The nice thing about Volkswagen's decision to maximise its return from the R badge is that it means that somewhat unlikely cars are having the insignia strapped to their boot lid. And we're not just talking about compact SUVs either; we can't be the only ones secretly hoping that the incoming Arteon R lives up to its new billing. It absolutely looks the part, after all, and has the latest 320hp EA888 Evo4 motor coupled to the same newfangled torque vectoring 4Motion system that makes the latest Golf R so appealing.
Inevitably it brings to mind Volkswagen's previous attempts to take modest bites out of the premium segment it often overlaps with. For a time, the manufacturer was willing to stick its narrow angle V6 in just about anything. Just last month we called out the front-drive Eos that it thought worthy of the 250hp 3.2-litre variant. But the B6 Passat was a much worthier recipient of the 3.6-litre VR6, and was treated to the R36 designation that was among the forerunners to the R badge.
Of course, a decade and a half later, the introduction of a naturally-aspirated and deeply melodic six-cylinder engine to a humble family saloon would be regarded with disbelief. Back then, the R36 had to elbow room for itself in a family car market that still incorporated numerous examples of a V8, and treated Volkswagen's 300hp motor very much as a middleweight option.
Consequently, the model did not sell particularly well, even though it was endowed with a number of familiar virtues, including an understated appearance, solid interior quality, a quick-to-please six-speed DSG and Haldex-based 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Inevitably the R36 thrived on its hearty mid range, and while it was never the lightest car to grace British roads, it provided enough redoubtable traction to see the saloon version to 62mph in 5.6 seconds.
The downsides were a handling balance that favoured the front end and long trips up the autobahn. Nothing wrong with a healthy stability bias in a car primarily built to carry offspring, but it meant the R36 was overshadowed by spritelier, better-looking rivals and it was neither particularly cheap to buy or to run. Even in the long grass of the noughties, buyers blanched at economy which treated 25mpg as an achievement.
Interesting then that prices have apparently not continued their steady decline into bargain basement obscurity. Today's Spotted has seen some life at 81k, and yet it has resisted the descent below £10k that our two-year-old buying guide suggested was an appropriate starting place for the R36. In all likelihood there's some sentimental goodwill toward the engine baked in to its £12,465 asking price, combined with the scarcity of the model in general - but perhaps it's also an indication that buyers are inclined to look kindly on Volkswagen's previous attempts to spice up its more staid segment fillers. If true, that sentiment bodes well for the future.
SPECIFICATION | VW PASSAT R36
Engine: 3,597cc V6
Transmission: 6-speed DSG
Power (hp): 300@6,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@2,400-5,300rpm
First registered: 2008
Recorded mileage: 81,028
Price new: £30,990
Price now: £12,465
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