I've seen a Passat or two and thought: "Seems like a nice, normal car." But I didn't know much about it-or care. Then european car acquired this 3.6-liter V6 version with a six-speed Tiptronic transmission and all-wheel-drive. This sounded like a little more fun.
Usually, a car with decent displacement and just a few cylinders means one thing: a nice low- and mid-range powerband with a top end that falls flat. That's not surprising, torque seems to be what many Stateside buyers go for, forgetting what makes a car go really fast.
The car has an automatic transmission and the ability to seat five, so that torque is welcome for nice initial acceleration. But with all 265 lb-ft peaking at 2750 rpm, like a wanna-be SUV, I was preparing for disaster at the top end. Seriously, outside of first gear, when would I ever care what my sub-3000-rpm performance is? I'm not towing anything, nor do I take corners that slowly.
I was, though, pleasantly surprised. Not realizing it would be strutting the highway catwalk with the Hi-Def body kit from VW's catalog, my guard was down. I really liked the looks. I couldn't agree more with editor Bidrawn's statement during his own initial assessment: "understated, yet aggressive."
Inside is the perfect combination of luxury and sport. The steering wheel and well-lit gauges, with a large tach in plain view, coupled with brushed aluminum paneling, are nice touches. The seats are my favorite part. With a stitched pattern reminiscent of that found in the classic 288 GTO Ferrari twin turbo (only all-black), my buns were getting the shakes.
The car purrs at start-up. Driving around town is as docile as expected from a luxury sedan. But would my predicted disappointment emerge at full throttle? In first, the car fires out of the hole. But climbing through the gears puts out an automotive song-and-dance characteristic of a high-performance engine.
Most drivers these days like a completely flat torque curve. Without getting too technical, 280 hp at 6200 rpm means the car is still twisting 237 lb-ft at 6200 rpm. Remember the 265 lb-ft that starts at 2750 rpm? That's as flat as it gets without supercharging.
I praise the performance of this 3.6-liter V6. With plenty of low-end grunt (even for an automatic) yet with a top end worthy of a sports car, the engine gives our Passat the soul to match its understated, aggressive exterior. We can thank the dual-cam, 24-valve head with variable valve timing and the 12.0:1 compression ratio for this.
The Haldex all-wheel-drive system transfers torque to the front (up to 90 percent) and the rear (up to 100 percent), making the car faster in any situation: rain or shine, street or track.
My early assumptions were dead wrong. This is a sporty looking sedan with better-than-expected performance. A people's car indeed-for enthusiastic people.
At A Glance
+ Great power delivery, good seats
- Tranny shifts down automatically in full auto mode
Mileage: 18,003 Fuel Economy: 22.0