Volkswagen has been recovering strongly from the diesel scandal by using the efficient 1.8L TSI gasoline engine as their main source of revenue. We thoroughly enjoyed the TDI variants from our now-distant past, but their absence doesn’t mean Volkswagen hasn’t remained competitive to keep loyal buyers intrigued. As competent and frugal as the 1.8 TSI is, the VR6 has remained a heartthrob around our office; an engine that is interesting enough to tout the “no replacement for displacement” within the midsize sedan segment.
These days, it’s quite rare to see six-cylinders in a midsized sedan. Huge sellers such as the Honda Accord (reviewed here) and Nissan Altima have done away with their sixes in favour of turbocharged fours, an area where Volkswagen has been dabbling for years. The 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT is a last hurrah to the popular sedan before it’s replaced, and it’s equipped with the ideal powertrain combination. Volkswagen has stuffed it with the VR6 motor, a DSG dual-clutch transmission, and 19” Tornado wheels.
The narrow-angled VR6 is a phenomenal engine both in design and performance. This 3.6L version pushes out 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque, hustling it from a stop to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds. This is a definite upgrade over the 1.8 TSI that is standard on the Passat, and while the four is adequate, it’s just not enough for the car. The naturally aspirated 3.6L VR6 provides sharp response that’s linear with lots of pep. The exhaust note is something that will attract younger buyers and bring up some nostalgia for those of us that were around in the 90s, when the VR6 peaked.
As mentioned, the Passat GT’s 3.6L is paired to a six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox), which is Volkswagen’s famous dual-clutch transmission. It was one of the first mainstream dual-clutch applications, and while other automakers have caught up, still remains one of the best out there. It’s a valued upgrade from the standard automatic in the four-cylinder model, and is an excellent unit whether you’re using the wheel-mounted paddles to shift gears yourself or leaving it in automatic mode.
Volkswagen really does understand how a transmission should be; the DSG is always a treat to work with regardless of the application. In the case of this example, it’s paired perfectly with the GT-tuned exhaust, with perfect shifts every single time. Shifts are complemented by wonderful pops and burbles that we have come to love. When all is said and done, the Passat GT is seriously quick when it needs to be with enough noise, and can be whisper quiet when cruising on the highway.
The sport-tuned suspension on the Passat GT means it rides 0.6” lower than the regular version. This coupled with the 19” alloys will help give the car a slightly more athletic stance, and ride quality is quite good as well. The retuned dampers and springs are more sport-oriented but by no means is it as sharp as the Golf GTI (reviewed here). The size of the Passat really does make itself evident, though it’s a crisper-feeling version. Ride quality is smooth as butter, but on uneven pavement the firmer suspension doesn’t soak up bumps as well as we’d like to see.
Lighter steering with a very obviously electric feel is a bit disappointing, but there is some feedback and good turn-in. On-center feel is quite good, and the Passat flies down the highway on command, with minimal effort. At the end of the day, the front-drive nature of the Passat GT does limit it against all-wheel-drive rivals such as the Subaru Legacy (reviewed here) and forthcoming Nissan Altima, but 4MOTION is optional in other trim levels should you require it.
Due to the age of this platform, the Passat GT does miss out on the latest technology Volkswagen offers in new models such as the Jetta, Atlas and Tiguan, but the 6.3” infotainment touchscreen is easily competitive. We do like certain features but the screen is positioned a bit too low, meaning the driver needs to take eyes off the road in order to confirm a command. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is welcomed connectivity and we appreciate Volkswagen’s early adaptation to this tech.
Overall, the interior layout is clean and organized, if not a little bit dated. The piano black finish appears very nice at first glance, but is a magnet to fingerprints and dust that will be inevitable over years of ownership. The seats are very comfortable, and moderately bolstered with just enough support for the average buyer. Rear legroom is one area in which the Passat absolutely excels and rivals larger sedans such as the Toyota Avalon (reviewed here). A six-foot passenger can sit behind a six-foot driver, something that is almost unheard of in a midsized sedan.
Unique to the GT trim are some other exterior tweaks such as a blacked out roof with black lip spoiler, both of which complement the Reflex Silver paint on our test vehicle nicely. The front brake calipers are painted red, and the front bumper is from the R-Line model featuring a honeycomb design with a red stripe borrowed straight from the GTI. It’s a handsome sedan overall, and a fresh change from the aggressively-styled midsizers that are taking over our streets.
Recommending 91-octane premium fuel, the 3.6L Passat is rated at 12.2L/100km in the city and 8.5L/100km on the highway, right in line with other six-cylinder rivals. The Passat GT will gladly accept regular if required to, though premium is a firm recommendation. We used 91-octane on our test and averaged 9.4L/100km throughout our test week, with some highway drives seeing as little as 7.8L/100km. We were able to exceed Volkswagen Canada’s ratings without issue.
The 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT is a great “best of all worlds” model within the Passat line. A trim to have a last hurrah with before moving onto a new platform, the sedan still offers more interior volume than the competition, and one of our favourite powertrains of all time. Implementation of the Atlas or Jetta’s interior updates will make the next version, whatever it may be, the best version yet. As a traditional sedan with six cylinders and a punchy engine, the Passat still has our vote.
The 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT is a great trim to celebrate a last hurrah with before moving into an all-new platform, this midsize sedan still offers lots more space than the competition and the VR-6 is one of our favorite powertrains. With an interior found in the new Atlas, or even Jetta now making the Passat feel old, but the forthcoming generation might just be the best one yet. We love how it looks, the GT trim is the one to have, being one of the very few manufacturers offering a 6-cylinder on a mid-size sedan, the Passat still has our vote.