1 Mar 1998
By CHRIS HARRIS
Based on the first Audi A4 of 1994, the 1998 Passat was one of the instant classics of the decade.
It instantly rejuvenated the 23 year-old nameplate with its bold design, lush interior presentation and rock solid build quality.
In Europe it also sparked a seismic shift in family car buyer habits by luring them away from traditional low-image high value models like the Ford Mondeo and GM Vectra.
Acknowledging the Passat’s influence on its once-core buyer base, Ford even poached VW design staff when developing the 2001-2006 Mondeo Mk2.
Using the Audi platform meant a north-south engine placement, a range of tasty Audi engines, and the option of the accomplished quattro all-wheel drive platform with a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension set-up, as opposed to the regular front-wheel drive Passat’s torsion beam arrangement.
Two beautiful body styles were offered – the dome-like four-door sedan and a boxy four-door station wagon.
Initially there were two 1.8-litre twin-cam 20-valve four-cylinder engines to choose from – a 92kW/168Nm 1.8 20V and turbo-charged 110kW/210Nm 1.8T.
While both came with a five-speed manual gearbox, the latter added a five-speed Tiptronic automatic (instead of a four-speeder) to its repertoire.
Audi’s excellent 2.8-litre DOHC 30V V6 was the other motivator, driving front or all-wheels while delivering 142kW and 280Nm, and sold with the five-speed Tiptronic gearbox.