Used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Diesel

1997 Volkswagen Passat
List price range
1997 Volkswagen Passat


  • Huge interior with lots of leg room, superb seats, excellent road manners


  • 2.8-liter V-6 responds sluggishly when harnessed to automatic transmission
Volkswagen Passat years

Used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Diesel for Sale

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

The Passat has never sold well in the United States. Weak original engine choices, ineffective early marketing efforts, and a muddled brand identity that defeated sales across the board have all contributed to this car's seemingly invisible presence in the market. Of course, its plain-vanilla styling didn't let the Passat stand out for much recognition other than the lack of a grille on the nose.

Volkswagen managed to increase brand awareness and sales lately, and the Passat has received a good bit of attention during the past few years. The 2.8-liter V6 that has literally transformed Volkswagen's lineup from staid German sedans to road cars brimming with vitality was transplanted into the Passat four years ago. A couple years later, a revised exterior design gave this Volkswagen more character, and included a grille for the first time. Passats came fully loaded in one trim level for 1995; the only options were an automatic transmission, a sunroof and a CD player. Antilock brakes and traction control were standard equipment. With a singular GLX trim level, fresh styling, and renewed performance ability, Volkswagen focused the Passat's mission, and became the focus of people who appreciate quick, well-equipped German cars. Priced in the low 20's, and equipped with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, the Passat GLX was a real bargain.

Marketers fiddled with the Passat recipe again last year, and we feared that the focus placed on the excellent GLX would become blurred with the arrival of newcomers. The bare-bones entry-level Passat GLS debuted with the meager 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from the Golf. At $18,000, the GLS was no match for the Ford Contour SE, which offers the same tight European driving manners and a whole lot more speed for the same price. Even Volkswagen's own Jetta GLS made better sense.

Later in 1996, a TDI (Turbo Direct Injection) diesel model arrived. Volkswagen said it was one quick, clean and quiet diesel. Still, the hit-and-miss availability of diesel fuel and relatively low prices for gasoline in the United States made us wonder why VW thinks North America needs a diesel Passat.

Evidently, the GLS idea didn't fly. It's gone for 1997. The TDI is still scarce, thanks to quality problems, and may not survive much longer in the U.S. market. This means buyers really have just one readily available choice when buying a Passat.

Fine and dandy, Jack. The GLX is still the one and only Passat to consider, in our opinion. It continues to offer an excellent blend of value, performance and exclusivity, in either sedan or wagon format. So what do you think a fully-loaded German sport sedan (or wagon) might cost? The base price of a new Passat GLX is roughly equivalent to the price of a well-equipped Taurus GL. Surprise, surprise. We think you ought to try the Passat GLX whether or not performance is important to you. It's a good car at a fair price, with the ability to put a grin on your face every time you drive it.

1997 Highlights

GLS model vanishes from radar as Volkswagen prepares for launch of all-new Passat in mid-1997.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Volkswagen Passat.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

Drivetrain to die for!
Yes, it has hardware issues: door latches, power window alignment, ignition keyswitch (recall issued), electrical gremlins... But even with all that, I love this car! But I am an engineer and tinkerer, own the Bentley repair manual, and don't mind pulling the door panel off, either. 179000 miles and climbing 30K+/year. We'll grow old together. Drive this car hard and it will NOT ever smoke - the computer craves to be driven!
German Engineering
Purchased my VW Passat TDI in March of 1997 after reviewing several articles on the TDI engine. Hard to believe you can get that great fuel mileage in a mid-size vehicle. No American made auto can do that. I have almost 150,000 miles on it now and it still runs great. I like going almost 900 miles before I have to fill up again. I change the oil every 5,000 miles and the timing belt every 60,000.
Miracle MPG with the Passat TDI diesel
My 1997 Passat TDI has been great. There's no smoking or tat-tat-tat engine stereotypes. The torque is high, so acceleration is quite good (better than my '87 Saab 9000). The miracle is the gas mileage! The worst I've had in 5 years is 41 mpg, while the best was 59.7 mpg on the highway in May 2002. Devoted use of synthetic oil and use of Amaco's 47 centane diesel fuel has aided mpg. One quibble...the door handles are bad, but otherwise maintenance has been very cheap, and only for expected items (brake pads, scheduled timing belt replacement, etc.). Replacing the original Goodyear tires with Michelins improved performance. Cold weather has been NO problem at all.
I love Diesel
Sean La Garde,01/06/2003
I have put all but 17 miles of the 97000 miles I have on it. I get great fuel mileage and have had very little problems. The only major problem was a cracked valve in the brake vacume line. Scared the pants of me. I plan to keep her for another 100k
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Features & Specs

32 city / 42 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
32 city / 42 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
See all Used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Diesel features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Volkswagen Passat
Used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Diesel Overview

The Used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Diesel is offered in the following styles: TDi 4dr Wagon, and TDi 4dr Sedan.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Diesel?

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Which used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Diesels are available in my area?

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Can't find a used 1997 Volkswagen Passat Passat Diesel you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Volkswagen Passat for sale - 11 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $25,187.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 7 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $18,180.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen Passat for sale - 6 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $13,329.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen for sale - 3 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $9,353.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Volkswagen Passat?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Volkswagen lease specials
Check out Volkswagen Passat lease specials