The Passat R36 is a lesser-spotted beast in the UK. It never took off in the way Volkswagen hoped, despite performance estates like it being few and far between and examples that maintained a degree of on-road anonymity rarer still. But that rarity counts firmly in its favour today, and its appeal is bolstered by scintillating performance, alluring looks and genuine all-round usability.
This B6-generation variant was the last Passat to pack a V6 and was available in both estate and saloon forms. Estates proved to be more popular, despite commanding a premium of around £1200, so they’re easier to find today – but that’s all relative, considering there are only around 125 R36s left on UK roads.
You might not know the R36, but you will probably know its engine. The 3.6-litre petrol V6 was a slightly upsized and uprated variant of that which powered the fan-favourite Golf R32, and it gave the Passat 296bhp to play with – around 50bhp more than its hot hatchback sibling.
A 0-62mph sprint time for the saloon of just 5.6sec meant it could outstrip the contemporary Porsche Boxster S, and this pace, teamed with the unflappable roadholding given by Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system, marked out the R36 as a proper, if unlikely, canyon-carver.
It was equipped with several features that distinguished the car from a standard Passat: a new aerodynamically enhanced front bumper, bi-xenon headlights, twin exhausts, blue brake calipers and a lip spoiler added to the rear.
Inside, it gained sports front seats, a multifunction steering wheel and alloy pedals featuring the R logo, as well as a healthy array of niceties to go with the premium positioning, such as cruise control, climate control and heated front and rear seats.
It was practical, too, with 513 litres of boot space, growing to 1641 litres with the rear seats folded down. You can be sure that most used R36 estates have seen their fair share of filthy mountain bikes over the years.
Indeed, the estate remains the most coveted R36 variant, primarily thanks to its enhanced practicality, although both versions hover around the same price point, despite the saloon’s even greater rarity.