The Volkswagen Passat R36 has been around for a while now. After a recent drive, though, I learned the R36 still remains a worthwhile option for those who crave performance from their family car.
Its mid-60s asking price makes it something of a performance bargain in the Volkswagen range. Although, compared to some rivals, the R36 does ask a premium.
Given its R badge, VW reckon this car has some go. And they’re right, too. The R36 is the fastest car Volkswagen currently sells in Australia. You’ll need just 5.6 seconds to propel the sedan to 100km/h, with a further 0.2 seconds in the wagon. At well over 1700kg this is no mean feat, but possible thanks to a 4motion all-wheel drive system and a sublime six-speed DSG transmission, which is mated to one of the most charming engines on the market.
The R36 is powered by a narrow angle 3.6 litre V6 offering 220kW. That’s around 300 horsepower in the old money. It’s an engine that can trace its roots back the Golf VR6 from the 1990s. And the R36 represents the last chance you have to enjoy its delights before Euro V emissions consign it to the history books. A fate that has already claimed the Golf R32.
In truth, the R36’s biggest weakness is its thirst for fuel. Never mind the sticker on the windscreen that says it will use an average of 10.7l/100kms, in city traffic you’ll (un)comfortably exceed that. But what price character? No other engine sounds like the R36, and there aren’t too many that sound as good, either.
Despite its weight the R36 handles very well. It’s smaller and lighter Golf GTI sibling feels more lively, sure, but for a family car based on modest roots the Passat R36 is very capable indeed.
Steering feel through the thick sports steering wheel is quite good. The powerful brakes are more than up to the task demanded by road duties. Maybe the firm suspension could be more softly damped. But as a compromise between comfort and performance the ride finds a happy medium.
The DSG transmission is wonderfully suited to this car. It affords cruisy automatic convenience when you need it. And when you don’t, you can easily take control by using the steering wheel mounted paddles. Once in manual mode, the R36 is possibly the best exponent of Volkswagen’s double-clutch gearbox technology. It is able to hold gears near redline better than the DSG-equipped Golfs driven by AUSmotive.
The R36 interior is up to usual Volkswagen standards, which means it is class-leading. Metallic materials have been used tastefully to liven things up. The alcantara seats hold you in place perfectly when you need them to. And with 12 way electronic adjustment as standard they are comfortable as well. There is ample leg room in the back and the enormous cargo space, in both sedan and wagon form, ensures the R36 really is an accomplished family tourer.
For me, the character and raspy note of its engine would forgive the R36’s thirst. As an option to safely and ably carry one’s family around this car is well worth considering. If you are looking for a car than can do that, as well as provide back road thrills, then make sure the R36 is on your shortlist.
Thank you to Lennock Volkswagen for their assistance.
Pics sourced from Volkswagen UK Press Office, some details may differ from Australian delivered cars.