For faster families
VW presents a surprising answer for the more mature boy racer
Most makers have a hot car division dedicated to turning mundane everyday drives into fire-breathing tyre-shredders. Volkswagen is no different.
VW is perhaps best known for its Golf-based GTI hot hatch but it also does hotties based on other models, among them the Passat R36. The R36 wasn't the first R model to arrive here — that was the V6 R32 Golf in 2006, which was followed by the R50 Touareg.
The concept was simple: lower the ride, pump up the power, up the wheel size, and add some body bling.
In the all-wheel-drive R36, its sports tuned suspension dropped it 25mm, a directinjection 3.6-litre V6 delivered 220kW/350 Nm, 18-inch alloys filled its wheel arches and a body kit toughened its looks.
Being based on the Passat, VW’s family car, it came in sedan and wagon versions. Its looks eschewed the boyracerish for smooth, flowing lines and neat proportions. Inside there was ample head and leg room for four to five adults and very decent storage.
The V6 ensured it had all the punch you could want, its sixspeed DSG auto added to the sporty feel, and the handling was sharp and precise. If there was a criticism it would be that the ride was a little on the firm side, but that comes with the territory and most who chose it would be happy with that.
In days past it was wise to use caution when shopping for a performance car such as the R36. They were often thrashed hard by uncaring drivers and suffered from harsh treatment.
Those were the days when sports cars were often steered by young drivers who liked to explore the limits of their vehicles. It's a little different today, particularly with a car like the R36, which is out of reach for most young drivers — it’s more likely to be driven by a middle-aged businessman who just wants to look the part.
Still, it’s well worth having your potential purchase checked by an expert in the area to make sure all is well under the bonnet. Look for hesitations in the DSG on takeoff, shuddering, reluctance to shift, or engaging the wrong gear at the wrong time, particularly selecting neutral at the wrong time.
VW recalled six-speed DSGequipped cars in 2008 for a problem relating to the clutch protection setup that could lead to a loss of power.
Expect regular brake changes, both pads and rotors. This is something that affects European models more than most. Being an on-demand allwheel-drive, the tyres can exhibit uneven wear.
Some R36 owners complain of their seats wearing and collapsing at quite low kays, so have a close look at the seats and the trim.
Overall though, the Passat is a generally reliable car and can be bought with confidence.
This is a fast, fun mid-sized performance car that will surely excite the senses.