ABLAST in the R36 is fun, but don’t expect to get too comfortable. It has a cracking engine, supreme grip and many luxury features, but some people will find the ride too firm for everyday driving.
Ride comfort is subjective, and though many will find the R36 a bit stiff, it’s bearable. But I found it too harsh on less-than-perfect surfaces and even some highways.
Apart from the damping, the R36 is a liveable car that is also quick, if not as fast as a Lancer EVO or an FPV F6.
The engine is the centrepiece and sounds fantastic as it spins to 7000 revs. It delivers its power in a linear fashion; there is no peak or trough.
The dual-clutch DSG automatic is a great gearbox — the shifts are fast and the paddles fun. The only problem comes when moving away from a stop on an incline, in which case it can take a while to engage the clutch and you have to press the accelerator pedal harder than you’d imagine.
It is also annoying that, even in manual mode, the transmission changes up by itself.
The R36 handles extremely well and sits very flat in the bends, largely because of that rock-hard suspension. It changes direction easily, holds the road well and has remarkable traction in wet and slippery conditions.
The R36 comes with a lot of gear, including leather and alcantara trim and brilliant wraparound front seats that heat.
Bi-xenon headlights pointing in the direction you are pointing and dual-zone climate control are welcome but expected in a car at this price.
The sound system has good punch, but has no auxillary input for your MP3 player. You have to pay extra for it, which is a bit rich for a $65,000 car.
Like the other Passats, the R36 is quite spacious and has more than enough room for four or even five people. Legroom and headroom in the back is good and there is fair space in the boot.
The designers have given the R36 a sporty image, but it’s not over the top and doesn’t look like a boy racer’s car.