Volkswagen's 2002 Passat W8, the first Passat powered by an eight-cylinder engine, made its debut with little fanfare.
This top-of-the-line Passat is another important cog in Volkswagen's strategy to drive the brand further upscale. Volkswagen did not have a press conference at the Geneva auto show, but featured both sedan and wagon models of the Passat W8 at its stand.
The Passat W8 will go on sale in Europe this fall and in the United States in the first quarter of 2002, said Jens Neumann, a member of the board at Volkswagen AG and the VW executive responsible for North American strategy.
'The Passat W8 will serve as the bridge between the existing Passat and the upcoming D1 luxury car,' Neumann said.
The Passat W8 gives VW a clear competitor against Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the United States, he said.
With the W8, the Passat now will have a range of four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines. The 4.0-liter W8 generates 275 hp. The new model has VW's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system and a six-speed manual gearbox.
Neumann said the Passat W8 should not overlap with Audi models.
'Volkswagen and Audi buyers are two distinctly different buyers psychologically,' he said. The Passat appeals more to the buyer who is seeking a family sedan or wagon, while the Audi buyer is looking for something sportier, Neumann said.
'We feel that we've differentiated them enough.'