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VW Passat Wagon vs Subaru Wagons



  • armonarmon Posts: 2
    Thanks to all for providing some good info re: the Passat wagon.
    My husband and I had just agreed that we would purchase the 2003 GLX Passat Wagon and then as we were about to buy it, we stumbled onto a not so perfect reliability rating. Then another and another and so on... Now we are seriously questioning whether or not to go through with the purchase. We loved the car so much ( great looks, great ride ).
    Is there anyone out there that can convince us one way or another regarding whether we should buy or not buy?
    If you suggest we don't buy, do you have any suggestions for what we might find comparable to the look and feel of the VW, but that would be of better quality?
  • VWs have a great warranty. In addition, if you plan to keep your car for very long, you might want to invest in an extended warranty, as has been suggested here before, for peace of mind.

    VWs will have higher incidence of things going wrong than, say, Toyota or Honda. Usually, these tend to be small things like switches and sensors and alike. For me, the actual difference in reliability and the incidence frequency are not large enough to make a difference, and I am very happy with my car. If a car were several times as likely to have a problem than the average car, I would seriously reconsider a purchase – but that is not the case here. Also, if VWs were known for engine or transmission failures, I would not touch them. However, again, that is not the case.

    With the exemplary resale value of the Passat, you really can’t go wrong.

    However, if you are the kind of person that gets annoyed by one or two things going wrong, even if they can be handled during regular maintenance, you may want to go the Honda/Toyota/Lexus etc. route. But note that not all of their cars have stellar ratings, either.

    - D
  • It always baffles me how Japanese cars have somehow attained this mythical level of reliabilty, and VW's have developed a reputation for being problematic.

    I have owned VW's off and on for 15 years, and all of my experiences with them have been positive. I will say this, though: regular maintenance is key. German cars just seem to run better and last longer with regular maintenance. I currently own a 1989 Vanagon GL Syncro Camper (AWD) and it has over 240,000 miles. Yes, there are known "issues" with the engine, like leaking head gaskets, but that is primarily due to people using the wrong kind of coolant, and not changing it regularly! This illustrates my point - most Japanese cars don't care about the type of coolant, and you can really abuse them and they continue to run.

    German cars simply don't seem to work that way - they are designed to be maintained regularly to ensure performance and longevity. But if they are, they will outlast, outperform, and out-style most if not all Japanese marques, IMHO. Years ago I owned a '82 Scirocco that I bought new and drove 180,000 miles. It still would go down the highway at 100 mph with relative ease, and get ~30 mpg while doing so. (OK, the motor was "tuned" a bit....) That engine never had any major service other than valve adjustments and timing belt replacements. Maybe a water pump, too - but that is about it in 180,000 miles!

    Another point is this: how many Japanese cars would you even want to drive for 180,000 miles? Its subjective, of course, but it seems I see a lot more 10+ year old Mercedes and VW's than I do Hondas, Toyotas, and Lexi...

    So, bottom line, if you want a car you can just put gas into and never do anything else, buy a Japanese car. If you want something with performance, style, and that uniquely Teutonic "feel" and don't mind paying attention to regular maintenance, buy a Passat!

    A side note: My brother and Mom both had Toyota 4Runners - one a '92, the other a '95. Both blew head gaskets constantly, and my brother's '92 finally blew out the bottom end of the motor (lost compression in three cylinders) at about 85,000 miles! He changed the oil regularly and did not abuse the car.

    Both of them now drive German cars. ;-)
  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196

    From what I'm reading, the coil pack problem doesn't seem to happen nearly as much (if at all) on the V6 engine that's in the GLX.


    I don't really sweat the small stuff on malfunctions, as long as I feel I can still drive the car I'll just wait till I have to take it in for regular service. It's the big stuff, like transmissions, engines, and anything that will shut the car down, that bother me, even if it's under warranty.

    I do have a nagging question, however. How come I never see any old Passat Wagons on the road? I see plenty of old Subarus and Volvos, but never any Passats, or any old VW wagons, for that matter. Just curious.
  • Well, my friend, you probably don't see "old Passats" because you don't recognize them! ;-)

    The current B5 body style is new since 1998-1999. Prior to that, the Passat was downright ugly, and not particularly popular. In fact, sales of the Passat did not take off int he US until 2000/2001 and then really accellerated in 2002.
    Before 1998, the Passat existed under completely different names. See the table below for the approximate dates that the various models were released to the US market, and the names that were used here in the USA.

    Model | Europe | USA | Years
     B1 | Passat | Dasher | 1974 to 1980
     B2 | Passat | Quantum | 1981 to 1988
     B3 | Passat | Passat | 1998 to 1993
     B4 | Passat | Passat | 1994 to 1997
     B5 | Passat | Passat | 1998 to Present

    This may explain why you don't see a lot of Passats on the road today.
  • otis123otis123 Posts: 438

    That's basically it, German needs to be pampered, Japanese doesn't...but pampering becomes expensive as a car ages - never mind your time (=$$) dealing with the pampering over the course of the car's life

    I disagree with what I see on the road in the suburbs north of NYC...old cars tend to be mainly Japanese and American (some Volvos), with very few German - save the occasional diesel MBs...Old VWs are rare (although there was a time when they weren't in the 70s/early 80s...

    Like I said, I bought the H6 LLBean instead of the V6 4 motion Passat and I've had smooth sailing the first 37K miles. Yes, I liked the looks of the Passat more at the time (not now), but I hate service departments and I no longer like getting my fingers dirty...

  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196

    That would explain it.

    I'm probably not going to be buying until late summer at the earliest, so I've got some time to see how this coil pack thing plays out.

    And I agree with Otis on the service thing. I do try to keep up with the maintenance schedule, but dealing with car service is one of my least favorite things.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Some times I think people worry too much about reliability, and not enough about how much they like the car. Let me ask this - would you rather have a car that bored you to death, that you didn't even enjoy driving, if it was perfect for 100k miles? An appliance for the road with no character?

    Or you would rather have a car you loved that maybe had to do maybe 2-3 extra dealer visits over the life of the car? A car with tons of character that you LOVE to drive and even earned a nick-name?

    Food for thought. The BMW X5 has suffered from 14 recalls, yet owners are ecstatic and would buy another. Heck, they probably sip a free latte every time their car is worked on, that's not so bad.

    Visit the dealer and ask to see the service bay. You'll be in for frequent oil changes most likely anyway. If the service is great, you may not mind going at all. Befriend the sales staff and maybe test drive a car or two when you go in, it isn't that bad to have to pay a visit.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    Point well taken, but it's really not that easy for me, because I think I'll like the VDC to drive as well. Reliability is A factor, not THE factor for me. What it's boiled down to is two cars, both of which look like a lot of fun to drive and that I would enjoy owning. The question is whether to go with the one that I like the looks of a little more, or the one that promises a little more in the way of reliability?

    And I'll never agree with you about the pleasures of getting my car serviced. AFA I'm concerned, it's a necessary evil that I will tolerate, but never enjoy.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    See what you mean, I was generalizing and not talking about the Subie or VW in particular.

    In fact, I think Subies have lots of character. You can hear the distinctive boxer growl and know right away what type of car is coming.

    I've only had to visit the dealer once in 5 years, but I enjoy going there to check out new models and even just chat with my salesman. Inevitably there's some gossip on future products, etc. He's even taken me on test drives to sample cars he knows full well I'm not buying - no hard sell at the end.

    Maybe you just haven't met the right salesman?

  • armonarmon Posts: 2
    OK....I really want the Passat wagon, but I have a lingering question: the GLS 1.8 with chip or the GLX? I have driven both and really like the way the GLX drives, but unfortunately money matters this time around. If I went for the GLS 1.8 and added the chip, what type of performance might I expect? Can anyone compare it to the feel of driving the GLX?

    Thanks again for y'alls input. It's helping a lot : - )
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The V6 sort of likes to rev, too, so it's not a whole lot different.

    Try to find a base model manual wagon, then chip it and maybe get a set of wheels and tires. If you're careful you just might come out with a performance bargain.

  • t23t23 Posts: 1
    Good comparison.
    I have a 2001 Legacy GT Sedan which is the same car as the Legacy Station wagon. My girl friend has the 2001 1.8 turbo Jetta. Both are 5 speeds.

    We never take the Jetta on long trips, due to poor gas milege best MPG was 25-28 on 12 gallon tank, and lack of comfort (vw seats are short and dont support you leg very well). The turbo VW is faster off the line, but lacks the low grunt the Subaru has. The Subaru has posted 32 miles to the gallon on HWY 5 SF to LA. Get crazy on Hwy 1 and you can take the MPG down to 19.

    Twisties? Surprizingly the Subaru can get down and dirty, with good tires it will out corner anything but the expensive sport sedans. The car feels like it sucks to the road and will go anywhere you point it. The 1.8 Jetta with $400 BMW quality tires cant touch it.
    With bike rack I get 30-31 MPG. Pulling 380LB boat on 200LB trailer I get between 25-28 MPG HWY. Running between 68mph-75mph with a 16 gallon tank.
    The back seat in the Legacy Sedan seems to be more roomy and comfortable than most of the cars I've been in. Factory 6 disc in dash has proven to be a great system. Front seats are big and comfy. Trunk is a good size.

    My Subaru has 68,000 miles on it, is used to haul my boat, sailing gear, camping gear, Dog. We have made the climb from Fresno to Huntington Lake. Roughly 1000 feet to 8200 in a very short distance a good test of any car/truck. Not a problem never dropped below 45MPH nor did I push hard.

    I replaced the break pads at 65,000 miles they had 20% left, no disk shimmy in breaks they are as good as new. 50,000 miles new tires (gt stock tires are about $115 each), Stock.
    I change the oil every 5000 miles with Synthetic.

    The car has never missed a beat or been in the shop!

    General take on things:
    First I would never put a VW through the abuse my Subaru has experienced, cost of repairs on the VW would be huge. Second, having owned a Ford Ranger, Toyota 4runner, now the Subaru. Hands down the Subaru 2.5 liter is bullet proof, can take anything a normal owner would dare to throw at it. Choosing between the 2.5 and 3.0? Unless you drive over a mountain every day to work or pull 600+LB trailer on a regular basis the 3.0 is probably overkill. A friend has the Outback 2.5 with an automatic. The Automatic does hurt gas milege and performance. As for speed? The Subaru isn't fast from the stop light, but it can put most cars to shame when you factor cost, reliablity, and performance.

    The AWD system only adds about 150LBs to the car, has been flawless. The car is basically a snow plow in unforgiving snowy conditions.

    My only complaint about the Subaru are the soft springs. They could be a little stiffer.
    I'm sad that Subaru doesn't build a vehicle heavy enough to tow my next boat. If they did I would already have my next Subaru. (Subaru if your reading this I need a car that can pull 3000lbs)

    At one point I factored the Subaru cost vs a hybrid for commute reasons. The cost after maintance, showed that my Subaru was still the better choice. The Hybrid cost more for low resistance tires, and general upkeep over time.
  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    I'm fairly unmechanical, so this may be off point, but didn't the front springs get stiffened for 2003? I'm not sure if this was for all Subarus or just the Wagons.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They got revised struts with internal rebound springs, but it was for a more controlled ride. I don't think they tuned it any stiffer, though.

    A quick fix for handling would be thicker sway bars, you can get thicker OE bars for about $80 or aftermarket adjustable ones for $120 or so. That'll reduce lean and sway and improve handling without even sacrificing ride.

  • It's official, VW announced today that they will be replacing all the faulty ignition coils for 2001, 2002, and early 2003 vehicles with 1.8 liter engines.

    To see the article, go to the discussion board on ignition coils or check any news website.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's good actually, they're owning up to it.

  • We have narrowed our car search to a VW Passat Wagon vs a Subaru Outback Limited (both 5 speed). Our Local Subaru dealer offered us below invoice for the car, while the VW dealer offered $1500 above, and in general the dealership experience was better at Subaru than VW. We were ready to buy the Subaru.

    What now gives us pause is the "True Cost to Own" calculations from Edmunds. It appears that a Subaru costs roughly $1400 in maintenance costs over 5 years more than a VW, so that the TCO price of a Limited is only $20 less than a Passat GLX! The GLX, of course, has a 6v engine and manual, which is an option not available with Subaru wagons. Moreover, with the 1.9% financing VW is now offering, the financing costs are lower with the VW than TCO calculates, so the VW is actually cheaper.

    Can anyone tell me why the maintenance costs are so much higher on the Outback? What is strange is that, by reputation, Suburus are supposed to be indistructible and VWs quirky, but by the calculation on Edmunds I would lean to the GLX. Thanks for any help!
  • mikenkmikenk Posts: 281
    The high cost of ownership on Subaru was discussed several months ago. The bottom line is that the numbers are wrong. I received a response from someone at Intellichoice who said that the difference was that they added shocks at $920 on the recommendation from Subaru. They said only Subaru added that in their list; Actually that is not a recommended normal maintenance for Subaru. Based on that, I trust none of their numbers.

    In Dallas, I went to 5 dealers and got the following for dealer recommended service for 60 months.
    Subaru Outback: $1342
    Camry: $1482
    Passat: $1601
    Volvo V70: $2200
    Accord: $1850

    Just go to the Service department of the two dealers, get their schedules, and add them up.

    I have no idea why SOA does not make Edmunds and/or Intellichoice fix their bogus numbers.

  • sebberrysebberry Posts: 148
    definately recommend the Outback.

    Having only driven the Outback, (Subaru was the only choice for me, by choice) I can't say much for the VW.

    Having had a 1990 Legacy in the family for 12 years, recently sold to make way for the Outback, I can attest to their reliability, and long time drivability. If you do decide on the Outback, I think you will really like it. For the record, I hope to keep my Oouback H6 for 300,000 Kms.

    Have fun in either you choose, just as long as you choose the Outback... :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Great idea: go to the Service department of the two dealers, get their schedules, and add them up. Everyone should do that.

    I do the routine maintenance myself and it's no tougher than for any other brand (I have owned Ford, Mazda, Chevy, Datsun, and Mitsubishi).

    The only thing I'd add to the standard list for a FWD car is the rear diffy, which is just two bolts and about 30 minutes, tops. Plus one quart of 75w90.

    The AWD system is sealed and doesn't require service.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I meant for a Subaru vs. a FWD vehicle, you'd have to add that to the list. So it might be slightly more expensive.

  • altair4altair4 Posts: 1,469
    One thing I would add here...if doing this, make sure that you are getting the price on the actual manufacturer's recommended service, NOT the dealer's. Too many dealers have their own list that frequently adds many items or performs many items more frequently than the manufacturer recommends. Just to make sure that all things are equal!
  • mikenkmikenk Posts: 281
    I absolutely agree. Actually, my Subie dealer makes that rather easy as they have the two laid out side by side on their schedule; in that way, they can honestly sell their extra services.

    In my comparisons with other dealers, I just used what the dealer recommended in all cases.
  • Our choice really was between a Subaru Outback Limited and a VW Passat Wagon, and I found this board helpful and wanted to make a contribution. In the end, we went against much of the sentiment on the board to go with the VW. The reasons had everything to do with our dealer experience and with perceived quality control issues.

    As I mentioned a couple of postings before, we originally had a better experience with Subaru, but with a different dealer. We were interested in an Outback Limited with manual transmission. The first dealer mentioned that one dealer in the area had our car in white only. It did not take much snooping on the web to discover which dealer that was, so we headed over to them on a Tuesday night so that we could test-drive it. There was some snow on the ground, so it would be a nice test of the AWD. It turned out that they had two of them in stock. The first one drove nicely, but at every stop light a horrible smell came into the compartment. My pregnant wife became somewhat sick at the smell, so we returned to the dealer. Our sales person told us that this was the first time he had smelled something like this. I had remembered a previous post indicating that the smell sometimes sticks around, and I was worried. I asked to test-drive the second car. When we went outside, however, it refused to open with the wireless key ring. it turned out that that car had a dead battery. So one bad stinker, a second dead.

    We then went down the street to the Volkswagen dealer and had a fun time in the Passat. No exhaust fumes in the cabin, and every battery seemed to start the car we test-drove in the cold. The dealer experience in negotiating a price was not a joy, but we got a good price in the end. We will miss the AWD. But we are happy with our choice.
  • frapzoidfrapzoid Posts: 127
    An excellent choice Sir! You will forgive my incredulity at the notion that a Subaru would be less than perfect. At the risk of raising the ire of those who populate the Subaru Nation, I welcome you as a fellow Passat owner. You would have been happy with either car.

  • revkarevka Posts: 1,750
    and congratulations! You may also want to check out our main VW Passat Wagon discussion
    where you can share notes with other owners and enthusiasts. We look forward to hearing more about your VW Passat Wagon experience. Happy Motoring! ;-)
    Hatchbacks & Wagons
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Congrats and enjoy your Passat.

    Hmm, full moon on that day you tried those 2 Subies? ;-)

  • I have a '99 Outback wagon with a 2.5L engine with 98,950 miles. I am now going back to my VW roots and looking at a Passat 4-motion. I will never buy another Subaru. Here's why: at 98,500 miles, the head gasket blew. Dealer wanted $1500+ to fix it. I took it to a mechanic who specializes in foreign cars (also a VW aficionado) instead. He told me that mine was the 9th Subaru near the 100,000 mile mark that he worked on that had the same problem and blamed the design of the 2.5L engine. He fixed it; I drove it for a week; and guess what, the head gasket blew again. Subaru claims that the replacement gasket was defective. My mechanic fixed it again -- at no charge to me -- but I certainly don't trust the reliability of that car. So if you're considering both a VW and a Suby, go for the VW. I'm going back.
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