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First drive: Volkswagen's Passat opens up to say R

R-rated: Hottest Passat joins Golf R32 and Touareg R50 on sale.

Volkswagen releases Australia’s least expensive German sports tourer, the Passat R36

14 Aug 2008

VOLKSWAGEN'S fastest car has been released in Australia. The R36 is the most overtly sports-orientated Passat in the model’s chequered 34-year history.

But, priced from $64,990 (or $65,590 if the proposed 33 per cent luxury car tax applies), it isn’t the most expensive that honour goes to the ultra-rare and ultra-oddball $97,900 B5 Passat W8 of 2003 – which, by the way, was less powerful than the R36.

There is also a Variant wagon offering up to 1641 litres of fast cargo potential (compared to the sedan’s 541-litre boot volume), for another $2000.

Devised by the in-house Individual department, the R36 is the fourth ‘R’ VW to make it to Australia, following in the footsteps of the 2004 Mark IV Golf R32, 2006 MkV Golf R32 and the Touareg R50 released in April.

But, unlike the latter’s diesel application, Passat R36 sticks with (98 RON) petrol, feeding a variation of the 3.6-litre FSI V6 direct-injection unit found in more mundane versions of the Touareg.

In this guise, the narrow-angle (10.6 degree V-bank) 3597cc VR6 unit delivers 220kW of power at 6600rpm and 350Nm of torque between 2400 and 5300rpm.

3 center imageMated exclusively to VW’s Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) dual-clutch transmission, the R36 sedan sprints to 100km/h from zero in 5.6 seconds (wagon: 5.8 seconds), and is electronically speed limited to 250km/h.

On the flipside, it emits 254g/km of carbon dioxide, while returning 10.7 litres per 100km in the combined average cycle – 0.6L/100km worse than the 195kW/391Nm FG Falcon G6E but the same amount better than a 195kW/340Nm Holden VE Calais V6.

As with the closely related Golf V R32, this is essentially a front-wheel drive vehicle until slippage of all sorts is detected, in which case torque is redirected to all four wheels via a Swedish Haldex part-time system. VW dubs its AWD cars 4-Motion.

The R32 is some 25mm lower to the ground than its regular Passat counterparts, and features a ‘sports’ suspension package with firmer dampers, revised springs, and 18-inch wide wheels and tyres of a unique design.

Brakes comprise via ventilated discs all round, with the fronts measuring 345mm in diameter up front and 310mm in the rear.

To recap, the Passat’s extended Golf V platform features MacPherson struts up front, a multi-link rear axle and an electro-mechanical speed-dependent Servotronic rack-and-pinion steering set-up.

Stylistic modifications include a specially designed ‘R’ bumper with slatted vent louvres, a matt chrome finish for the grille, colour-coded wheel arch extensions and bi-Xenon high intensity discharge headlights with cornering technology.

A new rear spoiler, side sill extensions, chromed dual exhaust pipes, smoked tail-lights, and a redesigned rear bumper complete the R36’s exterior makeover.

Biscay blue is the R36 hero colour, and is the only one of the four available hues that is exclusive to this Passat variant.

Inside there are lashings of dark brushed aluminium trim offset with some white aluminium décor, a leather steering wheel, gearshift paddles for the DSG, sports seats with electro-pneumatic side bolsters, a unique leather upholstery finish, an uprated 250W six-stack audio unit and R36-motif pedals to set it apart from more pedestrian Passats.

Helping protect your $65K-plus outlay are rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking radar, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), anti-slip regulation (ASR), brake assist (BA) and electronic stabilisation program (ESP), plus eight airbags and tyre-pressure monitors.

Also standard is climate-control air-conditioning, a comprehensive trip computer system, electric adjustment for the front seats, heated front seats and an electro-chromatic rear-view mirror.

Satellite-navigation, a sunroof, rear-view camera on the wagon, an automatic tailgate (wagon) and an upgraded audio unit are options.

VW has a few competitors for the R36 in its crosshairs, but all are smaller ($54,950/$57,950 Volvo S40/V50 T5 AWD, $58,130 BMW 130i), more luxury focussed ($74,500 Honda Legend), costlier ($74,990 Alfa Romeo 159 JTS V6 Q4, $88,800 Saab 9-3 Turbo X), and/or quite a bit larger ($73,990 Chrysler 300C SRT8, $64,550 HSV E-Series ClubSport R8).

Only the $54,990 Subaru Liberty GT is set to spoil the R36’s party.

VW will not reveal how many R36s it plans to sell, saying only that it will bring in as many as the market demands, meaning that supply will not be an issue.

The Mercedes-Benz CLS-style Passat CC four-door ‘coupe’ should be the next bodystyle derivative to arrive - early in 2009.

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