Pas­sat’s all, folks

No ar­gu­ments, Volk­swa­gen’s po­tent R36 is the fastest in the fam­ily, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -


THE fastest car in the Volk­swa­gen fam­ily has just hit Aus­tralia. And it’s not the swoopy new Scirocco coupe . . . The boxy Pas­sat R36 takes line hon­ours with a com­bi­na­tion of a 3.6-litre V6 en­gine that makes 220kW and gives the fam­ily hauler — sedan or wagon — the po­ten­tial for a 5.6-sec­ond sprint to 100km/h and a top end well be­yond Aus­tralia’s le­gal lim­its.

The po­tent Pas­sat proves the point on Volk­swa­gen’s R shop up­grad­ing, which is done in-house at the In­di­vid­ual di­vi­sion and mir­rors sim­i­lar go-faster tweak­ing done by M for BMW, AMG for Benz, and TRD, HSV and FPV for the three home­grown Aussie brands.

The R36 rolls in along­side the ex­ist­ing R32 Golf and R50 Touareg to com­plete the R-car line-up (for now, any­way) with prices from $64,990 for a man­ual sedan to $67,590 for a wagon with DSG manu-matic gear­box.

Like all the other R cars it hits with sports sus­pen­sion, a bet­ter brake/tyre/wheel pack­age and a cabin up­grade. Oh, and all-wheel drive. The R36 also comes with the same bold Bis­caya blue paint­work avail­able on the R32 and R50.

The car trumps any­thing seen be­fore from Volk­swa­gen and is a sig­nif­i­cant twist for a com­pany mak­ing most of its ad­vances in Aus­tralia with diesels. The Golf GTi is still its best seller but more than half of all sales are diesels as the Ger­man brand lifted its sales 17.9 per cent by the end of July to take No.7 in the pas­sen­ger-car rank­ings.

‘‘Aus­tralian cus­tomers have been very kind to us this year,’’ Volk­swa­gen Group Aus­tralia boss Jutta Dierks says.

She is hop­ing for more kind­ness on the R cars and par­tic­u­larly the Pas­sat R36, but ad­mits to­tal sales will prob­a­bly still amount to only 1000 across the three mod­els next year.

‘‘For us, R line is spe­cial. And we have plans to ex­pand it,’’ Dierks says. ‘‘Ba­si­cally, we can do this with ev­ery sin­gle car. It fits ev­ery model in our range.’’

The me­chan­i­cal pack­age for the R36 is built around its V6 en­gine and slick DSG six-speed gear­box, com­plete with pad­dle shifts. It is ba­si­cally front-wheel drive un­til there is any slip, when the rear wheels — gi­ant 18-inch al­loys — are called into ac­tion.

The en­gine is much the same as the 3.6-litre unit fit­ted to the Touareg. Tweak­ing for the R36 drops the torque slightly but takes power up by close to 20kW.

The sus­pen­sion is low­ered 25mm with tauter springs and dampers, there are vented disc brakes at each cor­ner and the body is tweaked with deeper side sills, a rear spoiler, chromed ex­hausts and the in­evitable R badges.

It also has bi-xenon lamps, a com­bi­na­tion of leather and mi­crofi­bre on the sports bucket seats and a 250W sound sys­tem.

Volk­swa­gen is not talk­ing about sales num­bers but says sup­ply from Ger­many, which lim­ited sales of the orig­i­nal R32 Golf to 200 cars, will not be a prob­lem.

Af­ter the R36, the next R model will prob­a­bly be based on the Pas­sat CC, which is set for Aus­tralia early next year.

And what about the Scirocco coupe, which has the po­ten­tial to take king-of-the-hill rights from the R36?

‘‘We have not made the de­ci­sion, but the door is not closed,’’ Dierks says. HE go-faster Pas­sat is like the rest of Volk­swa­gen’s R cars — quick and en­joy­able, but not as sharp as ex­pected. It gets along briskly enough, and gives plenty of feed­back and en­joy­ment, but is miss­ing the ‘‘wow’’ fac­tor we ex­pect af­ter years with HSV and FPV Hold­ens and Fords.

The R36 is more like a TRD Au­rion, though that is prob­a­bly un­kind to the Volk­swa­gen be­cause the driv­ing po­si­tion is a lot bet­ter and it has a much bet­ter trans­mis­sion.

It has a classy look and feel, and the R up­grade is bal­anced, but it is not a cheap car and there are short­com­ings.

Volk­swa­gen used the ar­rival of the R36 to roll out the whole fam­ily for a drive day at Phillip Is­land, which did its best to make the Mo­toGP track a chal­lenge with a com­bi­na­tion of Antarc­tic tem­per­a­tures, show­ery rain and blus­tery winds.

The R36 showed up well on the track but, be­cause the cir­cuit is fast and open, did not feel all that fast. Punchy out of the pits, and with a nice cor­ner­ing bal­ance, but not what you would ex­pect from a car trum­peted as the fastest Volk­wa­gen in the busi­ness.

The R32 Golf was sharper again, thanks to the smaller body and a re­spon­sive en­gine.

The sur­prise, though, was the Touareg. The fam­ily hauler looks much more ag­gres­sive as the R50 and it punches be­yond its weight.

The big sur­prise is the in­cred­i­ble torque from its 5.0-litre V10 diesel, which gives the sort of punch you ex­pect from a Porsche Cayenne or AMG Benz ML. It re­ally can get up and go.

But weight works against the R50 in cor­ners and it was blown around badly on the approach to turn one at more than 200km/h — not what you re­ally want. And you have to re­mem­ber to shift early and of­ten (un­like the smaller V6 mod­els) to keep it mov­ing along.

All three R cars were avail­able for a car park mo­torkhana, which was fun but did not prove much be­yond their off-the-line pace.

It was a fun day de­spite the weather, and proved Volk­swa­gen has the ba­sic build­ing blocks to build some quicker and more en­joy­able R cars. But we still think the Golf GTi is the one to beat in the Volk­swa­gen line-up.

Quick smart: the Pas­sat R36 tops any­thing seen be­fore from Volk­swa­gen and the com­pany says sup­ply from Ger­many will not be a prob­lem.

Same dif­fer­ence: Pas­sat’s R sta­ble­mates (above) Touareg R50 and (be­low) Golf R32

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