2003 Volkswagen Passat Comfortline 1.9 turbo diesel 130BHP from UK and Ireland

Summary:

Good, comfy, smooth reliable car

Faults:

Needed a new thermostat.

Previous owner changed one injector. Before that the history is unknown.

General Comments:

Great car, fantastic power in the 130 engine; wouldn't choose anything less.

650 miles to a full tank, averaging 55 on the motorway, and more if you're careful.

Extremely reliable, must service regularly with the correct oil.

Will last forever. A friend has one with 320,000 that's still going strong.

Was told not to buy high mileage, but I trusted my instinct on this one, and it turned out to be a great car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 18th August, 2013

2003 Volkswagen Passat GLX 2.8L V6 from North America

Summary:

I like it OK, but don't love it

Faults:

Exhaust flex pipes began rusting away, probably around 110,000 miles, and the noise finally became intolerable by around 140,000 miles. Replaced at an independent muffler shop for around $250.

I read that "water ingress into front passenger footwell" is a chronic problem with these Passats, so as soon as I had the car home, I removed the battery and hosed out the drain holes at the base of the windshield. They were plugged with goop! No water problems in the front.

But there's a chronic water ingress problem at the left rear door. I've had it at the VW dealership twice, but they just end up washing my car without solving the problem.

The engine has an overly complex engine ventilation system; there's constantly some weird EGR module going haywire at $450 a pop. This causes pressure to build in the crankcase, blowing engine seals and causing oil leaks. In the last two years, I've had the valve cover gaskets done, cam tower seals, as well as some other gasket I can't recall, I've cleaned out the crankcase breather tube, and the thing still blows oil and smells like it's about to burst into flames.

When I bought the car, the driver's seat heater didn't work. The next winter, I got a letter from VWoA announcing a seat heater recall. My driver's seat bottom leather and heating grid were replaced for free, and now works perfectly.

The interior is full of irritating squeaks and rattles, leaving an impression of junkiness. In other aspects, though, the car seems pretty well-made.

The radio has static when going over bumps. It makes me wonder if the antenna has an intermittent bad ground. But dropping the headliner to diagnose is just too hard, and there's no way I'd pay for a mechanic's time for that.

General Comments:

My previous car, a Volvo 740 Turbo, was supremely comfortable, and when I first got the Passat, the seats felt much firmer, and just different. I figured I'd get used to it, but after four years with this car, I've concluded it's just plain uncomfortable. The wide center console digs into my fat leg, and I can't find a comfortable seating position.

At nearly 150,000 miles, there's always some irritating little thing wrong with the car, but it's been generally dependable enough.

The car is seriously fast, handles well, is safe -- and with the manual transmission, kinda fun to drive.

The Monsoon double-DIN radio is utterly horrendous. Radio reception is dreadful, and the sound is too bass-heavy.

Parts are expensive.

It's nicer to drive than an Accord or Camry, but it's no BMW.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 26th March, 2013

2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 Wagon (Sport) 4.0 Ltr gas from North America

Summary:

A beautiful machine, lovely to drive

Faults:

So far, nothing. But I'm only at 1600km of use thus far.

Torque converter of the previous owner blew around 75K (km). Apparently common with these transmissions.

General Comments:

I owned a 2000 Passat 2.8 V6 Sedan (purchased in 2006), which I drove from 136K to 278K (km). Fairly expensive to keep in top shape as parts wear out, but the car was extremely reliable, very comfortable and I loved the feel of the Passat. It's still running great at 280K. It was my first foray into "premium" type automobiles. Wanted to upgrade, and became intrigued by the W8. Was lucky to have found a 2003 wagon with 90K (km) maintained very well.

I did a lot of research (and worrying) looking into getting a car like this, and wanted to share my experience with anyone looking to buy one of these.

My car is the fully-decked out model, light brown leather interior with Sport suspension and 17" wheels (AWD). The interior is lovely and very well put together. A woman passenger the other day - who stated she cares little about cars at all - couldn't get over how nice the interior was. It's a 2003 and people think it's much younger; one of the reasons I like the VW is I think they age very well. People are constantly shocked when I tell them it's an 03. I think this particular model - the B5.5 is one of the best looking (family-ish) cars around. Has these great 5 spoked wheels and slightly tinted windows... Very nice looking.

New, this car was $54K (CDN); I paid 11K.

The engine has this understated, quiet, almost electric like whir when you start it up. Different from my V6 which sounded like a turbine. Once warm, the engine is very quiet, and powers the car like a rocket, particularly after 2400 RPM when the torque kicks in. It handles like it's got four magnets stuck to the road. Extremely solid feeling, particularly on the highway. The power transfer is incredibly smooth. There's a feeling of integrity of the transfer of power to the wheels which I've never experienced before. Quiet inside; not as quiet as my V6 cloth-seated sedan, due to the harder suspension and the leather and to the fact it's a wagon, but quiet nonetheless. Never driven a 4WD before, and it's extremely appealing. Bottom line is I love taking this car out.

Research on these cars shows that these machines are prone to the torque converter going (mine did - previous owner), and the camshafts crapping out. The camshafts going is a serious $ issue, so I decided not to get this vehicle without an extended third party warranty. I've read some ridiculous quotes from other W8 owner repair estimates, i.e. $8K for a new transmission, $8K-$10K for the camshafts, stuff about having to pull out the engine to change the oxygen sensors, etc. In talking to independent garages before buying this car, I can only figure that these owners getting the typically absurd dealer rate quotes (The last thing you want to do is bring this car to a dealer!). In my research, a full rebuild on a transmission like this is about $3k; about the same for the camshafts (maybe $4K). The O2 sensor can be changed without pulling the engine out. Experienced independent VW mechanics that I've talked to who've worked on the car don't seem intimidated by it.

One thing about this car is mileage is BAD - in the city on slow stop and go traffic you're at about 20L/100KM (11 MPG US/14 MPG/IMP),

more fluid city driving will bring you down to about 15L/100km (15.6 MPG US/18.8 MPG IMP), and on the highway at 120 KMH I seem to be coming in at about 10L/100km. So if you're commuting daily in rush hour, this car is not the one to choose. The 80L tank at pretty much $6/gallon here in Canada, means you're grimacing when you fill up.

Remember too, with the W8 and synthetic oil, an oil change will put you out about $100.

So if you're looking to buy this vehicle, I would recommend getting a third party warranty of some sort. The threat of the significant repair costs is very real. Find yourself a good independent VW mechanic, and get ready to close your eyes when you're filling up.

This is a beautifully put together vehicle that is a joy to drive. I hope it stays that way. So far I've only seen its Jekyll side - I'm hoping it doesn't turn into a Hyde.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 9th May, 2011

9th May 2011, 17:41

Wish you luck with it, but if I had your money, I would have bought an old domestic RWD V8, late 80s to mid 90s; no gremlins to go wrong, only simple engineering, no headaches, and a heavier wallet in five years time.

20th Dec 2011, 08:36

Update on this 2003 W8 Wagon - Car is now at 103,600 KM, 13K KM since purchase. So far no real trouble at all - a problem with the rear windshield fluid hose, one seized rear brake, due probably to warmish wet weather in December suddenly turning very cold. One burnt out Xeon headlight... cost about $250+ to fix (they have to take the bumper off) - and that's my friendly independent mechanic. No getting around that kind of stuff with a car like this. But overall, touch wood, the car is running very well.

18th Oct 2012, 15:06

Update W8 - Oct 2012 - be warned!

My W8 wagon at 117K km (73K miles) has been having camshaft adjuster problems. This is known on these vehicles. Check engine comes on and very rough idling (happened twice). Has been "fixed" twice through easy fixes, but may come back. To truly deal with it, the mechanic must take out the engine based on its wacky design. If you're thinking of buying one of these, remember: torque converter + cam shaft adjusters are known problems that do happen - both are $$. I have an extended third party warranty; without it, wouldn't buy the car (outside of this, it still drives beautifully).