Ownership Verified: "So why didn't you buy a PHEV?" (2018 Passat Alltrack TDI)

I was out putting some km's on the car and stopped for a burger in rural village about 35 minutes outside of the town I live in. It's just close enough to town to be attractive to commuters, but far enough away that they have a thriving village center with grocery stores, agri shops, a garage, a burger grill, florist, etc. These are the surroundings the Alltrack was made for.


And seconds after I put the phone down to start working on my hamburger, a 2010's canary yellow Ram Crew Cab rolled by with a burbling V8 soundtrack. Speaking about blending in :D The obvious choice around these parts would be a Cummins but not this guy.

Also my plates arrived on Thursday. My car is a member of society now. Yay.
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My Kofferraumabdeckung arrived from Germany, used from a pkw-autoteile-something on eBay. I don't know if it's genius or stupid that the cover automatically unlatches and retracts when you open the tailgate.

The only thing I miss from the Insignia so far are the lights. The Hella AFL+ xenons Opel used at the time are better than the basic fixed LEDs on the Passat. Most passats I see around have the adaptive LEDs with two light sources per side so I thought all LED equipped passats had that, but it seems there's a simpler LED version between the "sauna lamp option" (halogens) and the high tech LEDs. With the myriad of tech options available on cars these days it's difficult to have everything figured out even if you try to do your research.

You can tell there's only one turbo, though. It pulls very nicely from very low revs unlike diesels from 20 years ago where absolutely nothing happens before 2000rpm or so, but when you're giving it the beans you can tell it's running out of puff a little bit just before each gearchange. The biturbo in the Opel pulled cleanly all the way through the range. This is not a big deal, though. The Passat is still faster. It makes similar hp and torque but weighs around 150kg less and has quicker gearshifts.

I also read the manual and found out it has launch control. No, I haven't tried it. Plenty of youtubers have, though. Seems like a silly feature in a 1.7 ton lifted diesel estate.
So, almost a month into ownership. I've put diesel in it on several occasions and topped off the AdBlue (that's "DEF" in imperial units) just to see what the guess-o-meter thinks a full tank gets me. The result if I recall correctly: 15000km and change. I've also opened the hood once to add screenwash. AdBlue from the pump at the fuel station next to work is a bloody rip-off here at €3/liter, by the way. Almost three times more expensive than 10L canisters from most places. Someone will probably point out that my employer probably sells AdBlue for cheaper than the pump and yes of course we do, but I only needed a liter or two and didn't want to have a half used 10L canister kicking about.

I finally got the new spare key programmed and any missing keys deleted from the car. The first time failed. The second time around the service writer at the dealer told me they got a new custom firmware version (wtf) for their diagnostic equipment which finally made the programming go through. This means I got two free loaners - Q7 PHEV and A3 MHEV respectively. Huge thanks for those, but both times I was happy to be back in my diesel fridge afterwards.

I've also done a half-assed attempt at sourcing a set of 18" VW OEM wheels off of a previous generation Alltrack, but they turned out to be a bit too scratched and oxidized for what is a flawless recent model car. I currently have the 17" OEM wheels in my first post and a set of woefully generic aftermarket set for winter. My plan is to swap the winter tires over to the 17" OEMs and to find a set of factory 18" wheels for summer use.

Of course the Passat, while being a recent model year, is a dinosaur compared to more modern offerings from pretty much every manufacturer out there. It runs on diesel, for pete's sake. However, there are things I really like about its dinosaur-ness. Things like the air vents which are high up where they belong, and not somewhere down low blowing frigid air on your knee and elbow because someone decided that a big touchscreen needed to crown the dashboard. The steering wheel controls, entire climate system and the light switch are all on nice, tactile, physical controls. It even has a volume knob, even if I can't use it because the power symbol needs to stay the right way up. :LOL:

I realize I'm coming off as a very old person that doesn't like change, but I can't understand how flicking through menus to find the seat heater is better than using your gloved finger to prod a button.

Enjoy this picture of a freshly washed Miele on generic aftermarket winter wheels.

I can't understand how flicking through menus to find the seat heater is better than using your gloved finger to prod a button.
Better to support post-purchase upgrades or subscription pricing models, that's all.
Didn't pay the bill this year? No more butttoasters for you.
Better to support post-purchase upgrades or subscription pricing models, that's all.
Didn't pay the bill this year? No more butttoasters for you.

I actually have a voice button on the steering wheel. Pressing that brings up a message telling me I haven’t paid for voice control.

Solid-state touch surfaces are also cheaper than tactile buttons and switches, especially the nice ones VAG usually put in their cars.
So i gotta ask, why didn't you get a PHEV? :p

In all seriousness, very nice car!
So i gotta ask, why didn't you get a PHEV? :p

In all seriousness, very nice car!

It's in the first post. ? I can't charge at home where I live. Also PHEVs tend to be two wheel drive (which isn't an option under any circumstances) and EVs tend to (but don't always) have a shit tow rating.
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Things! Stuff!

Usually when I buy a car I spend 3-4 years thinking I should fit extra lights to it. Most of the time I don't get around to it, but on rare occasions I do it happens just before I catch a case of the car fever and sell the car. Now I figured I'd put them on shortly after buying the car instead. A novel idea.

What tools do you need to remove the upper grille on a B8 passat? 1) a Torx T-20 screwdriver and 2) a phone with Youtube on it. Youtube told me to undo four screws, insert eight fingers between the grille slats and give it a firm yank. Success. The only reason I removed the grille was cable routing.

The LED bar mounting bracket is a powdercoated piece of steel that goes behind the license plate. It didn't occur to me to take pics before I put the plate back on. It's also very unnerving to drill self-tapping screws into the bumper of a modern car because you never know what's behind, even if the plate plinth is designed to be drilled into. I could have flipped the bracket the other way and tucked the LED bar further in, but that would have required hacking up the lower grille. Everything I've done is easily reversible, except the screw holes in the plate plinth but that's what it's for after all.

The bumper is full of snow because I had an "Alltrack Moment" this morning. There was a pedestrian in the middle of the street because the sidewalk had half a meter of snow on it. The sidewalk was good enough for me. And yes, the license plate is crooked. This has been rectified.


The LED bar is road legal with all the necessary approvals just like every other light on a car. There's also an "off road only" high power mode with about twice the lumens. To switch to the road legal mode you need to connect +12V to the blue wire as well. If you don't, you're a dirty, dirty criminal. Note how the manufacturer didn't bother to run the blue wire to the watertight Deutsch connector, it's just hanging off the side. I secured it with electrical tape.


Since this is a modern car you can't just tap into the headlight wiring. You *can* tap into the canbus, but that's something I don't want to do if I don't have to. This relay kit is non-destructive, is made in Sweden and costs more than the LED bar itself. It consists of a relay (sorry, PowerUnit®) and a little dongle that plugs into the OBD port under the dashboard. The two communicate over Bluetooth. Yes I know the wiring is a bit messy, but it works. That's earth to the LED bar and relay from the ground point, and +12V via the fuse to the relay from the jump start terminal under the black plastic cover. The battery itself is in the trunk on these cars.


This is the first time I've ever had to run a firmware update after installing lights on a car. Both the PowerUnit™®™™ and the OBD dongle needed new software. What has the world come to?


After running the firmware updates I downloaded the configuration file for my car. At this point the OBD dongle is up and running and knows that the ignition and low beams are on. You then need to tell the "Power Unit" (the relay in the engine bay) what to do with this info.


And the end result. The image quality is a bit poor beacuse it's a still from a short video clip I took. I didn't get around to taking an actual picture.

Skärmavbild 2021-11-25 kl. 22.29.52.png

The car REALLY didn't like when I disconnected the battery to do the wiring. After starting it back up it threw up every warning light and error message in the known universe. The DSG was weird, the power steering was sluggish and all the radars, sensors and driving aids were offline. I've seen this before on other cars, so no worries. Driving around the yard for a bit made all the systems come back to life except the ACC. That required me to turn the car off and back on again.
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Wow, modern cars are complicated. With the Volvo I tapped into the high beam cables for a relay signal.
Wow, modern cars are complicated. With the Volvo I tapped into the high beam cables for a relay signal.

Yes, those days are long gone, I'm afraid. But the XBB dongle I used here is a huge improvement over the old products we had which required you to physically cut and splice the CAN bus or at the very least put a sensor around the CANHI and CANLO cables on the wiring loom.
So, after owning and driving several of the rolling fridges this manufacturer has made over the years, I'm happy to report that the Alltrack is warm and toasty even in -27°C which i saw on the temp gauge tonight. I was a bit worried about this.

The Haldex AWD is also a lot more proactive than my Insignia was. A hill start here was no different from doing it on dry gravel. It just took off with what felt like power going to all four. In the Insignia you could feel the AWD brain going "huh? oh, right!" a split second after the front wheels lost traction. The Insignia had the GM specific version with a proper on-demand limited slip though. Here it's just an open diff with the usual ABS trickery. But it seems to do the job.

And yes, I was wearing summer shoes while doing this in -27. This is fine as long as you don't need to get out and dig. Which I didn't have to.

I really wish we would have gotten this here. Even if it was based on the US Passat which is a whole diff animal, it’d be perfect for me.

It’d be a Outback minus the Subaru quirk factor inside and out and I’d be all for that.
You do have the Golf Alltrack though, which is smaller but built on the same platform.

We got an absolute insane amount of snow dumped on us over Christmas and the car looks and feels right at home in this stuff.

You do have the Golf Alltrack though, which is smaller but built on the same platform.

My thing about the Golf Alltrack is that it’s a tad small in the back seat and the pano roof is notorious for leaking like mad.

The cargo area is nice though.

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My thing about the Golf Alltrack is that it’s a tad small in the back seat and the pano roof is notorious for leaking like mad.

The cargo area is nice though.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
The GDPO didn't go for the VW Connected Services option. This was annoying because having a remote controlled heater is one of the best options you can have on a car when living in a cold climate. My car came with a key fob with two buttons on it instead. Thankfully it's two-way with a little LED that tells you if the signal got through or not because the range is pretty crap and it sometimes needs several tries to go through. It's very mom and dad friendly though.

So, enter Webasto ThermoConnect. I don't know if you can call it aftermarket when Webasto supplied the heater VW puts in their cars as OEM. They even make an adapter kit for the ThermoConnect kit that plugs into the harness on VAG MQB cars. Sometimes it's pretty nice to drive the same car as everyone else because most things are thought out for you already.

It's for iOS and Android, but since M1 Macs run iOS apps natively I got a nice bonus as seen below. And no, I don't know why it's in three languages either.
Skärmavbild 2021-12-28 kl. 20.16.44.png
My car hasn't been entirely trouble free... VW's usually aren't. :p It has this annoying thing where it sometimes jerk-erk-erks away from a standstill like it's running on kangaroo fuel. Happens a couple of times a week, always while it's in the process of warming up. Not immediately after a cold start, but when the temp gauge has left the virtual peg already.

You can almost tell when this is about to happen because you're sitting at the lights with the engine idling and the rev counter keeps going up and down about 50rpm. It's almost like the clutch robot doesn't get the throttle it asked for and stomps the clutch pedal back down to avoid stalling. The car then realizes there's traffic behind, tries to gather its thoughts and takes off in a less than organized fashion, making me look like a learner driver with a manual transmission.

Anyway, I asked the service department at the VW dealer about this ages ago and there's a service bulletin for my particular VIN that recommends a new fuel rail pressure sensor with an E at the end of the parts number in case the customer experiences "jerky acceleration" and a "no-start condition"... which also happened to me once and then never again after that.

Now I sell parts myself, but this is one of those occasions when it makes sense to go to the dealer and get the OE part. The problem is the parts department close at the same time as I close up my own shop, so I need to arse myself to drive over there before work in the morning and this is a very difficult thing to make happen :LOL:

Today as it wasn't snowing or -20°C, I arsed myself to take the engine cover off and unplug the sensor to get to the parts number. Sure enough, my sensor lacks the E. I guess I'm going to VW on monday morning to cough up the 150 euros or whatever the OE part was.

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I was born with a bit of an allergy to aftermarket wheels. This is the kind of car where OEM is best, so this Had To Be Rectified. You can still build a 2022 Passat in the VW configurator, so I played around with the trim levels and decided I wanted the Dartford style in 18". I asked the VW dealer for a price, and after recovering from the sticker shock I figured the best course of action would be to find a set of used ones, which I did.

The wheels had Golf sized tires on them, but the seller was very awesome and agreed to refit them with new Continental summer tires in the size I needed, and ship them from the southern parts of the country. They will be here next week.

So today I took the car to get the winter rubber swapped to the OEM wheels and vice versa, to get the spare set ready for sale. I half jokingly asked another tech if he knew someone that needed a set of generic VAG wheels with good Conti PremiumContacts and he bought them from me on the spot. I have a feeling I let them go a bit too cheap, but I also got rid of them right there and then and that's worth a lot.

My car now looks approximately 27% more Volkswagen, and I think this is the end of the todo list. If nothing unforeseen happens this thing will get nothing more than diesel, scheduled services and repairs until it's time to replace it with something that plugs in.


Tonight we got a snowstorm in the form of big, wet flakes the size of paper napkins. Seems like a good day to collect my new summer wheel set from the parcel service and put them in storage.

The set of near new flawless OEM wheels, new Continental tires, tire fitting and shipping across the country ended up costing slightly more than two brand new alloys of the same type from the dealer. I call this a win.