The Volkswagen Passat is a large family car marketed by Volkswagen Passenger Cars through six design generations since 1973. Between the Volkswagen Golf / Volkswagen Jetta and the Volkswagen Phaeton in the current Volkswagen line-up, the Passat and its derivatives have been badged variously as Dasher, Santana, Quantum, Magotan, Corsar and Carat. The successive generations of the Passat carry the VW internal designations B1, B2, etc.
The Passat was placed in the middle of the sedan/saloon market segment at its introduction in 1973. Sales of the aging Beetle were declining and larger air-cooled rear-engined models like the Volkswagen Type 3 and 411 and 412 were based on older technology.
Following the Volkswagen Group's acquisition of Audi in 1964, Volkswagen used new engineering expertise to develop a modern front-wheel drive car with a water-cooled engine, and thus the Passat and Golf (the latter being introduced in 1974) were the first of a new generation of Volkswagen cars. The first Passat was developed partly from the Audi 80/Fox and, until 2005, the two shared a history.
During its development phase, the Passat was designated internally as EA400 (Entwicklungsauftrag 400, or "Development Order 400"), and well before its launch, production of the Volkswagen Type 3 at the Wolfsburg plant had been stopped in order to free up capacity for the new car. Wolfsburg was able to ramp up production carefully: directly before Passat production started the lines were used to assemble small volumes of the car's Audi 80 sibling which had been launched a year earlier.
The nameplate Passat derives from the German word for tradewind — and the period in its history when Volkswagen named vehicles after prominent winds, including also Golf (after the Gulf stream), Jetta (after Jet stream), and Scirocco (after Sirocco).
B1 (Typ 32, 1973–1981)
The original Volkswagen Passat was launched in 1973. The body types offered originally were 2- and 4-door sedans and similar looking three- and five-door versions. Externally all four shared a modern fastback style design, styled by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. In essence, the first Passat was a fastback version of the mechanically identical Audi 80 sedan, introduced a year earlier. A five-door station wagon/estate was introduced in 1974. In Europe, the Passat was equipped with 2 rectangular, 2 round 7", or 4 round 5.5" headlights depending on specification. The Passat was one of the most modern European family cars at the time, and was intended as a replacement for the aging Volkswagen Type 3 and Type 4.
The Passat originally used the 4 cylinder OHC 1.3 l (55 PS (40 kW; 54 hp)) and 1.5 l (75 PS (55 kW; 74 hp)/85 PS (63 kW; 84 hp)) petrol engines also used in the Audi 80—longitudinally mounted with front-wheel drive, in Audi tradition, with either a 4-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic. It had a MacPherson strut front suspension with a solid axle/coil spring setup at the rear.
The SOHC 1.5 was enlarged to 1.6 l in August 1975 with unchanged power ratings and slightly higher torque ratings. In July 1978 the Passat Diesel became available, equipped with the VW Golf`s 1.5 l Diesel (50 PS (37 kW; 49 hp)), followed in February 1979 by the Passat GLI with a fuel-injected version of the 1.6 l engine.
The whole range received a facelift in 1977 (launched 1978 outside Europe), featuring an interior upgrade and subtly revised styling including repositioned indicators and depending on model, either 4 round or 2 rectangular headlights.
In North America, the car was called the Volkswagen Dasher. The three- and five-door hatchback and a station wagon model were launched in North America for and during the 1974 model year. Sole available engine was a carburetted 1.5 l inline-four developing 75 hp (56 kW) (or 70 hp (52 kW) in 1975), supplanted from model year 1976 by a Bosch fuel-injected 1.6 l four 78 hp (58 kW). North American cars were equipped with single DOT standard headlights.
In 1978 the Dasher received a facelift along the lines of the European Passat, with quad sealed beam headlights and big polyurethane covered bumpers. The trim was also upgraded and the ride softened. 1979 saw the introduction of the 1.5 l diesel engine, which produced just 48 PS (35 kW) in the 1130 kg (2500 lb) car. 0–100 km/h time for the Diesel was 19.4 seconds, 6.2 seconds slower than the gasoline (petrol) engine. All gasoline engines were dropped for North America in 1981 in preparation for the next generation.
In Brazil, the Passat B1 was produced from 1974 until 1988. Since the Audi 80 was not marketed in Brazil, there was no need to give the Passat a different front-end treatment. During its long life cycle many improvements from the B2 platform where introduced, like its 1.6 and 1.8-liter engines, a Brazil-specific face-lift in 1985, and a 5-speed gearbox. A sports version, named Passat TS 1.6 and later Passat GTS 1.8 Pointer was also introduced.
B2 (Typ 32B, 1981–1988)
The second generation Volkswagen Passat was launched in 1981. The platform, named B2, was slightly longer and the car's updated styling was instantly recognisable as a Passat, with the most obvious difference being the rectangular headlights. In addition to the Passat hatchbacks and Variants (estate/wagon), there was also a conventional three-box saloon, which until the 1985 facelift was sold as the Volkswagen Santana in Europe. In North America, the Passat/Santana was sold as the Volkswagen Quantum, available in three-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and a wagon model, but the five-door hatchback was never sold there and the three-door hatchback was dropped after less than two years. The four-wheel drive Syncro version was introduced in October 1984, initially only with the more powerful 5-cylinder engine.
The Santana was also produced in China, Brazil, Mexico (as the Corsar, from 1984 and 1988) and Argentina (as the Carat between 1987 and 1991). In Brazil, the Santana station wagon was sold as the Quantum. The Passat saloon and estate were produced in South Africa for their local market until 1987. As of 2010 the B2 Santana is still in production in China.
Like the previous generation, the B2 Passat was mainly sold with 4-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Unlike its predecessor, however, top-of the line versions received 5 cylinder Audi or VW engines of 1.9–2.2 litres. In addition to four- and five-speed manuals and three-speed automatic gearboxes, the Passat/Santana was also available with the VW concern's interesting 4+E transmission. This, also called the "Formel E" had a particularly high top gear, which combined with a freewheeling mechanism, provided better gas mileage. An automatic stop/start was also available in some markets. The four-wheel drive system used in the Passat Variant Syncro shared the mechanics of the Audi 80 quattro and not the Volkswagen Golf Syncro. The Syncro's bottomplate was almost entirely different, requiring a transmission tunnel, a relocated gas tank and no spare tire well (to make room for the complex rear axle assembly). Only the more popular estate was reengineered. Syncro was also available in the North American market, only with the 5 cylinder engine.
In 1985 the range received a slight facelift, consisting of new, larger bumpers, interior retouches, a new front grille and new taillights on the hatchback versions. The 2-door hatchback was discontinued while the Santana nameplate was dropped in Europe. The saloon's front end was now the same as the hatchback and estate. The North American version, still known as the Quantum, gained European-style composite headlamps.
On March 31, 1988 production ended (although Syncro models continued in production until June) with 3,345,248 built in Germany. World production totals amount to at least 4.5 million units.
B3 and B4 (Typ 35i, 1988–1996)
The third generation Passat was introduced in March 1988 in Europe, 1990 in North America, and 1995 in South America. The lack of a grille made the car's front end styling reminiscent of older, rear-engined Volkswagens such as the 411, and also doubled as a modern styling trend.
At the time it was the first Passat to be built on a Volkswagen-designed platform, rather than sharing one with an Audi saloon. The car, although designated B3 in Volkswagen's platform nomenclature, was based largely on the A platform as used for the smaller Golf model, but was stretched in all directions. Many components are shared directly between these vehicles. Only 4-door saloon and 5-door estate versions were available, without the fastback option of previous models. It was marketed under the Passat name in all markets; in North America, this was a first.The fuel injected petrol engines gave better performance and refinement than the carburettor units previously used. They were mounted transversely, and the floorpan was engineered to accept Volkswagen's 'Syncro' four-wheel drive system. Engine options were the 2.0 litre 16 valve engine in the GL model, 1.8 litre engine in the CL model (not available in North America, all CLs, GLs, and GLSs had the 2.0 16v), Volkswagen's new 2.8 litre VR6 engine (also used in the Golf and Corrado) in the GLX/GLS model (introduced in 1991 in Europe and 1992 in North America), and the G60 engine (only available on the Syncro model in Canada for the North American market). The VR6 engine gave the top-of-the-range Passat a top speed of 224 kilometres per hour (139 mph). The 1.9 litre diesel engine was also available as an option.