Top 5 modern classic Volkswagens you forgot existed

Forget the Beetle, Camper and Golf GTI. These VWs are the true heroes, pushing innovation forward and testing new markets. But do you even remember them?

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2001 Passat W8

Although largely forgotten, the Volkswagen Passat W8 brought two world firsts to the party. Firstly, the engine showcased the mating of two four-cylinder engines to craft a small, compact ‘W’ piston formation for maximum refinement. Engineers worldwide suffered several trouser accidents upon hearing the news.

However, this engineering marvel was overshadowed by the biggest attention grabber – the price. This was a really, really expensive Volkswagen. For the cost of a fully specified model you could have bought a BMW M5, or pretty much any Mercedes-Benz. The Passat W8 did hold an ace card, though.

Unlike performance saloons from ze other Germans, the W8 churned out 275bhp through a four-wheel-drive system. That was good enough for 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 155ph. Now incredibly rare, this may well qualify as the greatest ‘Q’ car of all time.

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2002 Phaeton

The Passat W8 hinted at what was on the horizon, although the newcomer was to prove costly for Volkswagen. What we had here was an executive limousine with a great big VW badge up front. So nobody bought it.

VW learned the hard was that badge snobbery ruled the forecourts. Rich toffs would rather have a Maybach with all the grace of an obese public streaker than a well crafted, fast and innovative saloon from the people who birthed the Beetle. Quite frankly, the Phaeton made the S-Class and Rolls-Royce Phantom appear somewhat overpriced and under equipped.

It even came with a W12 engine and all manner of on-board gizmos, yet the showroom models gathered dust. Further reports of ruinous depreciation killed manufacture stone dead. Don’t despair, however, these things will make for a solid future investment – if you can find one…

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2000 Lupo GTI

Lordy! Roughly the size of a shoe yet boasting the power output of Donald Trump’s right-hand man, the Lupo GTI proved that size didn’t matter. Although cars even of this era were hampered by the constraints of both safety and public demand, the Lupo GTI worked around all barriers to produce what the BMW Mini should have been.

The Lupo even took the Golf GTI’s thunder and ran off with it – the 2000 model year Golf hot hatch being a fat and flatulent vision of its former self. Even with just 125bhp from a 1.6-litre engine, the Lupo GTI ran rings around its Golf brethren.

It looked the business, too, but there was a problem. It was a Lupo, and brainwashed individuals kept buying the Golf – mainly due to snobbery and because society told them to. Not only did they miss out on the embodiment of why we love hot hatches, but this also meant relatively few Lupo GTIs were sold, making them a rare sight. The next generation of petrolheads already overlook it.

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2005-2008 Golf R32

With all this Golf bashing, let us introduce you to the R32. By this stage in the model’s lineage, a serious shake-up was required. A wheelie bin rolling downhill could outrun the Golf GTI Mk4, and provide more style into the bargain. By the time the fifth-generation incarnation arrived, normality was restored. But then VW went mad.

The GTI’s bonkers cousin more than made up for the embarrassing preceding years. Combining a 246bhp 3.2-litre V6 with crumple zones, rear seats and a practical boot, the Golf R32 took the standard GTI outside and pretty much punched it into a coma – then kicked it again when no one was looking.

It was eye-wateringly expensive, and signing on the financial dotted line was a true heart vs head moment. Most bailed, but those who could meet the 2 million per cent APR payments back in the day didn’t regret a single minute of ownership. Not even fierce depreciation drove them to despair.

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2004-2009 Touareg Mk1

Oh dear! The recipe should have worked; after all, how hard could it be to blend a Range Rover and a modicum of reliability? VW tried to find style and dependability, but instead gave us an utterly forgettable first-generation Touareg.

It was about as hardy off-road as a crusty scaffolding pole, and not even the installation of the 6.0-litre W12 engine drew customers away from Land Rover showrooms. A facelift model arrived for 2007, yielding further styling cues that looked too insipid for drug dealers yet too scary for church goers. Maureen didn’t want a turbocharged 5.0-litre V10 diesel, yet the neighbourhood gangsters found the 3.2 V6 a tad underpowered when ram-raiding the local Co-op.

As a result, while the modern incarnation is rather good, the Touareg Mk1 seems confined to a mere mention in automotive history. Have you ever gone looking for one? We thought not…

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