Purchased a 1998 1.8T passat with a blown engine for $1000 and I rebuilt the engine over the summer. There is a lot of chatter about oil sludge destroying these engines, this is completely false! Oil comes through a metal tube around the back of the engine over the catalytic converter, exhaust manifold and through the turbo charger. Non-synthetic oil cokes (forms hard particles called turbo-turds)inside all of these components. Eventually enough of this coked oil breaks free, clogs the oil sump screen and oil starvation occurs. This is what causes the vast majority of 1.8T engines to fail. Either VW engineers are complete idiots or this is an engine designed to fail.
While rebuilding the engine I also replaced the metal oil feed lines, and installed an oil pressure gauge. For $1000 + $1500 in parts I had a 89 passat is a rebuilt engine. My wife drove the car for about 3K miles and the automatic transmission failed! The internal D Clutch snapped in half!
This is a widely know problem with the ZF TipTronic transmissions used by Porche, BMW and VW.
Car still drives and handles well but costly electrical problems have developed, forcing me to donate it on the market after 142,000 miles. Sunroof and door locks mysteriously stopped working--costly to repair.
Brakes, overall handling. Smooth and quiet on the highway.
This car handled like a dream. It had great pick-up, suspension and was a blast to drive. The honeymoon, however, was short lived. It shortly became a money pit! I was only the second owner and bought it with 17,000 miles on it. The turbo quit at 70,000 miles and required $2000 to fix it in 2003. Then, the spark plug broke and fell into the piston shortly thereafter. That was another small fortune to fix. Then the cruise control worked only once in while. The transmission started cutting up and I sold it.
The handling, the interior finish, comfortable ride for tall people. Beautiful car, very classy exterior. People loved this car.
Repair costs! And a turbo that can actually last the life of the engine. A new model that doesn't require premium gas. VW dealers that actually try to give customer service. The selling dealer was good, but had bad experiences in both Savannah, GA and during a visit to Los Angeles.
My next car will be a plug in, but in the meanwhile I have few complaints about my manual 98 Passat, or the dealership. Bought new, used only in CA, and still a pleasure to drive. Mileage 25-27 mpg. Things do occasionally go wrong, but mostly they are under warranty. I added up my unexpected repairs over the past 10 years, and found they came to less than $5,000, or $500 per year. New alternator, 2 new batteries, new brakes, a gasket or two, minor suspension repairs, etc., but none of the spine-chilling disasters you can read about elsewhere on this blog. I'm lucky! I plan to keep it until that new plug-in (or 60 mpg diesel) shows up at the dealer. (My other car is a 2004 Prius).
Ride, acceleration, handling, relative quiet, good looks.
Up until I owned my awesome 2007 BMW 335i coupe, there was no car I had more fun driving and showing off than my sporty and sexy white Passat. Guys dug the car and girls dug me (cuz of the car)! But that's not really important. The car looks great. At the time, the design was new and totally original; soon it would be replicated in almost every make on the road. And like most VeeDubs, the interior was modern with lots of new tech. It was comfy to sit in for hours and the drive was gutsy. The turbo, even though with significant lag, gave the engine amazing boost. It made 150 horses feel like 200. So it's too bad that it spent so much time in the shop.
The looks and style - inside and out. The turbo charged 1.8L engine. The VW badge and coolness factor.
Reliability! This will be the downfall of VW if they don't make their cars to a higher quality standard. If only they were more durable. VW's are notorious for engine and tranny problems, as well as having pernicious little failures occur constantly.