VW Passat B5.5, the official chariot of the European diesel enthusiast. This car and the Mk IV Golf were responsible for the diesel craze, the VW craze and the rakja contraband craze in Europe.
Before the VW Passat B5.5 , the german carmaker used to make chariots for the sort of person that was 50 years old, had 2-3 kids, only dressed from the cheapest stores, ate from caned food, dried out the toilet paper in order to re-use it and usually went to the country side during holidays and bought half a pig and 50 litres of home brewn potions.
Simple men, with simple desires. Nothing wrong with this kind of buyer, but these people are usually much too stingy to buy something expensive and upmarket. And so VW decided to buy the Skoda brand and sent all the economy buyers to the economy class – The Mk I Skoda Octavia.
So there it arrived the VW Passat B5.5, which was now built on the Audi A4 platform and came with luxury options and thousands of engine choices. Much like in good old VW traditions, they didn’t really have trim levels back then. You could’ve bought heated leather seats and wood steering wheel on the most basic 1.6 litre petrol, and you could’ve gotten wind-your-own windows and cheap plush upholstery on the most powerful 2.5 litre diesel. 2000’s VW options list – the Wild Wild West of the automotive industry.
And so people flocked over to the Passat B5.5 and ran themselves over much worse than the americans runs themselves over Black Friday, chiefly because these were posh yet basically and robust cars. They also came with the legendary 1.9 TDI 4 cylinder diesel which was reasonably fast, robust, reliable and economical. Most people were convinced by this engine and so everybody started building, selling and buying diesels. The VW Passat quickly became the quintessential four-door saloon with front wheel drive and a 4 cylinder diesel engine. It wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the most luxurious, but people only cared about the 1.9 TDI engine. Because let’s face it, and VW Passat B5.5 has sub-par interior accomodations compared to the competition, sub-par performance and a design that was drawn in 5 minutes. But that diesel engine and that plush interior convinced many Europeans to buy VW for years and centuries to come.
VW Passat B5.5 engines
- 1.6 4-cyl 102 bhp – Fantastic on the Polo, decent on the Golf but way too small for the Passat. Maybe you’d be forced to buy one on the Passat B6 since there it’s the only regular petrol, but on the VW Passat B5.5 there is ample choice of petrol engines. This is engine is way too asthmatic and compensates the lack of air and power with a generous apettite for spark plugs, petrol and oil.
- 1.8 4-cyl 125 bhp – The middle child of the N/A petrol engines, this one’s marginally stronger than the 1.6 but marginally weaker than the 2.0. I guess that the only reason to buy this engine is if you find a good offer on a car. But otherwise, this engine remains in the Purgatory of cars, awaiting judgement.
- 1.8 Turbo of 150 and 170 bhp – Now we’re talking. If you’re not some tractor enthusiast that frequently carries around pigs and schnapps, this sensational engine is the best one yet. Sure, it eats petrol, spark plugs and timing belts, but that performance and sound is well worth it.
- 2.0 4-cyl of 115, 120 and 130 bhp – The famous “ 2.slow “ that sacrificed fuel economy and performance for total reliability. Good luck breaking one of these, good luck getting fast anywhere. Great if combined with an LPG tho.
- 2.3 V5 of 150 and 170 bhp – Unlike the 1.8 Turbo which is all go and no show, this one is no go and all show. Slower than the 1.8 Turbo, less reliable and frowned upon mechanics because they don’t want to work on it, this engine’s saving grace is the sound. That sound. But is it worth the additional taxes and increased maintainance?
- 2.8 Vr6 of 190 bhp – If you’re in the market for an VW Passat B5.5, I have real doubts that you can afford the taxes and maintainance on this monster.
- 4.0 W8 of 275 bhp – Good luck finding one. If you somehow manage to get your hands on one of these, good luck on finding mechanics willing to work on this monster. Fun fact: This engine was the guineea pig for the future 6.0 W12 used in the Audi A8, Bentley Continental and the 8.0 W16 on the Bugatti Veyron.
- 1.9 TDI of 100 and 131 bhp – Most people will probably go for the 100 bhp version, and they’d be wrong. The 131 bhp “ AWX “ version is faster and more reliable. In fact, only 2 versions were worth it: The 90 bhp “ ALH “ and the 131 bhp “ AWX “. Sadly, the VW Passat B5.5 didn’t get the ALH, so go get the AWX. Careful for the 100 bhp version as the turbo is as frail as the confidence of a college graduate going on the work field for the first time.
- 2.0 TDI of 136 bhp – Launched at the end of it’s career, the 2.0 TDI was a limited run Passat B5.5 and fortunately it’s not plagued by the issues of the later B6 2.0 TDI engines. Still not as good as the 1.9 TDI 131 bhp.
- 2.5 V6 TDI of 150, 163 and 180 bhp – The 150 bhp is just no. The 163 and 180 bhp however come with titanium camshafts and so they’re back for performance. But only performance outside the city. Seriously, there are very few engines that are worse for city driving that the 2.5 TDI V6 from VW. Not to mention the increased maintainance costs since this is an V6, not an pigly 4-cyl.
General issues VW Passat B5.5
- The big one is the multi-link suspension with aluminum control bars. Like an older person, the more it walks about the frailer it gets. Initially designed for the finer highways of Europe, once the VW Passat B5.5 got retired and exported to the Balkans it’s frail suspension simply gave up on life. The 1.9 TDI however was still going strong. It’s still going on today.
- You’d think that the multi-link suspension was the frailest thing installed on the VW Passat B5.5. And you’d be wrong. Don’t forget about the automatic gearboxes of the 2000’s VWs.
- Rust. Rust everywhere. Especially at the wheel arches but you can expect it just about everywhere. We’re talking about an early 2000’s VW with billions of kms done under dubious circumstances and even shadier maintainance.
Verdict VW Passat B5.5
If we are on the subject of mileage, it’s harder to find an mint Passat B5.5 than it is to find any sense to this review. So expect lots of problems everywhere. Atleast there will be lots of minor issues, as the sturdy Passat will carry on no matter how little oil it doesn’t get and how much of a bad maintainance it receives.