Volkswagen Passat Generations: Through the Years

The Passat morphed from a ‘70s car into a sleek, shiny 2000s model. See the progression through all of the Volkswagen Passat generations!

Volkswagen Passat Beginnings

Volkswagen Passat Generations -

Volkswagen Passat Generations – |  Shop Volkswagen Passat on

The Volkswagen Passat isn’t immediately mentioned by a lot of people when talking about the greatest automobiles ever made, but it’s actually one of the best-selling cars of all time! More than the Volkswagen Beetle, more than the Honda Civic, more than the Ford Model T, and more than the Chevy Impala. The Volkswagen Passat trumps them all in sales.

Like many cars, the Passat started as a replacement for a not-so-successful predecessor. The Passat, though, was an immediate favorite. At times, the Passat shared components with other Audi and Volkswagen vehicles, but it developed a reputation of its own as it evolved in size, shape, and style. This is one of those vehicles that has been sold all over the world, so there are variants, different generations for different markets, and special editions.

Overall, the Passat ran for eight generations before it was only recently discontinued. The last Passat assembled in the United States may have rolled off the line in Chattanooga, Tennessee this past January, but it’s got a legacy that will live on. Let’s take a look back at how the Passat changed (and stayed ahead of the competition) over the course of 49 years.

1st Generation Volkswagen Passat (1973-1980)

1973 Volkswagen Passat -
1973 Volkswagen Passat -
  • Although the Volkswagen Passat replaced the Volkswagen K70, the very first Passat was based on the Audi 80, which was launched a year earlier than the Passat. These two vehicles shared a platform and some engines.
  • In German, the word “Passat” means trade-wind, but the Passat was initially named “Dasher” in America.
  • The vehicle was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro as an all-around family vehicle. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve mentioned the famed Giugiaro several times before in articles like: Shark-Inspired Vehicles, The Edsel and Other Epic Automotive Flops, and Cars That Saved Their Companies.
  • The 1973 Volkswagen Passat was an instant hit, in part, due to its versatility. It was first available as two or four-door fastback sedans.
  • The Passat offered petrol or diesel engines. A four-cylinder 1.3-liter overhead camshaft engine was used to make 54 horsepower and 65 lb-ft of torque.
First Generation Passats -
First Generation Passats -
  • Another option was a 1.5-liter petrol engine that delivered 84 horsepower and 89 lb-ft of torque, also used in the Audi 80.
  • It was the 1974 Passat, or Dasher, that was the first model year to make it to North America.
  • The 1975 Passat added three and five-door models in the form of a hatchback.
  • That 1.5-liter engine became a 1.6-liter engine in the 1976 Volkswagen Passat. It made 85 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque.
  • The interior was updated with a new dashboard and some slight restyling starting with the 1978 model. Customers could buy the 1978 Passat with two rectangular headlights or four circular headlights.
1977 Dasher -
1977 Dasher -
  • The 1978 Passat was Volkswagen’s chance to increase comfort, reduce engine noise, and differentiate the Passat from the Audi 80.
  • The 1979 Passat added a 49-horsepower 1.5-liter diesel engine. It was the same engine used in the VW Golf at the time (for more on the Golf, click on our Volkswagen Golf Through the Years article).
  • A fuel-injected version of the 1.6-liter engine was added in the 1980 Passat GLI.
  • In America, the 1978 Dasher received a facelift as well. It more closely matched the lines of the European Passat.
  • A 1.5-liter diesel engine was another option for the 1979 Dasher. This one made 48 horsepower.

2nd Generation (1982-1988)

1980 Volkswagen Passat -
1980 Volkswagen Passat -
  • Volkswagen kicked off the second generation of the 1982 Passat with a B2 platform, used on mid-size automobiles like the Audi 80. This generation was offered as hatchbacks, station wagons, and sedans.
  • It was marketed as the Volkswagen Santana in Europe, but buyers praised the ride quality, the handling, and safety features in the vehicle.
  • Volkswagen added front-wheel drive to the 1982 Passat while competitors like Fiat and Renault were using rear-wheel drive for their sedans.
  • This model was available with a four-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission that made 60 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque.
  • The B2 Volkswagen Passat achieved 31 miles per gallon in the United States. There, it was called the Quantum.
1980 Volkswagen Passat -
1980 Volkswagen Passat -
  • The 1982 Quantum (also known as the Passat B2) came as a wagon, a three-door hatchback, and a four-door sedan. Two engines were available: a 74-horsepower four-cylinder or a 78-horsepower fuel-injected 1.6-liter four.
  • It was based on the European Audi 80, known as the Audi 4000 in the U.S.
  • Space for passengers increased, but folding rear seats also increased luggage capacity by 29 cu-ft.
  • There were no major changes in the 1983 or 1984 Passat models. Volkswagen was working on some changes during that time though.
1987 Volkswagen Passat -
1987 Volkswagen Passat -
  • It wasn’t available until a couple of years later, but the Volkswagen Passat Variant Syncro, a four-wheel drive version of the vehicle, debuted at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • The 1985 Passat received a minor facelift on the outside
  • was available as a four-wheel drive wagon with a 1.9 or 2.2-liter five-cylinder engine that made up to 134 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque. This was the version of the Passat that was called the Syncro.
  • It was during this generation of the Passat that Volkswagen produced and sold models in Mexico, China, South Africa, and parts of South America under various names, including the VW Corsar, VW Carat, and VW Quantum.
  • Production for the second generation of the Volkswagen Passat ended with the 1988 model. Around 4.5 million units of this generation were sold worldwide during the six-year period. 3.3 million of them were manufactured in Germany.

3rd Generation Volkswagen Passat (1989-1992)

1989 Volkswagen Passat -
1989 Volkswagen Passat -
  • The third generation, known as the Volkswagen Passat B3, debuted in March 1988 in Europe, in 1989 in America, and in 1995 in South America. For the first time the vehicle was badged as the Passat in all North American markets.
  • This completely new vehicle, designed by Herbert Schäfer, left the boxy appearance behind for curvier lines. It was only available as a four-door sedan or 5-door station wagon, not as a fastback as it had been in previous generations.
  • Up front was no grille. Instead, you could only find a Volkswagen logo.
1992 Volkswagen Passat Variant and Passat -
1992 Volkswagen Passat Variant and Passat -
  • The new platform was based on the smaller Golf Mk2, though the Passat was bigger. It had a transversely mounted engine.
  • Gasoline engine options in this model maxed out with the 2.8-liter VR6, putting out 172 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. The 1.6-liter diesel made 80 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque.
  • The B3 lineup in Europe offered features like automatic air conditioning and self-leveling air suspension.

4th Generation (1995-1997)

1996 Volkswagen Passat -
1996 Volkswagen Passat -
  • A heavy facelift in 1993 (for the 1995 model in America) included the external body panels and the return of a grille.
  • This model was designated as the Passat B4. It was available as a sedan and a wagon.
  • The 1995 Passat had one trim level in the United States
  • Volkswagen offered drivers two powertrain choices: a four-cylinder that made 115 horsepower or a VR6 that made 172 horsepower. An inline four-cylinder 1.9-liter turbodiesel that made 90 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque was added to the 1996 Passat.
1996 Volkswagen Passat -
1996 Volkswagen Passat -
  • In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency marked the Passat B4 down as achieving 45 MPG on the highway.
  • The interior of the B4 Passat was also updated to include dual airbags and seat belt pretensioners. The dashboard was given a curved design.
  • Five passengers could fit in the 1995 Passat, but one of the three rear passengers had to set their feet on the transmission tunnel.

5th Generation Volkswagen Passat (1998-2005)

2004 Volkswagen Passat Wagon -
2004 Volkswagen Passat Wagon -
  • The body of the Passat became even more aerodynamic with the B5 and B5.5 during the fifth generation of the vehicle. This platform was shared with Audi again, this time with the Audi A4.
  • It was launched in February 1997 in Europe, and later in 1998 in North American markets, with front-wheel drive or with four-wheel drive ability.
  • Engine options included a 1.8-liter, 1.9-liter TDI, 2.0-liter TDI, 2.5-liter V6, or 2.8-liter V6 engine that made 190 horsepower and 206 lb-ft of torque. U.S. customers had to pay a $2,500 tariff to get the 2.8-liter V6.
  • All 1998 Passat engines were mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
  • For the 2000 Passat, the radio display and anti-theft system were updated.
  • The B5.5 arrived in America in the 2001 Passat. It included some updated exterior styling and some boosted power for the 1.8-liter turbocharged engine. It put out 170 horsepower with 166 lb-ft of torque. The previous version of the engine made 150 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque.
2000 Volkswagen Passat -
2000 Volkswagen Passat -
  • A 2002 Passat update added a 4.0-liter W8 to the engine lineup. It made 271 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.
  • The W8 engine and a six-speed manual transmission was available on 2003 Volkswagen Passat sedans and wagons. 2003 models also included a GL base trim.
  • Alloy wheels became standard on GLS trims in the 2003 Passat. So did the sunroof.
  • The 2004 Passat involved more upgrades under the hood. It added a 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder engine to put out 134 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque.
  • A few minor updates were made to the GLS and GLX trims, but no significant updates were made outside of the new engine option.
  • As of the 2005 Passat, the W8 engine was dropped from the lineup.

6th Generation (2006-2011)

2006 Volkswagen Passat -
2006 Volkswagen Passat -
  • For the sixth generation of the Passat, Volkswagen designated the name B6. The vehicle was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2005.
  • This Passat didn’t share a body with an Audi. Instead, it was a long-wheelbase version of the Volkswagen Golf and Jetta. The new body added three inches in length and three inches in width.
  • The 2.0-liter diesel was dropped from the engine choices in the 2006 Passat, but a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo and 3.6-liter V6 were available. The 3.6 V6 used an automatic transmission to put out 280 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque.
  • With the inline four-cylinder, the 2006 Passat got 21 MPG in the city and 29 MPG on the highway.
  • Passat trims included the Value Edition, 2.0T, 3.6, and 3.6 4Motion. The Value Edition was equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, an eight-speaker stereo, MP3 capability, keyless entry, and power-heated mirrors.
2006 Volkswagen Passat V6 -
2006 Volkswagen Passat V6 -
  • All models were FWD except for the 3.6 4Motion trim, which was all-wheel drive (AWD).
  • The cabin of the 2006 Passat included 2.4 additional inches of legroom and higher quality materials throughout.
  • Volkswagen also added more storage capacity, including larger bins in the cabin and an umbrella holder in the driver’s side door.
  • An updated adaptive cruise control system was added to the 2007 Volkswagen Passat, along with an input jack for the stereo system.
2011 Volkswagen Passat -
2011 Volkswagen Passat -
  • Trim levels changed for the 2008 Passat resulting in the Turbo, the Komfort, the Lux, and the VR6, which came standard with the 4Motion AWD system.
  • After expanding trim levels the year before, Volkswagen eliminated several of them on the 2009 Passat. The sole trim was the FWD Komfort with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
  • Higher-end features that were previously available, like leather seating and xenon headlights, were no longer available in the 2009 Passat.
  • A new DSG dual-clutch automated manual transmission was added to the 2010 Passat, replacing the previous automatic.
  • Bluetooth connectivity became a standard feature in the 2010 model while new 18-inch wheels were optional.

7th Generation Volkswagen Passat (2012-2019)

2012 Volkswagen Passat -
2012 Volkswagen Passat -
  • A fully redesigned 2012 Volkswagen Passat was the first Passat to come out of Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Three trim levels include the S, SE, and SEL.
  • The sole 2.0-liter turbo from the previous model was axed. Instead, Volkswagen offered a 2.5-liter inline-5 from the Volkswagen Jetta, a 2.0-liter inline-4 diesel from the Volkswagen Jetta and Volkswagen Golf, or a 3.6-liter V6. The V6 is at the top end of the power spectrum with 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
  • All engines in the 2012 Passat have a six-speed automatic transmission, but manual gearboxes are offered with the 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter engines as well.
  • Noticeable changes inside the 2012 Passat include an extra three inches of legroom for rear passengers, steering wheel audio controls, automatic dual-zone climate control, and an overall 15.9 cu-ft of cargo space.
  • The 2013 Passat added a Wolfsburg trim between the S and SE trim levels.
  • A rearview camera was made available for the first time as well.
2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE -
2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE -
  • The 2.5-liter engine from the 2012 and 2013 models was replaced with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine on the 2014 Volkswagen Passat. This engine was only available on the SEL.
  • An additional 10 horsepower was added to the 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI thanks to a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. The upgrade resulted in 150 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque.
  • In the United States, the Volkswagen Passat continued on mostly as it was before. Elsewhere the 2015 Passat ushered in a completely new Platform: the MQB. This transverse, front-engine, FWD layout was first introduced in the Volkswagen Golf Mk7 in 2012.
  • The MQB code name stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, which translates to, “Modular Transversal Toolkit,” in English.
  • All previous V6 engines were dropped, replaced by inline engines. Models sold in America retained the available V6 engine.
  • The 2015 Passat was available as a plug-in hybrid in the GTE trim for the first time ever.
2016 Volkswagen Passat -
2016 Volkswagen Passat -
  • Instead of expanding, this generation got shorter by 0.08 inches. The wheelbase grew by over three inches, however. Volkswagen shifted the front wheels over an inch towards the front bumper and the rear wheels about half an inch towards the rear bumper.
  • Volkswagen added features to make the 2015 Passat more sophisticated. New smart features included traffic jam assist, trailer assist, emergency assist, and semi-automatic parking.
  • This Passat also included a new rear seat entertainment system.
  • Back in America, the 2016 Passat was given driver-assistance capability in the form of collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic braking.
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were also available for the first time in the 2016 Passat.
  • The R-Line was added as a trim in the 2016 model, too.
2018 Volkswagen Passat GT -
2018 Volkswagen Passat GT -
  • The arrival of the 2017 Volkswagen Passat in America came with the elimination of the SEL trim. Forward collision warning and emergency braking became standard features across the lineup.
  • An updated turbo-four engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission increased output in the 2018 Volkswagen Passat to 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. With FWD, the sedan got 25 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway.
  • Volkswagen added another trim to the 2018 Passat: the GT, a mix of the previous R-Line and SE trims.
  • The discontinuation of the 3.6-liter V6 engine finally caught up to American Passat buyers starting with the 2019 model. The lone engine was a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that made 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It was partnered with a six-speed automatic transmission.
  • Again, Volkswagen shifted trim levels in the 2019 Passat. They offered the Wolfsburg Edition and the SE R-Line. It was still a fourth-generation vehicle there.

8th Generation (2020-2022)

2020 Volkswagen Passat -
2020 Volkswagen Passat -
  • The 2020 version of the Passat saw some minor styling updates, inside and out. Faux wood trim could be found in the cabin. A new front fascia and grille enhanced the exterior of the 2020 Passat.
  • Despite not being a complete overhaul, the 2020 Passat kicked off the eighth generation of the sedan in North America.
  • The SEL trim was dropped from 2021 Volkswagen Passat models. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and adaptive cruise control became standard features, too.
  • 2022 became the final production for the Volkswagen Passat. The version of the Passat sold to North American markets hadn’t seen a major update since 2012.
2022 Volkswagen Passat -

2022 Volkswagen Passat – |  Shop Volkswagen Passat on

  • There were no major updates to the 2022 Passat other than some trim shifts.
  • A top-of-the-line Limited Edition trim was added to mark the final year of its storied run. Meanwhile, the S trim was eliminated from the lineup.
  • The 2022 Passat Limited Edition was outfitted with 15-spoke 18-inch wheels, genuine leather upholstery, heated rear seats, driver’s seat memory settings, automated parking, and unique adaptive headlights that rotate in the same direction as the steering wheel.
  • The Limited Edition starts at $30,295. There are just 1,973 of them available.

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Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University. No stranger to newsgathering and reporting, Jesse spent 13 years in TV news. 10 of those years were spent working in Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR. A highlight of his time there was being able to take a lap around the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His interest in vehicles, starting with Matchbox cars, a Big Wheel, and the Transformers, evolved into taking photos of motocross events. Now, he puts his research skills to use on car culture, reviews, and comparisons.

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