VW Passat 2.3 V5 | Shed of the Week

The V5 wasn't long for this world. But the Passat has well-earned its reputation after nearly 50 years

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 21 October 2022 / Loading comments

Got a large family? Or, like Shed, large members of a family? If so, you need a Volkswagen Passat. That was the original selling shtick for the first Passat range – a four-door saloon, a five-door estate and believe it or not a two-door coupe – that came out in 1973. They were all designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the styling ace behind not just classic supercars but also more everyday vehicles like the first Golf. 

Over the following decades, the Passat’s Italianate elegance was gradually replaced by Teutonic stolidity. That was fine actually because Passat buyers were looking for solidity, which as any fool could see was the same as stolidity only without the t. 

Volkswagen wasn’t wrong to add mundanity to the Passat design because it went on to become a steady seller for nearly half a century. You might be surprised to hear that you can still buy a brand-new B8 from Volkswagen UK, and by the looks of things the Passat will continue to feature in VW’s brochure until next year, qualifying it for a 50th birthday cake – good going for a modern car. You can’t order a new Passat saloon anymore though. That production line closed down at the end of 2021, killed off like so many other saloon lines by the SUV surge. Passat Estates do continue however, at prices starting from £32,580. 

The starting price of our B5 saloon shed when it first appeared in PH Classifieds a couple of weeks ago was £1,490, but it’s just had a big haircut to £990 which makes it somewhat more attractive. It was already fairly attractive by virtue of it being a V5. In an engineer’s dream world a V5 engine should have had the turbine-like willingness of a six and the fill-in torque of a four, but somehow all the normally-aspirated fives Shed can think of ended up with the performance of a four and the fuel consumption of a six. On the positive side they could be made to sound quite nice, especially in the purring midrange, but your only reward for exploring the upper rev ranges in search of more thrills was increasing harshness. 

So, Shed is fully expecting to see a few ‘yeah, sounds quite good but the power and mpg figures don’t stack up’ comments, and in fairness if they do appear in the forum there’ll be some truth to them. A pre-2001 V5 produced 150hp from its 2.3-litre V5 10-valve engine – basically a VR6 with a cylinder sawn off – but the nature of the power delivery meant that it was half a second slower from 0-62mph than the 150hp 1.8-litre turbo Passat. 

The good news about our shed is that it is a 2001 car so it will have the upgraded 170hp 20-valve motor. It still won’t feel quick but it will feel pretty laid back. This one has done nearly 160,000 miles and that might mean a degree of top-end thrash from a probably enloosened cam chain. Clatter will be especially obvious on a cold engine, so if you’re going to view the car make sure you ask the vendor not to warm it up in advance. 

The word ‘inspiring’ never appeared in any assessment of a B5 Passat’s handling and the too-light steering could add unwanted moments of excitement when towing a hefty caravan, but Passats did an honest job of work for many. Shed is personally slightly wary of B5s having briefly owned one that behaved very oddly as a result of the main comfort ECU turning to mush as a result of water getting into the passenger footwell as a result of the battery tray drainholes getting blocked. Crossed, soggy and generally munged-up wires meant that when he tried to toot the horn his window would go down, when he pressed the heated rear window switch the foglight came on, and when he went to indicate left Mrs Shed made a funny squeaking noise in the passenger seat. She never told him why, but every now and then she will ask him about that old Passat with a misty look in her one good eye. 

The only other Passat V5 to appear in this space was back in spring 2014. After three or four too many pints of home-brew Shed began woffling on about Fiat’s five-cylinder engine, which according to him was a 24-valver. He was picked up on that by PHer Crostonian who tried to claim some sort of prize for his cleverness. Needless to say he received nothing. Anybody can make a mistake, including the Passat’s MOT tester who puzzlingly wrote about its central rear brake. 

Talking of which, the MOT on this one runs to next February. If the advisories haven’t been attended to, there will eventually be some front suspension expenses (faulty front lower wishbones were the subject of a global recall in 2001) but if the contents of the boot are allowed to remain where they are then at least the next owner won’t have to buy new brake discs. 

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