The original Volkswagen Passat was launched in 1973. The body types offered originally were two- and four-door sedans and similar looking three- and five-door versions. Externally all four shared a modern fastback style design. In essence, the first Passat was a fastback version of the mechanically identical Audi 80 sedan, introduced a year earlier. A five-door station wagon was introduced in 1974. The Passat originally used the four-cylinder OHC 1.3L (54 hp) and a 1.5L (74 hp) engines, longitudinally mounted with front-wheel drive with either a four-speed manual transmission or three-speed automatic.
In North America, the car was called the Volkswagen Dasher. The three- and five-door hatchback and a station wagon model were launched in 1974 model year. Only available engine was a carbureted 1.5L inline-four developing 75hp, supplanted from model year 1976 by a Bosch fuel-injected 1.6L four with 78hp.
The second generation Volkswagen Passat was launched in 1981. The platform, named B2, was once again based on the corresponding version of the Audi 80, which had been launched in 1978. The B2 Passat was slightly longer and the car’s updated styling was instantly recognizable as a Passat, with the most obvious difference being the rectangular headlights.
In North America, the Passat was sold as the Volkswagen Quantum, available in three-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and a wagon model, but the five-door hatchback was never sold there and the three-door hatchback was dropped after less than two years.
Like the previous generation, the B2 Passat was sold with four-cylinder gas and diesel engines. Unlike its predecessor, however, top-of the line versions received five-cylinder Audi or VW engines of 1.9–2.2L. In addition to four- and five-speed manual and three-speed automatic gearboxes, the Passat was also available with the VW 4+E transmission. This, also called the “Formel E” had a particularly high top gear, which combined with a freewheeling mechanism to provide better gas mileage. An automatic stop/start was also available in some markets. The four-wheel drive system used in the Passat Variant Syncro shared the mechanics of the Audi 80 Quattro.
B3 and B4 (1988–1996)
The third generation Passat was introduced in 1990 in North America. The lack of a grille made the car’s front end styling reminiscent of older, rear-engined Volkswagens such as the 411, and also doubled as a modern styling trend.
At the time it was the first transverse-engine layout Passat to be built on a Volkswagen-designed platform, rather than sharing one with an Audi. The car, although designated B3 in Volkswagen’s platform nomenclature, was based largely on the A platform as used for the smaller Golf/Jetta models, but was stretched in all directions. Many components are shared directly between these vehicles. This generation of Passat was sold as a four-door sedan or a five-door wagon. It was marketed under the Passat name in all markets; in North America, this was a first.
The fuel-injected engines gave better performance and refinement than the carbureted units previously used. They were mounted transversely, and the floorpan was engineered to accept Volkswagen’s ‘Syncro’ four-wheel drive system. In North America, it used a 2.0L 16-valve engine. Later, Volkswagen’s new 2.8L VR6 engine (also used in the Golf and Corrado) in the GLX/GLS model was introduced in 1992 in North America, and the G60 engine (only available on the Syncro model in Canada). The VR6 engine gave the top-of-the-range Passat a top speed of 139 mph. The 1.9L diesel engine was also available as an option.
The B3 Passat was heavily face-lifted in 1993 and although it was designated B4, it was not an all-new model. The facelift revised external body panels except for the roof and glass, with most obvious exterior change seeing the re-introduction of a grille to match the style of the other same-generation Volkswagen models of the era, such as the Mk3 Golf and Jetta. The interior was mildly updated and included safety equipment such as dual front airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners, although the basic dashboard design remained unchanged.
The car was available with a Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engine – an inline four-cylinder 1.9L turbo diesel, generating 155 lb·ft of torque at 1,900 rpm and 89 hp at 3,750 rpm. It carried a U.S. EPA fuel efficiency rating for the sedan of 45 miles per US gallon highway. Combined with a 25.9 gallon gas tank and a 7.4 US gallon reserve option fuel tank, the B4 TDI wagon had a 1200+ mi range on a single tank of fuel. The B4 TDI wagon saw less than 1,000 sales in the U.S. during its 1996 to 1997 lifespan.
B5 and B5.5 (1996–2005)
An all-new Passat, based on the Volkswagen Group B5 platform, was launched in 1996 in Continental Europe, in February 1997 in the United Kingdom, and 1998 in North America. Its platform was shared with the first-generation “Type 8D” Audi A4, which was unveiled 2 years earlier, and saw a return to the Passat sharing its longitudinal engine layout platform with Audi’s equivalent model for the first time since the second-generation (B2) Passat of 1981, which shared its platform with the second-generation “Type 81” Audi 80/Audi 90 (the A4 is the successor to the Audi 80 line).
The car featured a fully independent four-link front suspension; and a semi-independent torsion beam for front-wheel-drive models or a fully independent suspension on the 4motion 4WD models. 4WD was introduced in 1997 as an option for the 1.8, 2.8 V6, 1.9 TDI and 2.5 V6 TDI engines, using a second-generation T-2 based 4WD system to minimize loss of traction.
The 1.8L engine in the Passat and Audi A4 has a lower oil capacity than transverse applications of the same engine (4.6 quarts in transverse, 4.3 quarts longitudinal), and may suffer from oil sludge problems as a result, if not changed at regular intervals with fully synthetic oils. Four transmission options were available: a 5-speed manual transmission, a 6-speed manual transmission, a 4-speed automatic transmission and a 5-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic.
The 1.6 gas engine had been dropped by 1999, leaving the 1.8 20-valve as the entry-level engine.
B5 Passat models built after late 2000, also known as B5.5, received minor styling and mechanical revisions including revised projector-optic headlights, bumpers, tail lights, and chrome trim. The non-turbo 1.8 was discontinued, with an eight-valve 1.6 now being the least powerful engine.
A 4.0L W8 engine was introduced in 2001 in a luxury version of the car that included standard 4motion all-wheel drive. This engine was intended to be a test bed for Volkswagen Group’s new W engine technology, which would later make an appearance on the W12 in the Phaeton, Audi A8, and Bentley Continental GT, and the W16 engine in the Bugatti Veyron. The engine was discontinued in 2004.
B6 and B7 (2005-2010-2015)
Unlike its predecessor, the B6 Passat no longer shared its platform with Audi’s equivalent model (the Audi A4). Based on a modified version of the Mk5 Golf’s PQ46 platform, the B6 featured a transverse rather than longitudinal engine layout of its predecessor, like the previous B3 and B4 generations, which were related to the A2 (Golf) platform.
The transverse-engine layout of the four-wheel drive version, marketed as 4motion, dictated a switch from the Torsen centre differential of the B5, to the Haldex Traction multi-plate clutch. The change to the Haldex system also changes the handling closer to a front-wheel drive car. Compared to the Torsen, the Haldex can direct torque more unequally to the front wheels (from 100:0 to 50:50 front-to-rear bias), thus providing a wider bias range than the 75:25 to 25:75 of the B5 Passat. Haldex is a reactive-type system, behaving as a front-wheel-drive vehicle until slippage is detected, at which point up to a maximum of 50% of the torque can be transmitted to the rear axle.
Fuel Stratified Injection is used in nearly every version of the Passat, ranging from 1.6 to 3.6L, but the multi-valve 2.0L Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) diesel is the most sought after version in Europe. In the U.S. market, a 197 hp 2.0L turbocharged I4 is the base engine, or a 276 hp 3.6L VR6 engine as the upgrade, with six-speed manual (only available on the base 2.0T model) and automatic transmissions. As of the 2009 model year, the VR6 engine and 4motion option were no longer available in the US on the Passat sedan and wagon, but are available on the Passat CC.
The CC (“Comfort Coupé”) is a 4-door “coupé” version of the Passat. Originally aimed at competing with the similarly styled Mercedes CLS, the Passat CC intends to be more stylish and luxurious than the previously released Passat B6. In the U.S., the name “Passat” was dropped, and the car is being sold as “CC”. Some options specific to the CC include hands-free parking, lane-departure prevention, intelligent cruise control, and adaptive suspension. Engines offered in the CC mirror those of the regular Passat, with options of the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, or the optional 3.6-liter VR6, which includes 4-motion all-wheel drive.
The interior featured minor detail changes from the B6, although the basic dashboard design remain unchanged.
The eighth generation model of the Passat was introduced with a great number of advanced driver assistance systems including an semi-automatic parking system, emergency driver assistant which will automatically take control of the vehicle if the driver has suffered a medical emergency, autonomous cruise control system for highway speeds up to 60 km/h, a collision avoidance system with pedestrian monitoring and variable ratio steering marketed as “progressive steering” which will adjust the steering gear ratios in relation to the current speed.
The engine line-up of the Passat B7 was re-introduced with this generation with slightly increased power outputs, variable displacement for the 1.4L TSI engine and two selective catalytic reduction (SCR) diesel engines, with one being twin-turbocharged. A plug-in hybrid, the Passat GTE, with an updated battery pack from the Golf GTE and Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is scheduled for launch in mid-2015 in the United Kingdom with sales commencing in 2016.