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FWD Champions:
The B4 Volkswagen Passat

February 27, 2013 by Matt

Volkswagen VW Passat B4 Black

Sandwiched between the block-ish B3 Passat and its upmarket, posh B5 successor, the 1994-1997 B4 Passat has always been a favorite of mine. I like its stance, its detailing, its “Euro-ness” and its variety of engine choices.

Volkswagen VW Passat B4 Wagon Green

Fitted with the lovely 15″ 8-spoke wheels and adorned with a roof rack, the B4 Passat looks light on its feet, capable, about as mountain-goat-ish as you can get without going for a full-on SUV. The driving lights embedded in the bumper is a favorite detail, an element that echoes my old Audi 4000’s treatment in that area. The B4’s Passat’s proportions still scream “family hauler,” yet its lines have a little extra punch, a tautness that sets the car apart from its more turgid-looking peers.

Volkswagen VW Passat B4 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

The interior is all business, with VW’s then-standard dash design that placed all bells and whistles high up, within easy reach of the driver. The steering is pleasingly direct and the damping firm according to the European paradigm. A 5-speed was available with all engine options, which included the base 2.0l 4-cyl, a 1.9l turbo-diesel and the range-topping, muscular 2.8l VR6 engine. The wide variety of choices, along with the sedan and wagon bodystyles, gave the customer a full palette from which to mix and match their ideal family sedan.

No, I like the B4 Passat very much. Above all, it seems capable—a kind of car equally at home trundling to the grocery store, absorbing the daily commute, devouring some backroad twisties or taking my son and our camping gear up into the Appalachians for a few days of hiking and fishing. A companion, in other words. I like that impression from a car, even a FWD one.

Image credits:,,

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting FWD cars we think highly of, in spite of our RWD bias. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: FWD Champions, Volkswagen


  1. “Euro-ness” -> nice way of putting it! While no favorite of mine, I like the MkIII Jetta GLI for this very reason:

    Sadly, this quantity is no more (at least for consumers in this country), as VW has apparently decided to appeal to the lowest common denominator and make their products as bland and inoffensive as I can recall them ever being.

    • Matt says:

      I want to like the Mk3 Jetta, but…its boxiness is just overwhelming. Something about the C-pillar and fascia treatment has bothered me on every single generation of Jetta.

      What’s happening to VW is sad. They’ve decided to Camry-fy their cars. And at some point, I need to do a post picking apart the CC, whose styling I actually have major issues with; most love it.

  2. Anıl says:

    I enjoyed your article, however I need to make a correction regarding engine choices:

    2.0 wasn’t the base petrol engine. A variety of 1.6 and 1.8 liters were also offered.
    Also, despite 1.9 D was the base diesel engine by means of horsepower, it isn’t by means of capacity. 1.6 TDI was also available with the passat.

    and hey, don’t forget the AWD Passat Synchro too!

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Anıl, for your comment!

      This being a US-based blog, I just decided to list the engines that were available to us here in the States. I think I speak for most VW enthusiasts when I say we’re jealous of all the additional options you got!

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