Midsize car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,900 – $9,200*

1998 Volkswagen Passat GLS sedan

2000 Volkswagen Passat GLX wagon

1998 Volkswagen Passat GLS sedan interior

1999 Volkswagen Passat wagon

2000Volkswagen Passat GLX 4-Motion sedan

  • Standard antilock braking
  • Build quality
  • Cargo room
  • Side airbags
  • Passenger room
  • Ride
  • Acceleration (Turbo w/automatic)
  • Tire noise

Turbo fours with automatic don’t have much strength for a modern family 4 door. If possible, try the different engine/transmission combinations to see which one fits your needs. Otherwise, VW’s largest car is suave, sporty, spacious, and solid. It’s also strong on features per dollar and “European” personality. We’d give it a good long look. Recent reliability gremlins make us hesitant to recommend this vehicle to value-conscious shoppers.


Volkswagen borrowed some elements from A4 and A6 models issued by Audi, its sister-company, to give the redesigned Passat family sedan a touch of sportiness. Passat had been around since 1990, as Volkswagen’s biggest automobile. Compared to the previous Passat, the new model was about 3 inches longer in wheelbase, 4 inches longer overall, and about an inch wider and taller. The new look reflected the crescent-form styling that had first been seen in sedans from Audi (which was owned by VW).Passat came in 4-door sedan and station wagon body styles. Introduced first was a GLS with Audi’s 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Later came a GLS V6 and a top-line GLX sedan, powered by Audi’s 2.8-liter V6 engine. Wagons came only with the 4-cylinder this year. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard on GLS models. Optional on the GLS and standard on GLX was a Porsche-designed 5-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, with manual-shift mode. Antilock braking, seat-mounted front side airbags, and low-speed traction control were standard in all Passats. The GLX added leather upholstery, a Monsoon sound system, and (on sedans) a rear-window sunshade. Rivals included the Ford Contour, Mazda 626, and Subaru Legacy.

Yearly Updates

1999 Passat
Volkswagen planned an all-wheel-drive system and a V6 engine for the wagon, but both changes were delayed.
2000 Passat
Base-model GLS Passats gained standard heated front seats and windshield-washer nozzles (which previously were optional). A wood gearshift knob went into the GLX, and all models added an antitheft-coded ignition key and a brake-wear indicator. Dealers could install a dashboard CD player. During 2000, Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system became available.
2001 Passat
No significant changes were made for 2001. Significant changes were made midyear to a “2001.5” model (see below).
2001.5 Passat
The 2001.5 sedans and wagons added a new nose with chrome accents, transparent taillamp elements, chassis revisions, and altered gauge appearance. Base GLS models had a 1.8-liter turbo 4-cyl, now with 170 hp, up 20.
2002 Passat
The W8 sedan and wagon, named for their innovative 270-hp 8-cyl engine made up of two V4 modules, were new for 2002. A 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift gate replaced the 5-speed manual. Introduced later in the year was a W8 Sport Package with a 6-speed manual, plus firmer suspension and 17-inch tires instead of 16s. VW’s bumper-to-bumper warranty increased to 4 years/50,000 mi. from 2/24,000, with powertrains covered for 5/60,000 instead of 10/100,000.
2003 Passat
A base GL model was added and a 6-speed manual transmission became available on the W8.
2004 Passat
VW made AWD available on more models and added a diesel engine to the lineup for 2004.
2005 Passat
Passat sheds its unpopular W8 models, but makes few other changes for this final year of its current design. For ’05, GL models are available only with the turbodiesel engine. Also for 2005, GLS models exchange 15-inch alloy wheels for standard 16s, while GLX models swap 16s for standard 17-inch alloy wheels. The discontinued W8 had a 270-hp 8-cyl engine. VW says redesigned 2006 Passats begin sale in late 2005.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Two very different engines were available under Passat hoods, depending on model. The turbocharged, dual-overhead-cam 1.8-liter 4-cylinder developed 150 horsepower. A twin-cam, 2.8-liter V6 went into the GLS V6 and GLX models. Either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic, with manual-shift provision, might be installed. Model-year “2001.5” GLS models had a 1.8-liter turbo 4-cyl, now with 170 hp, up 20.

Turbodiesel ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 134
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 247
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/109
Engine HP 150-170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 155-166
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/169
Engine HP 190-200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 206-207
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
ohc W8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/244
Engine HP 270
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 273
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic

Road Test

Regardless of trim level, Passat’s suspension smothers all but the worst bumps and dips, and a tangibly solid structure only adds to the sense of comfort. Obviously GLX and W8 models ride more firmly, but they are never overly harsh. Braking is swift and undramatic from most any speed. Wind noise is low.

Gas turbos are quiet enough and generally free of turbo-lag hesitation. However, with automatic transmission, the engine just does not have the brawn for quick getaways and easy high-gear climbing up long, steep grades. The Tiptronic’s manual-shift capability helps somewhat. The standard 5-speed manual transmission transforms the engine somewhat into a lively, eager runner. With Tiptronic the base four averaged 22.2 mpg, but premium fuel is recommend. If fuel economy isn’t your top priority, smoother and more powerful V6 is a better all around engine. Near 2-ton W8 did 7.2 sec in our 0-60 mph runs vs. VW’s claimed 6.5, but had ample midrange punch. It averaged 16.2 mpg. We’d recommend the V6 or W8 engine if you’re not an ardent fan of manual transmissions. Turbodiesel’s around-town acceleration matches the base gas four, but doesn’t have much passing kick. Fuel economy is a huge plus though, our tester averaging over 35 mpg in mixed driving.

Passat’s ace in the hole has always been generous interior room, and this one continues that tradition. Expect spacious comfort for four adults (even five on short hops), plus an almost cavernous trunk and easy entry/exit. Six-footers have only about a half-inch of head clearance beneath the available moonroof, but leg room is plentiful all around. Combining readable gauges and simple controls, the dashboard also is Audi-like, except for simpler climate controls and different–but still very legible–gauges. Visibility is fine except to the rear, where the styling hides the car’s corners. Like Audi’s A4, Passat feels impressively stout, even on the worst roads. Overall fit and finish are equally satisfying, but interior decor looks a bit drab. Nothing feels low-budget, however, and the GLS V6 and GLX flaunt real wood trim. Materials and workmanship rival those of more costly automobiles.


Model Tested: 2001.5 Volkswagen Passat GLS V6, auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 7
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 6


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 6

Total: 58


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.4 184.1 68.5 57.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.0 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.7 37.8 41.5 35.3
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.4 183.8 68.5 59.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
78.7 16.3 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.7 39.7 41.5 35.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Passat 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 91
Injury 83
Theft 67

Trouble Spots

Coolant leak
Description: Coolant loss on 2.8-liter engines could result from damaged oil cooler hoses. Hoses might be damaged during oil changes. (1998-99)
Coolant leak
Description: Backfires due to faulty plugs dislodge the idle control damper from the rear of the VR6 engine causing rough, or no idle. (1998-04)
Rough idle
Description: Backfires due to faulty plugs dislodge the idle control damper from the rear of the VR6 engine causing rough, or no idle. (1998-04)
Vehicle noise
Description: The speakers in the doors may rattle due to loose rivets. (1998-99)
Description: The windows suffer from stress cracks and distortion. (1999-2000)

Recall History

Description: If engine backfires during cold-start, an air screen loosely seated in airflow meter can become damaged; screen pieces could enter intake system and prevent the throttle plate from returning to its full idle position.
Description: If the rear tire goes flat and the vehicle is driven too long afterwards, the fuel-tank filler neck can wear, causing a fuel leak and possible fire.
1998-99 w/automatic transmission
Description: Control valve may not open or close fully at temperatures below -4 degrees (F) under certain conditions, causing insufficient vacuum for the brake booster.
Description: Some tie-rod seals may not seal properly; if moisture and/or dust particles enter the swivel bearing mechanism, the bearing could wear over time, diminishing steering control.
1999-05 Passat with automatic transmission, produced after June 14, 1999
Description: These vehicles may have an underbody heat shield that can become damaged. If this occurs, the heat shield may contact the exhaust system, which increases risk of fire. Dealers will install additional underbody heat shields on vehicles with automatic transmissions to cover the possibly damaged areas.
1999-05 Passat with 1.8T engine produced after June 14, 1999. Passat with 4Motion all-wheel drive produced after June 14, 1999
Description: A fuel line may leak due to a fracture, which increases risk of fire. Dealers will reroute fuel lines and replace them, if necessary. Also, vehicle software will receive a precautionary update.
Description: Sulfur in fuel could cause fuel gauge to read “full” when the tank is actually less than full.
2004-05 diesel
Description: High-pressure diesel pump may contain an improper fastener, which could allow diesel fuel to escape.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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