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VW Passat R36 Estate

Cheaper price makes R36 look tempting

Family feuds are always fiercely contested – and when Audi chose a six-cylinder engine for its latest S4, it put the newcomer on a collision course with a rival from parent firm Volkswagen.
The high-performance Passat R36
Estate has plenty in common with the S4.
It features a powerful V6, four-wheel drive, a quick-shifting twin-clutch gearbox and
a choice of saloon or estate bodies.
The biggest difference between the
two is on price. Go for the £32,990 VW,
and you’ll save a substantial £3,835 over
its upmarket stablemate. So, can the cheaper car cause an upset?
On first impressions, the R36 looks
more sporty as the familiar Passat shape
has been given a muscular makeover. There’s a deeper front bumper and chunky side skirts, while estate models also get a neat roof-mounted rear spoiler.
Elsewhere you’ll spot an imposing polished grille, two large tailpipes and 18-inch alloy wheels, which hide purposeful blue brake calipers. Inside are further clues to the Passat’s performance intentions. The driver gets a thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and aluminium pedals, while the heavily bolstered seats are embossed with R36 logos.
The rest of the cabin retains all the strengths of the standard model. It can’t quite match the ambience of the beautifully finished Audi, but it’s solidly put together and features high-quality materials.
However, the R36 has its rival beaten
for carrying capacity. Lift the tailgate, and there’s an impressive 498 litres of space. This increases to 1,626 litres with the rear bench folded flat, and trumps the Avant’s figures of 490 and 1,430 litres respectively.
As with the S4, though, practicality
takes a back seat to performance. At the
test track, the normally aspirated 296bhp 3.6-litre V6 propelled the VW from 0-60mph in only 5.5 seconds. But the R36 is heavier than the Audi and not as powerful, so it trails by more than half-a-second. Out on the road, the difference is difficult
to detect. There’s plenty of overtaking punch and the V6 emits a tuneful growl
with every push of the throttle.
Better still, the six-speed twin-clutch gearbox delivers seamless shifts – and as
in the S4, drivers who want manual control can use the steering wheel paddles. This boosts the VW’s appeal on twisting back roads, where it already impresses with
the kind of agility that belies its large dimensions and 1,747kg kerbweight.
The R36 also benefits from meaty steering and excellent traction, while
the sports suspension is 20mm lower, which helps to reduce body roll.
Ultimately, it can’t match the S4’s
sharp responses, but the VW still serves
up plenty of thrills for keen drivers in a more purposeful and practical package. Factor in the Passat’s lower price, and the R36 holds obvious appeal. The question is whether that’s sufficient to give it the edge over its VW Group cousin in this test.

Details

WHY: The sensible Passat gets a high-performance makeover in the form of the R36 estate.

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