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.
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.
I bought mine used with 84,000 miles on it. It now is 115,000 miles. It has been a fun to drive experience. Its handling and brakes are excellent. The engine is strong and the transmission's fine. It will be a dream car, but has electronic flaws. It seems that the computer is haunted. The check engine light is annoying. It took three visits to fix it, and still no result. After three weeks, it went off by itself. Now it is coming on just from time to time, for no more than five minutes. The sunroof contact bad. Cruise control dead. The only big problem was one with the power engine module which cost $600 to fix. But the way this car handles the curves is impressive. The turbo lag is not very bad if you know how to deal with. Now the CV joints are bad, but is not car's fault. I like to press gas pedal too much in the curves. I'll buy another one in a heartbeat.
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).
First 20,000 miles in my 1998 Volkswagen Passat went fine. Then, the door locks broke, now twice, the cassette broke, the engine light comes on when ever it wants to, the moonroof opens by itself, cruise control works 10% of the time, and I needed a new serpetine belt which cost over $500 because the whole front end has to be removed. Also, the ABS brake system doesn't work, the light is on and the dealer quoted $2,100 to fix it. Finally my car had an oil pump failure and I had to replace the engine and turbo for $7,000. The dealer won't work on cars with over 100,000 miles and the Bosch dealer says all of these problems are common. I can't afford this piece of junk, and don't know how I will ever get rid it.