Is the W8 Passat Wagon the Unicorn of Unicorns?

By Colin Wood
Mar 22, 2021 | VW, wagon, Passat, W8

Before the W12 powerplant made found its way into the Bugatti Veyron and a few Bentley models—companies both owned by VW group—the W first debuted as an eight-cylinder engine.

That W8 engine, essentially two VR4 engines bolted together and sharing a common crankshaft, powered only one VW model line: The humble Passat and Passat wagon.

Rated for 275 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque, the W8 found in the Passat and Passat wagon was mated to VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, and could be had with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

As VW explains, reviews were favorable, but the W8-powered Passat never really caught on, and only around 11,000 examples were ever built.

Want one for yourself? You’ll likely find at least a handful for sale, though expect most to be the sedan, and to equipped with the automatic. On the plus side, a quick internet search shows examples currently selling for well under $10,000.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/18/21 2:43 p.m.

I know buying one wouldn't be the smartest financial decision, but these sound way better than they have any right to:


m4ff3w GRM+ Memberand UberDork
3/18/21 2:47 p.m.

When I saw the thread title, I came to post that video.

I'm almost dumb enough to try a W8.

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/18/21 3:06 p.m.

When I was in the market for my first family car, I looked at Passat Wagons. I couldn't swing the W8, but when looking at VR6 versions, the W8s were in the dealerships. Really great looking car, the interiors were way ahead of the domestics. Ultimately we went with a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but I still have a soft spot for VW wagons, and a W8 would be awesome.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/18/21 3:07 p.m.

In reply to m4ff3w :

My thinking exactly, especially considering how inexpensive they are currently.

Maybe I could take all that money I'd save and invest in a live-in mechanic.

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
3/18/21 3:10 p.m.

Certainly one of the hardest modern engines to get parts for... didn't we have a thread here about somebody making a set of bearings for a W8 by taking bearings from another VW motor and cutting them in half?

FMB42 Reader
3/18/21 3:12 p.m.

Never knew a thing about them. Super cool to say the least. Both in looks and the power plant. AWD and available 6 spd man... It just checks all the boxes on my endless list. Thanks for posting (or maybe not).

iansane Reader
3/18/21 3:15 p.m.

I see a w8 wagon around every once in awhile. It's lowered with wheels and some really, really good sounding exhaust. I always feel like giving him a thumbs up or something but people around here tend to get confused when you try to show appreciation for their vehicle. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong.

02Pilot UltraDork
3/18/21 3:29 p.m.

My mother had one (sedan, automatic). The prospect of terrifyingly expensive failures was enough to eventually convince her to sell it, but it did make nice noises and had plenty of grunt, even stock.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/18/21 3:46 p.m.

I know of a W8 4 motion manual passat that's a sedan for sale in Maryland stupid cheap. Apparently there's a mobilizer issue with the key, but the seller does have title in hand, they just have little to no interest in the platform

NickD MegaDork
3/18/21 4:04 p.m.

Ahh, that era when VW went absolutely batE36 M3 insane and cranked out some absolutely nonsensical vehicles: the W8 Passat, the W12 Phaeton, the twin-turbo V10 diesel Touareg. All nightmarish and expensive to keep running, but, still, damn impressive. 

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
3/18/21 5:55 p.m.

Yes. Also, don't buy one. VVT screen clogs up and it's a day long job just to fix it and is maybe the least fun thing I have ever done. Ever.

Honsch Reader
3/18/21 7:47 p.m.

We seriously thought about putting one in our VW Fox race car.

We went turbo instead because of parts availability.

MrChaos GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/18/21 8:13 p.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

Certainly one of the hardest modern engines to get parts for... didn't we have a thread here about somebody making a set of bearings for a W8 by taking bearings from another VW motor and cutting them in half?

yes with a hacksaw...

03Panther SuperDork
3/18/21 9:44 p.m.

Maybe its just me, but since "V" engines get there name from the look of the "\ /", wouldn't a "W" engine look more like this: "\ | /" :

Two 4 cyl. engine's sharing a common crank, in a "\ /" configuration looks an awful loot like a V8 to me. But I ain't a marketing executive, so I guess they can call it what they want

Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
3/18/21 9:57 p.m.

In reply to 03Panther :

It looks like this:

Vajingo HalfDork
3/19/21 12:01 a.m.

Really wished they made a w4. Talk about engine bay room. 

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/19/21 1:57 a.m.

In reply to Vajingo :

And vibration. 

03Panther SuperDork
3/19/21 2:10 a.m.

In reply to Slippery (Forum Supporter) :

Thanks! great picture for the explanation. That is one cool looking engine block.

KyAllroad (Jeremy) (Forum Supporter)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
3/19/21 9:06 a.m.

Neat cars.  Before anyone is tempted to buy one, also remember that the suspension is hideously complicated and will wear out control arms in a matter of days once the first one goes.

I'll stick with my VR-6 4Motion wagon from the next generation thanks.  Far simpler and more robust design.  Making more power while getting better mileage. Just no stick shift.

Vajingo HalfDork
3/19/21 9:16 a.m.
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to Vajingo :

And vibration. 

Right! A crank shaft about an inch long. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/19/21 11:30 a.m.

Did the wagon come in beige? If so, a beige W8-powered, stick shift Passat wagon would be the unicorns of unicorns. 

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/19/21 11:34 a.m.

In reply to Vajingo :

More so that you'd never have cylinders firing opposite of each other that are inline if laid out in a W4. 

8valve Reader
3/22/21 1:51 p.m.

+1 Almost dumb enough.  If wagoning like to think I'd have enough sense to wagon sommenlike this instead..


8valve Reader
3/22/21 5:45 p.m.

Eh who we fooling, would buy if I found one.  Just like you guys.

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