For faster fam­i­lies

VW presents a sur­pris­ing an­swer for the more ma­ture boy racer

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH gra­ham.smith@cars­guide.com.au

NEW

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.

Boxes ticked.

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.

NOW

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.

SMITHY SAYS

This is a fast, fun mid-sized per­for­mance car that will surely ex­cite the senses.

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