1988 Volkswagen Passat | Volkswagen Cars
Volkswagen Cars: 1988 Volkswagen Passat

1988 Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen Passat Mark 3 (B3 platform) (1988-1996)

The third generation Passat (introduced 1988 in Europe, 1990 in North America, 1995 in South America) was a completely new car. Its curvy looks were a world away from the boxy appearance of its predecessor and owed much to the "Jelly Mould" style pioneered by Ford with the Sierra. The lack of a grille made the car's front end styling reminiscent of older, rear-engined Volkswagens such as the 411.

At the time it was the first Passat to be built on an independently designed platform, rather than sharing one with an Audi saloon. Instead, the car, although designated B3 in VW's platform nomenclature, was largely on the A Platform as used for the smaller Golf model. Only sedan and station wagon versions were available, without the fastback option of previous models. It was marketed under the Passat name in all markets.

The fuel injected engines were all new and gave better performance and refinement than the carburettor units previously used. They were mounted transversely, and the floorpan was engineered to accept VW's Syncro four-wheel drive system. Volkswagen's new 2.8 V6 VR6 engine (also used in the Golf and Corrado) was also made available in 1991, giving the top-of-the-range Passat a top speed of 224 km/h (139 mph).

1993 facelift

The Mk 3 Passat was heavily facelifted in 1993, and as a result it has sometimes been referred to as the Mk IV Passat; Volkswagen even renamed the platform B4. This version was available from 1995 to 1997 in North America.

Though the car was mechanically nearly identical to the original Mk 3, but for the carried-over windows, every external body panel was new. The most obvious exterior change was the re-introduction of a grille to match the style of the other same-generation Volkswagen models, such as the Mk 3 Golf, whose styling theme didn't follow on from the original Mk 3 Passat. The estate version, however, identified the link to the original Mk3. The interior design was also updated and improved safety equipment including dual front airbags were added.

The car was available with a TDI diesel engine, an inline 4 cylinder 1.9 L turbo diesel, generating 210 N·m (155 ft·lbf) of torque at 1900 rpm, 90 PS (66 kW) at 3750 rpm. VW introduced the TDI engine to the North American market in the 1996 B4 Passat, with a U.S. EPA fuel efficiency rating for the sedan of 45 mpg highway (5.2 L/100 km). Combined with a 70 L (18.5 U.S. gallon) fuel tank, it had a 1300+ km (800+ mi) range on a single tank of fuel, nearly unheard of in the North American market. The TDI version is in high demand today and commands a high resale price in the U.S. due to its fuel economy and ability to operate on locally produced biofuels. The B4 TDI wagon (often known by the European moniker "Variant") is even rarer, fewer than 1000 having been imported to the US during its 1996 to 1997 lifespan.