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Volkswagen Passat (B3)

The third-generation Volkswagen Passat, known as Volkswagen Passat B3 or Volkswagen Passat 35i, was introduced in March 1988 in Europe, 1989 in North America, and 1995 in South America; it was also briefly available in Australia in 1991, when a total of 14 Passat GL 16V in sedan and wagon versions were sold by then importer TKM. Unlike the previous two generations of the Passat, the B3 was not available as a fastback - only 4-door sedan and 5-door station wagon versions were available, setting the precedent for the model for all subsequent generations to date. Its curvy looks were a contrast from the boxy appearance of its predecessor and owed much to the "jelly mould" style pioneered by Ford with the Sierra and Taurus. The lack of a grille, utilizing the bottom breather approach, 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. The styling was developed from the 1981 aerodynamic (cd = 0.25) Auto 2000 concept car.


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 Passat B3 was designed by Volkswagen's design chief, Herbert Schäfer and, unlike equivalent Audi models, now featured a space-saving transversely mounted engine (a configuration from which future Passat models would retreat in 1996). A couple of weeks ahead of launch, press reports appeared that the forthcoming new Passat was known within the company as the first "true Hahn model" ("erster echter Hahn"), even though Carl Hahn junior had by this time already been the Volkswagen Group's chairman since 1982. The message, reflecting management priorities at the time, was that whereas recent new models from Volkswagen had unapologetically appeared to be rebadged and mildly rebodied Audis, with this model Volkswagen under Hahn now had the confidence to reassert a more distinctive identity for its cars, differentiating the Audi and Volkswagen brands more persuasively from one another in the process.

The car, although designated B3 in Volkswagen's platform nomenclature, was based largely on the A platform as used for the smaller Golf Mk2 model, but was stretched in all directions. Many components are shared directly between these vehicles. It was marketed under the Passat name in all markets; in North America, this was a first.

As somewhat rare features for the time, the B3 Passat was optionally offered with rear self-levelling air suspension, and electronically regulated air conditioning (called "Climatronic"). These two options were available only in Europe.


The fuel injected petrol engines gave better performance and refinement than the previously used carbureted units. They were mounted transversely, and the floorpan was engineered to accept Volkswagen's "Syncro" four-wheel drive system. Mostly installed in the Passat Variant (station wagon), the Syncro used a viscous coupling and flexible partition of torque to send power to the rear axle when required.

Engine options in Europe started with the 1.6-litre petrol four, followed by the 1.8-litre eight-valve and 16-valve engines and the G60 version of the same. the G60 arrived late in 1989, around the same time that an eight-valve version of the 2.0-litre petrol four was added; originally, the 2.0 had only been offered in a sixteen-valve version. Volkswagen's new 2.8-litre VR6 engine arrived in the GL/GT versions in April 1991; this was the first car to receive this all-new development. The VR6 engine gave the top-of-the-range Passat a top speed of 224 km/h (139 mph). At the time of introduction, the only diesel option was the company's 1.6-litre, intercooled turbodiesel, but in mid-1989 a naturally aspirated 1.9-litre version was added, followed by a turbocharged version of the same in April 1991.

Going on sale in North America for the 1990 model year, the Passat originally only came in a single GL model, powered by the 2.0 16v producing 134 hp (100 kW). For 1992 a lower-priced CL model (with the same engine) was added, only with the sedan bodywork. The CL only lasted a single year in the United States, instead a better equipped, four-cylinder GLS model (sedan only) was added in 1993 while the GLX model received the new VR6 engine. In Canada, the VR6 was called the GLS, while the 2.0 remained available as a CL or GL. After 1993 the four-cylinder versions were discontinued, but the 2.8 GLX remained available in the United States market for the 1994 model year. Canadians were also offered the 1.8-litre G60 engine (only Syncro-equipped, around 200 examples were sold) for 1992 and 1993, and the 1.9-litre turbo-diesel with 75 hp (56 kW) for 1993, the B3's last year in Canada.

Technical Data

See also

  • Volkswagen Passat
  • Volkswagen Passat (B4)


External links

  • Media related to Volkswagen Passat B3 at Wikimedia Commons
  • Volkswagen Passat GT G60 Syncro 35i, Mk3 year 1990


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