2008 Volkswagen Passat R36
How does Volkswagen's quickest car stack up to family life?
- 2008 Volkswagen R36 Passat - $67,590
- None fitted
Power, braking, space, drivetrain, RNS510, handling
Ride and damping
- by Karl Peskett
When we're handed a press car, it's presented to us washed and vacuumed, with tyres blacked, and wheels gleaming. As much as we can, we try and keep it like that for the duration of the week it's in our care.
However, chuck a two-year-old, a five-year-old, a wife and a mate in the car, and things can change quite quickly. Not only is there lolly wrappers, packets of chips and other sundry items strewn about the place, but there's also the extra fuel usage from extra weight (no, not the wife - in case she asks) and the strain on the air-conditioning with five bodies in the car.
Oh, yes, we mustn't forget the pram, the hats, sunscreen, bottles of water and the other bits and pieces. We're off to the local four-wheel-drive show, and on a 30-degree day, with no wind, the blazing sun makes its presence felt.
Appropriately, Volkswagen handed us a four-wheel-drive for the trip. Well, actually, it's an all-wheel-drive, but we have to fit in with the Jones's somehow. What we wanted to know was how the Passat R36 fares with several passengers on board over a reasonable distance. Matt reviewed the car a while ago, and he loved it. Let me tell you, I'm now a raving fan as well.
With its astonishing mid-range punch, its raucous, roaring V6, and beautiful transmission, the R36 is definitely lust-worthy for the middle-aged buyer looking for a family car with a hardcore edge.
Having tested almost all makes and variants of twin-clutch set-ups, the R36's DSG is up there with the best. The software upgrades that come with a few years on the market have proved their worth, with this DSG easily eclipsing the original Passat V6's transmission for both shift quality, and response times.
On full throttle, the shifts are completely seamless. The only way you realise you're upshifting is a split second deep, bass bark when it changes gear. Response from the steering wheel mounted tabs is also instant. It really is one of the best gearboxes around for the price.
Couple it with a Haldex all-wheel-drive system which acts invisibly, and the drivetrain is a winner. That in itself does not a good car make. What we were after was a comfortable, well sorted car with enough mod-cons to keep everyone happy. As far as comfort goes, the R36 is a double edged sword.
When you hop in, all seats are beautifully sculpted and made from materials that complement the style of the car. Electrically adjustable bolsters for the front seats hug your body, and the Alcantara seat base prevents slipping. They're infinitely comfortable for long distance loping.
Even the back seats are comfortable, and although a touch firmer, don't make you feel like you're sitting on them, rather than in them - something a few other VeeDubs suffer from. A problem comes when you start driving, not from the seats, mind you, but from the suspension.
You see, the R36 is brilliant at hanging on in corners. A firm ride is therefore expected, but it's the severity of the ride that really irks. There's a distinct mismatching of dampers to spring rates, which means you get a teeth-rattling ride, but not the same amount of compression and rebound control. Therefore it crashes over the slightest indents in the road.
It also heaves over large undulations, or if coming off large speed bumps. Maybe a change of shockers would fix the issue. Really, it's the only hassle with the car, and as far as comfort goes, it's the weakest link. The rest of the car is damn near perfect.
The room for a mid-sized station wagon is staggering. No-one complained about lack of leg or headroom, and as you can see, the pram fitted with heaps of room to spare. In fact, the boot space is excellent. To obtain extra height, just remove the luggage cover and separating net, and you're on a winner.
Psst! Don't tell VW, but we reckon there's more room in the R36 (yes, in the entire car) than the R50. Unless you're going off road, stick with the Passat.
Despite the speed potential, the R36 can be reasonably economical, too. It's a modern, finely tuned V6 mated to a gearbox which changes without interruption, so on paper your chances of saving fuel are pretty good.
The beautiful thing is being automatic, the DSG upshifts according to throttle position. Therefore, if you're gentle on the throttle, it'll shift up earlier. The V6 also makes enough torque to not labour, so your fuel usage is never compromised.
When going easy on the loud pedal, the DSG usually upshifts around 2000rpm for the first couple of gears, and then between 1400-1700rpm for the rest. It makes for easy travelling, too, as it's still seamless, and there's a nice throaty growl as it moves through the ratios.
We kept this driving pattern for the week, and running the family and friends around, there's a bit of weight added. The air-conditioning was on, too, remaining very competent, as the days hovered between 25-and 30-degrees. With a black interior and five people, you can imagine it had its work cut out for it.
Travelling a smidge under 450kms for the time of test, the Passat used 52 litres of premium unleaded. According to the trip computer, it used 11.9L/100km. In real world terms, though, the R36 managed 11.55L/100km. Not bad considering the city start-stop conditions, the extra cargo, and the one freeway stretch we did.
VW's official figure is 10.7L/100km, so to have done almost all urban conditions and no highway work, the figure we reached is very good.
Here's the thing though: The R36 has one of the best sounding V6s around. It will go from 0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds. It handles like its on rails. Apart from the ride, it'll carry your passengers in complete comfort, and it's got room in spades. Plus, if you drive it right, it belies its performance badge with how much fuel it uses.
What more can you ask for? For me, as a family man, not much really. Now, excuse me while I duck off to see the bank manager ...
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
• Engine: 3597cc DOHC V6 (24 valve)
• Power: 220kW @ 6600rpm
• Torque: 350Nm @ 2400 – 5300rpm
• Transmission: Six-speed, dual-clutch DSG
• Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS, EBA & EBD
• Driven Wheels: All
• 0-100km/h: 5.6 seconds
• Top Speed: 250km/h (electronically limited)
• Fuel Type: 98RON Unleaded
• Fuel Tank Capacity: 70 litres
• Fuel Consumption: 10.7 litres per 100km (Combined)
• CO2 Emissions: 254 grams per 100km
• EuroNCAP Rating: Five star
• Safety: ESP with TCS, front, side & curtain airbags
• Service Interval: 12 month/15,000kms
• Spare Wheel: Full size alloy
• Turning Circle: 11.4 metres
• Towing Capacity: 2200kg (Braked)
• Warranty: 3 years/100,000kms