines and the premium cars, with SEAT and Škoda taking over as the "mainstream" brands, it also brought in a new level of interior quality and sophistication never seen before from a mainstream brand in the class. In fact, the quality of the Passat was on a par with its sister Audi A4 and it undoubtedly took some sales from its more costly premium in-house rival. The £16,000 starting price in the UK put it £1,000 above the equivalent Ford Mondeo, but the price difference showed when it came to luxury and upmarket feel. Rivals launched before 1996 now appeared cheap.
However, the advent of the Mk 4 Passat meant that most mainstream rivals in the class had to raise their game with interior quality to the point where there are now virtually no differences in quality levels between mainstream and premium cars in the class. The 2000 Ford Mondeo was the first car to show the effect the Mk 4 Passat had on the class. Only the budget brands in the class have not raised their game, but this is reflected in their prices. Volkswagen was about to play the same game in the class below with the Mk IV Volkswagen Golf in 1997.
Styling-wise, the Passat introduced a new design language, first seen on the Concept 1 concept car, for the latest generation of Volkswagens and this was evident with the Mk IV Golf, Bora and Mk IV Polo. The Passat also influenced the styling of many yet-to-be-launched rivals.
Dynamically, the most notable thing about the Passat was its good ride, which was as good as anything produced by Mercedes-Benz or BMW. The handling though was generally accepted to be some way off the standards of the Mk I Ford Mondeo and the Peugeot 406 which was launched in 1995. The interior was also luxurious and well equipped, with a long equipment list which included power windows, air conditioning, CD player, power mirrors, power sunroof and leather upholstery.
The car featured sophisticated 4-link front suspension, designed to eliminate torque steering. All wheel drive was later introduced as an option, using an expensive Torsen center differential which helps avoid loss of traction by using a 50:50 power distribution under normal conditions, and gave excellent superior handling on slick surfaces. The B5 Passat shared its platform with the Audi A4. Power came from entirely new gasoline engines, including a 1.8 L turbocharged 4-cylinder (150 bhp for the B5 and 170 bhp for the B5.5), or 2.8 L V6 (190 bhp). The 1.8 L engine in the Passat and Audi A4 has a lower oil capacity than transverse applications of the same engine, and suffers from oil sludge problems as a result. Two transmission options were available: a 5-speed manual transmission and a 5-speed automatic transmission.
2000 Mark 4 B5.5 Platform
In mid-2000, the Passat received a facelift, involving a minor tweaking of the styling and some mechanical alteration, and the platform is now commonly known as the B5.5. Although some of the body panels remained unchanged, new projector-optic headlights and bumpers gave the car a fresher look. The Passat was still very much the comfortable, well-built and luxurious large saloon and estate which had been launched four years earlier. Traditional Volkswagen trademarks of build quality and reliability continued to boost the Passat's reputation.
The naturally aspirated 1.8 L gasoline engine was dropped, and a 4.0 L W8 engine producing 275 PS (202 kW) was introduced in 2001 in an upmarket version of the car that included standard all-wheel drive, but this was a slow seller and the engine was retired in 2004.
In 2004, a powerful 2.0 L turbocharged diesel TDI engine producing 136 PS (100 kW) was added (making the Passat the only mid-sized diesel powered car sold in the US, and one of the most fuel-efficient). This variant, sold from 2004-2005, is relatively rare on the used market and examples in good condition command high resale prices for their fuel economy and ability to operate on increasingly inexpensive biofuels.
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