Limited-run – More Than Just an Appearance Package
It is getting more difficult to find a midsize sedan with a V6, as most have gone to four-cylinder turbocharged power plants. For those of you who remember fondly when the non-aspirated six-cylinder ruled the world of small-car performance, then you will be pleased to know the 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT is carrying on the tradition. Plus, with a base price under $30,000, it is a real option when considering a five-passenger sedan.
No Turbo Required
Clean Fleet Report’s 2018 Passat GT came with the 3.6-liter VR6 engine, putting out 280 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. Power to the front wheels is through a six-speed DSG automatic transmission, with Tiptronic paddle shifters. Running on 91 octane, the Passat 3.6L earned an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 city/28 highway/22 combined. In 287 miles of driving throughout Southern California, we averaged 25.7 mpg with a 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving pattern. However, over a 100-mile run with the cruise control set at 65 mph, the average was 31.1 mpg. Exceeding the 30 mpg mark is a good achievement for this spirited engine, which encourages drivers to push it hard.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The 2018 Passat GT VR6 sounds great, with no four-cylinder buzz or a feeling that it’s peaking. The smooth and responsive performance makes for a very enjoyable driving experience where predictable acceleration gives a high level of satisfaction. The six-speed, dual clutch automatic transmission shifted with ease, with torque kicking-in at a very usable 2,500 rpms. Having tested Volkswagens with the impressive 1.8 turbo, which is peppy (low-end torque kicks-in at 1,500 rpm), the VR6 has a completely different feel. The free-revving nature of a V6 is something to experience. With the Passat GT, the exhaust note is a pleasant, sonorous tone.
The Passat GT has 19-inch, Tornado-design aluminum-alloy wheels and 235/40/R19 all-season tires. It would have been a better test of the sport-tuned suspension if it had been shod with summer tires. As it was, the handling was above average and made the Passat GT fun to drive, but it favored a more comfortable ride versus a full-on sports sedan. To be fair, VW does not market the Passat GT as a sports sedan, so in that context, the handling was actually pretty good. It is all a matter of semantics sometimes.
The electro-mechanical power steering had speed, or variable, assistance. This is where the steering gets lighter to the touch as speed increases. Thankfully it was not programmed to take away the fun of driving the 3,534-pound Passat GT.
A good handling car is nothing without being able to keep it under control when braking. Our Passat’s stops were straight, true and confident with no brake pedal fade thanks to the standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs, electronic stability control, electronic brake pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist with autonomous emergency braking. These braking and handling technologies go completely unnoticed when driving in normal situations, but are crucial in an emergency.
Driving Experience: Interior
As a limited-run special model, the interior has unique elements not found on other Passats. The interior fit and finish was German-tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. The special enhancements to the Passat GT interior include a piano black center console, carbon fiber optic trim, a black headliner and GT-badged door sills.
Keeping with VW tradition, the soft-touch dash is clean, simple and well laid-out. The instrument cluster, set behind the multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, has a tunnel design with deep-set faces on the large round dials (speedometer and tachometer) to eliminate glare.
The Moonrock Gray and black, heated V-Tex leatherette front seats, have better-than-average bolstering and include a six-way power adjustable driver’s seat (with manual lumbar adjustments) and manual adjustments for the front passenger seat. There was a good choice of seat settings; when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, I could find a comfortable position for enjoyable long drives. The leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel has controls for telephone, radio and cruise control functions, and features a squared-off wheel bottom.
The interior was spacious, with access through wide-opening doors, providing excellent rear leg and head room. The 39.1-inches of Passat rear leg room is on-par with large sedans. The arcing roofline allows for ample head room, which was fine for even taller passengers. The rear seat can accommodate three adults, but, as with most cars, for longer trips two in the rear seat would be preferred for comfort and space. The 60/40 folding rear seat, with a folding armrest and cup holders, is backed by a very large trunk (15.9 cubic feet) that provides excellent storage capacity.
The six-speaker sound system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM/CD/HD radio, plus USB and Aux jacks with MP3 playback. Also part of the infotainment system is a 6.3-inch touchscreen that controls the navigation, radio, Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI) that includes a SD card slot. The VW Car-Net Connectivity system includes apps for telephone, security, locate a parked car, vehicle service updates and emergency roadside service. Car-Net also has VW’s Family Guardian technology that sends a text or email when pre-set geographical boundaries and speed maximums have been exceeded. Your teenage drivers will not be impressed.
Other conveniences are the power tilting and sliding sunroof, power windows with one-touch operation and pinch protection, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear passenger vents, lockable glovebox, center console with folding arm rest, cupholders and USB port, carpeted floor mats, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors and a rearview camera.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Volkswagen lowered the stance of the GT from the base Passat by 0.6 of an inch, giving it a ride height of 4.8-inches. The side view reveals a downward slope in front leading to the LED head and running lights that gently wrap the fenders. Between the headlights is the honeycomb grill borrowed from the Passat R-Line, as was the bumper. Probably the nicest design touch on the front is the red accent line, top and bottom, on the grill.
Clean Fleet Report’s Passat GT was in Reflex Silver Metallic, with a blacked-out roof panel for the power and tilting sunroof. The lowered stance, 19-inch wheels, red-painted brake calipers, black mirror caps, door trim and spoiler resulted in a sportier look and a wider and more planted stance than standard models. Out back, the rear has a European-style flush license plate area and LED tail lights.
Volkswagen sometimes gets knocked on the Passat for having too conservative of an exterior design. I see it as being straightforward, with clean lines and no useless cladding or body panels. Add in the GT-only design elements, and it becomes a much different-looking Passat than the base model, that draws positive comments.
Safety and Convenience
2018 Volkswagen Passats come with six airbags, keyless access, push button start/stop and a tire pressure monitoring system. Driver safety includes the Intelligent Crash Response System, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and blind spot warning. The Passat has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is the highest safety rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Passat its Top Safety Pick.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s Passat GT VR6 had a MSRP of $29,145, which excludes the $850 Destination Charge.
The 2018 Volkswagen Passat comes with these warranties:
- New Vehicle Six year/72,000 mile
- Powertrain Six year/72,000 mile
- Corrosion Perforation Seven year/100,000 mile
- 24 Hour Roadside Assistance Three year/36,000 mile
Observations: 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT VR6
The Passat is Volkswagen’s all-time best-selling car but resides in a category that fewer and fewer consumers are looking to own. The midsize family sedan has much to offer, and the 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT VR6 is among the best. Interior space is roomy, the engine is powerful and smooth, and the handling is near-sports sedan fun. The ride is composed and the exhaust has a nice throaty sound.
Visit a Volkswagen dealership and take a lengthy test drive and see how the Passat GT VR6 might expand your driving style just a bit to the fun side.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
Photos by Lex Adams
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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