As any car guy probably knows, each year seems to see a thinning of our numbers. How often do you hear car talk around the water cooler at work? I certainly don't, but have always been keen to encourage it, yet these days it falls on deaf ears. I am lucky to have a few friends who don't see their family conveyance as an appliance on wheels.
I blame two things: one is the fact that modifying modern cars, to a large degree, requires a laptop and the plastic cover over the engine screams stay away. I also blame the proliferation of SUVs, which I have never been a fan of, and probably never will be. Where is the fun in driving one?
I managed to get a really good deal on the VW Passat 206 R-Line Wagon. I got it for $50K drive-away. It was a demo with 4000km on the clock, and was my attempt to buy a highly practical vehicle with some interest factor. It runs the same mechanical driveline as the Golf R. I had a 2014 Mark 7 Golf R hatch prior to the Passat.
I bought it as it was incredibly good value for the money, and in this case was about $10K cheaper than the smaller Golf R wagon with similar specs. It is very practical and has similar cargo space to a Prado or Kluger.
It comes with everything you will ever need. Apple CarPlay, the full suite of active safety aids, including all of the parking aids, radar cruise, lane departure, cross-traffic alerts etc. All of these are standard on the Passat, but at the time of purchase some were optional on the Golf R.
The only other option is a sunroof, which for the Queensland climate is pretty much useless. From experience, the sunroof adds unwanted creaks and groans from the body shell over bumps too. It has the same leather seats as the Golf R and comes standard with the digital dash, which is a slightly downmarket version compared with the one offered by Audi. It also has a power tailgate that is operable from the key fob, which is a very handy feature.
So, what you have is a very comfortable vehicle that I think looks classier than the Golf R. It devours long highway trips with ease. It drives quite similarly in lots of ways, but will wallow a bit more when thrown into corners and its extra 100 or so kilos means it's a bit slower. But its AWD and DSG mean that it is very swift away from the lights. Its 206kW means it's never going to feel underpowered regardless of how much cargo is aboard. I get about 9L/100km around town. It does demand 98RON.
I do miss the Golf R's exhaust note and I suspect that it will be harder to sell than a Golf R, and hence its depreciation is a factor. So I wouldn't want to pay the full retail whack of about $62K for one, but from what I have seen, I don't think you will if you bargain hard.
But I honestly can't think of a better family vehicle for the money. Much better than any light-duty SUV in every way. There is the Skoda Superb, but as good as it is (looks aside), why buy that when you can have the VW for the same money?
My wife also has a 2015 B8 Passat R-Line diesel sedan and both have been faultlessly reliable. Each service has simply been an oil change and wheel alignment.
VW has wanted $800+ for a simple service, so I have found an independent guy to do the servicing, as this is simply a price gouge. You do hear some worrying stories about VW customer service, but I have found Norris on the Northside of Brisbane to be quite good when I have had any warranty issues on past VWs.
So, all up, I couldn't be happier.