RE: Volkswagen Passat R36: PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Volkswagen Passat R36: PH Used Buying Guide

Wednesday 2nd January

Volkswagen Passat R36: PH Used Buying Guide

The R36 will forever remain the last V6 Passat, making this 300hp model all the more desirable



There's filling a niche and falling between the cracks. Guess which one applies to the Volkswagen Passat R36. Not enough of an image to tempt buyers away from the Audi S4 yet too pricey and thirsty for the vast majority of regular Passat customers, the R36 sold in penny numbers and there are only around 150 left on UK roads.

That makes the R36 much rarer than the contemporary Audi S4 in saloon or Avant forms, yet used prices are on a par. With so few R36s in the market, much depends on what a buyer is prepared to fork out, but reckon on spending from £9,000 for a high-mileage saloon. The estate is more desirable, if a little slower as it covers 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds to the four-door's 5.6-second dash. However, the wagon is more practical, sold twice as many as the saloon so you're more likely to find one, and we all love a fast wagon.

The R36 certainly wasn't a slouch when launched in the early part of 2008. As well as covering the 0-62mph benchmark in quickstep time, it could hit a capped top speed of 155mph. In between, the six-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox made for rapid shifts in manual or auto modes, though the engine needs to be revved hard to give its best as peak power doesn't arrive until 6,600rpm. Fortunately, there's plenty of torque on offer much lower down the rev band and the R36 is happier when driven in a brisk rather than flat-out manner.


With an all-up weight of 1,747kg for the estate, it's a heavy car and this shows in the handling. Push on and understeer sets in to warn the driver the Passat has reached its limits. Don't expect any lift-off antics here as you would in a Subaru Impreza WRX - the Haldex coupling and 4Motion all-wheel drive of the Passat provides a different, more refined experience.

For some, that will be reason enough to sidestep the R36 as a used car. For a devoted few, it's what makes the car enjoyable. It's quick and under the radar thanks to the subtle bodykit, and the cabin is kitted out with climate control, heated front seats with electric adjustment, and leather and Alcantara upholstery. In short, it's packed with kit.

That's probably not enough of a reason for most reading this to choose an R36. It's also not cheap to run thanks to mid-20s fuel economy, full whack road tax and a penchant for tyres. However, reliability is decent and the wagon is a useful family estate. For those determined to drive something out of the ordinary, the VW Passat R36 has found its rarefied niche and makes far more sense now than it ever did when new.



Buyer's checklist

Bodywork and interior

R36 sits 20mm lower than the standard Passat, so the underside and lower edge of the front bumper is more prone to scrapes from speed bumps.

If the car has a tow bar fitted, make sure the wiring has been professionally fitted as it can interfere with the car's warning lights.


Engine and transmission

Expect around 24mpg in mixed driving.

Mechatronic control unit for the DSG gearbox is better than previous VWs but can still fail. Check for smooth shifts in both auto and manual modes. Make sure the transmission doesn't slip into neutral and look for the dash warning lights. If it does fail, VW will charge £900 for a replacement, but specialists such as ECU Testing can supply rebuilt units for around £250.

Listen for any rattles from the cam chain as it can stretch and fail, though this is rare. A new timing chain plus guides and tensioners is £150 plus fitting.

Make sure the recall for a faulty battery cable has been carried out as it requires dropping the fuel tank and is a costly job to put right if you have to pay for it.

Haldex system needs an oil and filter service every 40,000 miles or four years. Also a wise idea to change the gearbox oil at the same intervals.


Suspension and steering

Feel for any vagueness in the steering as the Passat R36's weight and firm suspension set-up gives the bushes a hard time.

Wheels, tyres and brakes

Auto hold brake function can fail and stop releasing quickly. Check it works and if it doesn't, budget on £400 for a new sensor plus fitting.

It's good practice to rotate the wheels front to back to even out tyre wear as the four-wheel drive system favours the fronts.

Tyres and brakes have their work cut out in the 1,747kg R36 and some owners reckon on replacing discs and pads every second service, which means 20,000 miles per set. Tyres should last 10,000 miles or more depending on use.


SPECIFICATION - VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT R36

Engine: 3,597cc V6
Transmission: 6-speed DSG
Power (hp): 300@6,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@2,400-5,300rpm
MPG: 26.9
CO2: 249g/km
Price new: £30,990
Price now: £9,000 upwards





Author
Discussion

Nerdherder

Original Poster:

1,199 posts

41 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
This thing just has no appeal to me whatsoever. Remember that the Passat CC had something to it (to my mind) when it came out, but it didn't age well.

AC43

7,190 posts

152 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
Leftfield V6 wagon. Love it.

C7 JFW

996 posts

163 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
I nearly bought one of these to replace my Mk4 Golf 4Motion when it was time. I got a Subaru STI instead.

That doesn't detract from what is effectively a car for the Volkswagen Connoisseur. I do like them. Understated yet well equipped. Add an HGP Turbo kit and you've got some serious punch in a relatively calm suit.

BFleming

1,226 posts

87 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
As a previous Passat B6 owner (not the R36 mind), I'll throw my hat in the ring here. These cars are very specification dependent, and came with near-nothing extra from the factory. No nav, no multi-function flat-bottom steering wheel, no leather, no heated seats, no sunroof. If you can find a fully specced one, it makes the cabin a much nicer place to be, and you might as well be in a base model without it.
The 3.6 engine was a much better effort than the equally rare 3.2 it replaced, but both were DSG only. That was ok in a sedate Passat 3.2 SEL, but not flavour of the month in the R36. I'm sure people have gone on to have great high mile high performance experiences with the DSG box, but there are some eye watering accounts of expensive failures too.
The 'full whack road tax' - The UK is still the cheapest place in Europe to tax the R36.
The 'towbar wiring' comment. Welcome to the 21st century. Every car with canbus wiring will throw an error if the lights aren't wired correctly. It's a strange comment when reviewing a performance version of a load lugger/taxi.

lee_erm

799 posts

137 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
Hope the author had his fingers crossed when he said these are reliable. Like any other VAG product this side of a basic city car, it'll be anything but.

Krikkit

15,700 posts

125 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
I really like the R36, but I think you'd be mad to buy one at their current prices - the ones I've seen are about £10k, which gets you a minty B7 S4 with a V8, and a smidge under the leggy B8 S4 with the supercharged V6.

LayZ

1,345 posts

186 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
This is almost heresy on PH but like a lot of these middling petrol big tax cars, the performance isn't up to the running costs. Almost any 320/350 CDI engined Merc has performance to nearly match these with more sensible running costs. Get a chip and they'll definitely beat or match.

You can see why cars like this are rare and unloved.

st4

1,359 posts

77 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
LayZ said:
This is almost heresy on PH but like a lot of these middling petrol big tax cars, the performance isn't up to the running costs. Almost any 320/350 CDI engined Merc has performance to nearly match these with more sensible running costs. Get a chip and they'll definitely beat or match.

You can see why cars like this are rare and unloved.
But they're not got remotely sensible running costs.

Diesel cars like the 320/350cdi have ruinous repair costs. I've had 3 V6 diesel mercs all of which with diesel related faults that ran into four figures on several occasions with each and every one - relating to swirl motors, manifolds, turbo seals, dpfs, adbue faults - given nothing else went wrong on the Mercs bar an airmatic fault it's safe to conclude the unreliability and high running costs stemmed from being diesel fueled.

That could have bought a lot of petrol and I'd have had the bonus of driving a car that was refined and sonorous and less hassle to actually own.

I have a Lexus 250 V6 and not one fault from the engine and it does nearly 40mpg when cruising and roars like a lion when you give it the beans. Ok The mercs would do 50mpg and go a bit faster, but who cares. The petrol is just nicer.

A diesel V6 Merc just shakes when idling, smells and gargles slightly unpleasantly when you rev it. The petrol is silent when idling, practically, doesn't stink and makes a great noise and is simpler to maintain and run. I'll never have another diesel car.

Edited by st4 on Thursday 3rd January 10:34

Cambs_Stuart

568 posts

28 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
I've got the R36 engined CC. It's a superb engine, and sport mode never gets boring.
But it's a big heavy beast to get round a back road. You'd have to work very hard to keep up with a ST220 or Legacy GTB despite the power advantage.
The passat has got a huge appetite for suspension components too.
Great for long distance, lovely seats and a good cabin. The kids love the buckets in the back.

Cambs_Stuart

568 posts

28 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
C7 JFW said:
I nearly bought one of these to replace my Mk4 Golf 4Motion when it was time. I got a Subaru STI instead.

That doesn't detract from what is effectively a car for the Volkswagen Connoisseur. I do like them. Understated yet well equipped. Add an HGP Turbo kit and you've got some serious punch in a relatively calm suit.
I've had an impreza, and now got a R36 engined passat. There is no way on earth I'd be able to keep up with an impreza on any back road. But I'd be much more comfortable on the motorway.

st4

1,359 posts

77 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
Cambs_Stuart said:
I've got the R36 engined CC. It's a superb engine, and sport mode never gets boring.
But it's a big heavy beast to get round a back road. You'd have to work very hard to keep up with a ST220 or Legacy GTB despite the power advantage.
The passat has got a huge appetite for suspension components too.
Great for long distance, lovely seats and a good cabin. The kids love the buckets in the back.
It's not really competing for that segment. Think of it as an alternative for a 330i/d A4 or C class big diesel and it makes a lot of sense. Your car sounds lovely.


Cambs_Stuart

568 posts

28 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
st4 said:
It's not really competing for that segment. Think of it as an alternative for a 330i/d A4 or C class big diesel and it makes a lot of sense. Your car sounds lovely.

Thank you, it is. Its a great cruiser, the family love it (a lot more quiet and comfortable than the impreza) and despite the engine capacity it is more frugal than my ST220, impreza, or legacy.

Bernie_78

116 posts

140 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
This article makes me sad, such wierdly obscure "lets take this engine and chuck it in that family car" will die out I'm sure.

st4

1,359 posts

77 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
The other big non sporty large engined mid size barge worth considering would be an A4/6 3.2, any phase 3 Volvo T6 V70/S80/V60/S60 and rare as hens teeth BMW 3/5 35i petrols. Lexus do a 2.5 GS but 200bhp isn't quite in the power league of this Passat.

Legacy 3.0 has to be a great day to day car.

Meridius

1,208 posts

96 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
Always been a rather niche car despite the fast saloon and fast estate being so popular. I have heard the R32 and R36 engines have a fair bit more to give in terms of naturally aspirated tuning, would have been interesting to see what they could have done if the engine had gone in the direction of a high rpm screamer like BMW S54 for example, though doesnt exactly fit with the GT-nature of these cars.

st4

1,359 posts

77 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
Meridius said:
the GT-nature of these cars.
That's what makes them so tempting. They offer a taste of something much more exotic in something you can use every day without standing out like a sore thumb and costing a bomb in buying and running. It'll be a pleasant car to drive but not demanding like an Elise or focused like a Porsche or BMW M product.

Cars like this really punch above their price point IMHO. A passat in terms of comfort is not far off an E Class Merc,and with an engine like this is nicer than all of them bar the AMG's - all this at a price for a miserable 4 cylinder engined E/5/A6 hire car pilot PCP special.

Test driver

285 posts

68 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
The R36 is a great motor; as was the R32. The vr6 soundtrack is fantastic and in a world of dreary tractor sounding diesels and monotonous 4pot turbo’s.

ocrx8

756 posts

140 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
Bernie_78 said:
This article makes me sad, such wierdly obscure "lets take this engine and chuck it in that family car" will die out I'm sure.
Already died out, I think you mean. I loved the concept of “regular” cars with engines like these.

Krikkit

15,700 posts

125 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
st4 said:
Meridius said:
the GT-nature of these cars.
That's what makes them so tempting. They offer a taste of something much more exotic in something you can use every day without standing out like a sore thumb and costing a bomb in buying and running. It'll be a pleasant car to drive but not demanding like an Elise or focused like a Porsche or BMW M product.

Cars like this really punch above their price point IMHO. A passat in terms of comfort is not far off an E Class Merc,and with an engine like this is nicer than all of them bar the AMG's - all this at a price for a miserable 4 cylinder engined E/5/A6 hire car pilot PCP special.
Not true, you could get a mint V6 or V8-engined non-AMG W211 in any shape of this age with change. Just as fast, if not faster, more comfortable. It's also knocking on the price of the W211 E55's as well, which is a whole different ballgame.

st4

1,359 posts

77 months

Thursday 3rd January
quotequote all
Krikkit said:
Not true, you could get a mint V6 or V8-engined non-AMG W211 in any shape of this age with change. Just as fast, if not faster, more comfortable. It's also knocking on the price of the W211 E55's as well, which is a whole different ballgame.
They're proper rust buckets - and I've owned w 211 E Classes. They all have scabby arches, even the 07 onwards ones. Nice cars otherwise I will give you that. The V6 petrol (350) munches balancer shafts, the older 320 is bomb proof but comes with SBC brakes and even more rust.