I have a 1995 Passat GLX, VR6, with auto transmission. This car has almost 200K miles & has been phenomenal. The motor has been rebuilt once because my son continued to drive it after a water hose broke and leaked all the water out the system. As a result the motor got cooked, so I rebuilt it.
After that, the transmission began to shift very erratically, so I bought a re-manufactured one & replaced it. When I rebuilt the motor, I had the block punched-out to .040" oversize so the CID is now almost 3000. We also added stage 1 Racing Cams, a performance ECM Chip. Extraction Exhaust Headers, a 2.5 inch exhaust system - totally from headers to tail, & a Cold Air Intake System. You should hear this thing rumble. This car is now crazy fast. I love this car; I have no regrets about owning it.
On my second one now. Done over 350,000 miles between the two of them. Haven't replaced anything except service parts such as brakes, tyres and pads and a starter motor.
Door electrics are unreliable due to wires breaking as the wires perish, and door handle mechanisms need to be regularly lubricated to keep them working. Other than that, if you service it regularly, you won't have any problems.
The first one was a 75bhp TD Umwelt, and the second a Tdi (90bhp).
1997 Passat VR6 GLX, Manual, 42300 miles - Repaired or replaced: 3x door handles/locks; pinched gas vent line; MAS unit, 2x tires; brakes; aux water pump; headliner; secondary air inject system - multi parts (combi valve, vacuum lines, intake hose); window regulator; PCV valve; air intake broken at PCV heater; starter switch; trans linkage and constant CELs.
So unreliable we are afraid to take it further than 50 miles from home base (the range of our towing service policy). VW dealerships seem to cause more problems than they fixed. I had older Bugs and a van that were okay. But, the Passat is a disaster! Although when it runs, the VR6 goes like gazelle and it is fun to drive. I will never own another VW.
Yeah, don't buy a VW. Consumer ratings in North America rate VW as the LEAST RELIABLE brand out of all manufacturers. My friend owned a Passat; it was always just sitting in his yard, never ran for more than a week at a time.
My girlfriend also owned a 2005 Jetta, also a terrible car, engine and transmission issues at very low mileage, as well as problems with the sun roof, power windows, A/C, stereo, electronics, computer, etc... Not to mention parts are super expensive (front brake job for $800), and most mechanics will not even work on a VW.
Some comments mention "I have a VW with 350.000 miles and besides this or that not a single problem with the car".
Such comments are from VW fan boys, and their truthfulness is as doubtful as the reliability of the car.