Mark, His Mk8 Motor and a Mackerel

A piscatorial ode to the Passat estate. 

The B8’s natural habitat. (c) Honestjohn.co.uk.

The romance of the open road. Being your own boss. A scaled down Knight of the Road, if you will. However much your magenta tinted spectacles may offer such views, in today’s dog eat dog road conditions, it’s mighty tough out there. Especially if you’re a photocopier engineer with a large region to cover and your given steed is a B8 Passat estate – in grey. Cliched, isn’t it? Though Mark definitely does not sell the machines, his remit is simply to repair and that requires parts, and lots of them – hence the estate. That load area is full.

Called to our offices under emergency conditions; both full size copiers out of action with completely different problems, even switching them off and on again had no effect. I witnessed Mark parking up and a few minutes later, wander in the office with a case of tools and several more trips for a variety of spares. Oblivious to the copier problems, my mind wandered to the Passat, now up to generation eight and quietly usurping the Beetle as Volkswagen’s second biggest seller – thirty million since 1973 – and closing in on that other car they make, I forget the name…

One of thirty odd million. A B1 Variant from the early days. (c) Honestjohn.co.uk.

Fleets have taken huge numbers of them as they appear to possess the gift of long life, rather similarly to baby sister, the Golf. (Though as a quick aside, another work colleague had to hastily trade in his ten year old diesel Golf due to turbo failure, a coolant leak and several other problems recently. The repair bill was almost twice the car’s value. But I digress.)

Surely I am not alone in knowing privately owned models with lunar distance mileages and still on the button? One local example to me being a B5 with over 300,000 on the clock: bought for little money, never cleaned inside or out (imagine the aroma) barring the annual MOT test and top-ups of the Devil’s liquid, it costs him peanuts to run – and all for the amore of angling.

Fishing? Not at this altitude. Passat B2 Syncro – image : automobilio.net

Another fisherman local to me has a B7 which is cleaned and regularly serviced. This one is quite the Tequila Splitfin, mind. Manual gearbox, petrol driven and 240bhp. Bought new seven years ago by it’s now octogenarian owner, this Passat will spend more time off road than many a 4×4. Indeed, the lakes and rivers of this sceptered isle can often be seen bedecked by estate cars, much like this one.

Do you imagine that Volkswagen contemplated the effect their mid-size car might have on our riverbanks? Or that of Photocopy Repair Man? Throw into the ring the auction house, the home based courier, the family hauler, the taxi company. For whilst the rise of the sports utility vehicle has become stratospheric, the estate car still carries with it (pun intended) a loyalty with strong bonds. Leaving well aside (for now) the aromas of toner cartridges and turbot fish, the estate car can be far more attractive than those of bloated proportions and, to some extent, better than their own saloon derivations.

Passat B3. (c) petrolblog

The Passat saloon must be a good car. You don’t sell millions of mingers. But it’s plain to the point of transparency. But while they are everywhere, they blend in with the properties of a chameleon, or an undercover agent, deep in some highly secretive operation. Only the car isn’t as exciting. Dependable, comfortable, economical, yes.

The estate contains that elongated, elegant air about its demeanour. The proportions flow better, the car appears more settled. That theme continues with others within the umbrella of VW; Škoda’s Superb and Octavia, the Leon, even those wearing the four rings have estate cars looking more attractive than their saloon counterparts.

B5. Image: autoplenum.de

The case continues with other manufacturers; the Toyota Auris estate appears quite svelte to its rather blobby hatchback family. The Focus and Mondeo garner appreciative comments whereas a recently observed Alpina Touring made me stop and stare. Understanding it was a Five Series underneath, the driver was either desperately late to repair another photocopying catastrophe or was evading capture, the emitted sound being unequivocally deeper than any BMW.

Sales figures suggest though that the love affair with the touring wagon is failing due to that inexorable rise of those vehicles of utility with a sporting bent. Fleets continue to flatter sales figures but apart from our fishing friend mentioned earlier, I know no-one buying an estate car as their own.

Suitcases? Where’s the rods, nets and maggots? (c) Autodata1.com.

Returning to Mark, his repair job completed after a couple of hours, I signed his tablet to approve the job and asked him about his car. He told me his company move them on after two years or 80,000 miles and his was on 76k. He was fully expecting a Tiguan as replacement, hearing a rumour that a couple of transporters were seen emptying back at HQ. Would he mind, I asked?

Well, I don’t expect the back seats will fit many people in, they’ll be full of all my repair tackle, then the fishing kit at weekends. The Passat swallows me and my brother’s sea-fishing kit no problem. Can’t see that with the Tiguan but when they allow you to use the car for your own use, beggars can’t be choosers.

(c) VW UK

Perhaps sales are down because they all stink of fish?

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

22 thoughts on “Mark, His Mk8 Motor and a Mackerel”

  1. Good morning, Andrew. What a great tribute to an excellent car! Although I’ve no need for an estate car and never owned one, I really admire their honest practicality. Your point is well made that they often look better resolved and more handsome than their saloon counterparts. In fact, I struggle to think of more than a couple of examples where the opposite is the case. I hadn’t realised that the Passat had displaced the Beetle as VW’s second best seller ever.

    Wasn’t the Passat B3 a really interesting piece of industrial design? I might quibble about the slightly awkward way the nose cone meets the leading edge of the front wing, but there’s something lovely about the way the DLO is pushed out so that it appears almost flush with the bodysides. It’s an illusion, created, I think, by the curvature of both elements, but it’s very satisfying:

    The bodyside groove is very neatly broken to provide a gap to open the fuel filler. The body-coloured badging was a lovely detail and I really liked the script. It’s a shame that the B4 was merely a B3 shorn of its interesting detailing.

    The B5 was, of course, a ‘perfect’ design in that it’s impossible to think how it might be improved in any way. It’s not a car I would ever play with in Photoshop.

    The B6 estate was so much better looking than the awkward high-tailed saloon, which always looked like it needed four bags of cement in the boot:

    The latest B8 model suffers from a slightly overwrought front grille, but at least it’s spared the multiple creases that spoil other VW designs.

    On the subject of VW estates, this was revealed yesterday:

    It’s the anti-Passat, and it’s been done before (-ish):

    1. Something like ninety percent of Passats are estates and many companies by them in large numbers for ther service techicians.
      My brother-in-law once had a B3 VR6 estate as a company car. It was incredibly badly built with some interior parts fitted the wrong way round and rattles and creaks everywhere. As it was red the paint became dull in no time (going to the Moroccan desert certainly made things worse), but thanks to its engine it was a real Q-car. It was replaced by a B4 with a direct injection diesel which was just as fast over long distances because it didn’t need to go to the pumps so often.

    2. The B3 was indeed a great piece of design and probably the only interesting Passat.

    3. Daniel,
      that is truly outstanding, the level of similarity between the Estate versions of the Talisman and the Arteon. Whilst I haven’t
      seen an Arteon Estate on the street yet, the Talisman has such
      a strong street presence (captivating is the word, I think), both as a sedan and as an Estate, that it’s understandable why VW wanted
      a part of that new segment for themselves.

      I think it was the Audi A7 that really started this oversized-but-svelte-looking sedans thing, and the striking Kia Stinger that followed. Where the Talisman sedan shines, though, is that it achieves 95% of the street presence of those, without the loudly shouting “look at me” features.

      Renault was brave to offer it as an Estate, as it looks so elegant yet assertive, without being brash (except dimensionally), and the Arteon Estate seems to be good looking as well – if somewhat challenged on the originality front, as your photos seem
      to confirm.

    4. Hi Alex. Yes, the similarity is extraordinary, even down to the shade of blue metallic paint. Although understandable, it’s a shame we are denied the Latitude in the UK. I’ve only ever seen one in the metal, in Tenerife. It was a rental car and a bit battle-scarred, but still very handsome and imposing looking.

      Renault have been on a bit of a roll recently, design wise, although the company has just pulled the Koleos large CUV from the UK market because of poor sales. The lack of a seven-seat option is, allegedly, to blame.

  2. Good morning Andrew – and thank you for another though-provoking piece. What is the point of a motor vehicle? And having answered that and made your choice, does it turn out to be fit for purpose? As Mark has spotted, those making the choice do not necessarily have a clue about what they are doing.
    The Passat estate has an obvious purpose, for which it is clearly fit. I have fond memories of a black B4 diesel which served us well; it had been a VW contract hire vehicle and at three years old came with high mileage but full service history (incidentally from Gilders in Sheffield, who were once Jowett agents, and who continued to service it for me). An indispensable load-lugger with a range of 700+ miles per tankful and totally reliable. It was replaced with something taller only because an elderly relative had reached the stage of being unable to get out without block & tackle – but not before the mileage had doubled. A great vehicle.

  3. Lovely article, which made me smile.

    At the risk of giving an entirely false impression of wealth and refinement, our horologist drives an immaculate, recent-generation, dark metallic-blue Passat. It’s exactly what you’d expect him to drive – almost a cliché. I wonder if antique dealers still drive Volvos.

    By the way, although it’s a shrinking segment, Volkswagen still thought it worthwhile to launch the Arteon estate (‘Shootingbrake’). I’m not sure it has much more room than the saloon, but good for them, nevertheless.

    1. Hi Charles. Our horologist drives a Zafira, that’s why we just call him our “clock man”. With 18 clocks at the last count, we see him fairly regularly! He’s a delightful chap, and the fittest and most dapper octogenarian I’ve ever met.

      I would guess that antiques dealers should drive Škoda Superbs these days.

    2. Hello Daniel – crickey. I don’t know how you cope with the winding (or the striking, for that matter).

    3. If visitors aren’t asleep at two minutes to midnight in our house, they won’t be asleep at five past the hour! We just sleep through the racket, even with two(!) striking clocks in our bedroom and a Westminster Chime just outside on the landing.

    4. I suspect Daniel and his partner are working on a version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Side 2, track 4 – opening section. (Time – Part One).

      Either way, it sounds alarming.

    5. I see what you did there, Eóin, but there’s not a single alarm clock amongst them. (Another perk of being retired.)

      I’m embarrassed to admit the Pink Floyd reference is completely wasted on me, but I promise to check it out.

    6. Daniel, how could a beard like that not know Pink Floyd’s Clocks? It has a special memory for me, as I once fell asleep on a friend’s sofa while chatting during a drunken evening (not unlike tonight), and was woken by the start of this track after Neil had gone to bed. About 25 years later and I can still recall the discombobulation.

    7. This poster is shortly to lose his Zafira Tourer, which has swallowed massive amounts over the years, including the debris from a large wooden playhouse yesterday, and is soon to be replaced by a Superb estate, which, while much sleeker, and apparently more comfortable, will be less versatile (fewer seats and a slanted rear tailgate). Why oh why oh why will manufacturers no longer produce MPVs, or estates with an upright rear, so we can cram more stuff in? Why do they think we buy such machines, if it isn’t to cram as much as we can into it?

    8. Hi Andy. I have no defence for my ignorance, apart from possibly not having an elder brother to guide me. (hangs head in shame…)

      Regarding the beard, the lockdown has seen me go almost the full ‘ZZ Top’. (I might have said LJKS, but would never be so presumptuous.)

    9. Andy, I Should have added regarding the Superb estate, my brother-in-law bought one on my recommendation. It was simply enormous inside. He’s over six foot tall. I’m just under, but very long-legged for my height. Sitting behind him, I had at least six inches of space between my knees and the front seat back. It was very comfortable car in which to cover long distances. I hope you won’t be disappointed in yours.

      He now drives a Kodiaq, another fine car, but not quite as roomy.

  4. Sorry Charles – that Arteon shooting brake is useless as an estate. As is anything which doesn’t retain maximum interior height to the top of the tailgate. Which is presumably why they’ve chosen to call something else. It might accomodate a couple of fishing rods, though…..

    1. Yes – it’s funny – make something more practical by making it an estate, then less so by making it more stylish. More of a lifestyle statement than a load-lugger.

    2. “More of a lifestyle statement than a load-lugger.”

      It’s a 5-door version. As such it is more practical than the standard Arteon, and that will be enough for some buyers. It doesn’t have to be vying for best-in-class load space.

    3. I’ve looked up the Arteon’s stats and the Shooting Brake has slightly better headroom front (11 mm) and rear (48 mm) compared with the saloon, which surprised me.

      The Shooting Brake adds 23 litres of boot capacity with the seats up and 75 litres with them down. That said, the Arteon saloon is reasonably roomy in the first place.

      In comparison, the Passat is bigger, of course and the Škoda Superb estate is massive (660 litres seats up and 1,950 litres seats down), so perfect for those antiques.

  5. Back to square one then. What is the point of the Arteon, in whatever version? For the life of me, I can’t see one. Is VW trying to re-create the too-many-models era of BLMC perchance? It will end in tears.

    1. I’m sure there is a theory that people who don’t want a ‘practical’ SUV will want a more-sporty sedan/wagon/hatch instead.

      On the photocopier rescuer’s future wheels, without looking up the specs I assume it will have theoretically the same space, but less floor area – which is often more useful.

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