Vintage R&T Review: 1983 VW Quantum GL5 and Turbo-Diesel – VW Goes Upmarket

The VW Quantum (Passat B2) received two new engines in 1983: the 2.2 L five borrowed directly from Audi, and the brand new (and first) turbo-diesel four. The GL5 model, which came loaded (for the times) and in automatic only, was clearly intended to position VW in a new category, up against the established premiun German brands. This was something new from VW; the beginning of their relentless upmarket push that would peak with their ill-fated Phaeton.

R&T gets it wrong about the commonality between the Quantum/Passat (B2) and the Audi 80: “Today the two designs have little in common…”  I beg to differ. Except for a 10cm longer wheelbase on the Quantum/Passat, under their now different skins they were very much kissing cousins. And their sharing of engines (all EA827 family members) was just another aspect of that. A simple way of putting it was that the Quantum GL5 was a direct shot at the upper end of the Audi 4000 (80) and low end of the 5000 (100).

The 2.2 L five made 100hp and 90 lb.ft of torque. That makes an interesting comparison to the other new engine, the turbo-diesel four with 68 hp but a whopping 98 lb.ft. of torque. This was the beginning of the diesel golden age.


The Quantum’s excellent interior design is noted, a reflection of Germanic detail to every element. Handling was good, even better in rear-world driving than on the skid pad, which always tended to favor cars with stiff springs and thick sway bars.


Frankly, if offered the choice in 1983 between the automatic 2.2 L five and the 1.6 L turbo -diesel four teamed with the 5-0speed manual, I know which I’d have taken: the latter. My FIL bought an early gen1 Jetta with this engine, and I was mightily impressed, with its nice fat torque curve and decently smooth running. Yes, diesels can be fun to drive.

The Quantum was not exactly a big hit in the US. American buyers still thought of VW as cheap cars, and would rather have a premium brand for the money being asked. It was a problem that VW only recently gave up trying to fix, and decided that chasing Toyota made more sense.