Do you remember the Passat W8? I vaguely do. I remember its 275-hp quad-cam 4.0-litre W8, 4MOTION AWD, six-speed gearbox, tight build quality and solid, understated design. It lacked spirit and wasn’t all that fast, and it cost 40K USD, so VW pulled the plug after three painful years of collecting dust on showroom floors.
That episode was evidently a lesson-taken, lesson-learned for Volkswagen. This new, sixth-generation Passat R36 shares none of those traits, featuring as it were a 300-hp 3.6L FSI V6, 4MOTION AWD, six-speed gearbox, solid design and a price somewhere north of $40K. Hmm. To their credit, it is a strategy that is not without success: Starbucks, Rolex, Alfa Romeo – all priced themselves right out of competition, and look how well that worked for them. Making something expensive enough automatically creates exclusivity – it takes audacity, and an understanding of human vanity to pull it off. Certainly 40-45K for a mid-level V6 family sedan is a hard sell, but an AWD German saloon is an different matter altogether.
There are a few goodies that make the price of entry bearable on the car’s own merits: a six-speed direct-shift-gearbox (DSG) that should be standard on all VWs, a high-compression (12.0:1), narrow-angle (15°) motor using direct-injection technology from Audi's racing program, 12-way adjustable sport seats, a lower and stiffer suspension, and some meaty, if a little uninspired in design 18-inch alloy wheels.
VW pegs 0-62 mph in 5.6 seconds and a top
speed of 155mph, which does indeed place the R36 in the midst of some seriously
sporting German sedans. On American shores, cars like the Infiniti G35x and Mazdaspeed
6 provide very similar features and performance, for a lot less. Maybe that’s
why Volkswagen decided not to bring the R36 here. In Europe, where the
comparatively fast 280-hp 3.6L V6 Passat is not available, and brands like Audi
and BMW don’t benefit from the same aura of prestige and invulnerability, the
R36 might be an easier sell. All that’s left to be seen is whether the R36 has
the peppy, sprightly moves that its R badge suggests, or is a sleeping lounge
lizard like the W8. In this class, that distinction often makes all the
difference. - by Traian Popescu
|Base Price, GBP||30,000+ est.||Engine Type||24-valve DOHC V6|
|Powertrain Layout||Front engine, AWD||Displacement, cc||3598|
|Curb Weight, lb||3600 est.||0-62 mph, sec||5.6 / 5.8 (wagon) est.|
|1/4 mile, sec@mph||-||600 ft slalom, mph||-|
|70-0 mph, ft||-||Top speed, mph||155 est.|