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.