First drive: Volkswagen Passat R36

  • 296bhp 3.6 V6 for Passat
  • Four-wheel-drive
  • Six-speed semi-auto gearbox, too
Think Passat, think classy, worthy, dependable. Exciting? Think again. That's why VW has come up with the Passat R36, in a bid to give its family car a bit of spice.

Under the bonnet lies a 3.6-litre V6 engine which puts out 296bhp and 258lb ft of pulling power, all of which is transferred to the road via a six-speed DSG semi-automatic gearbox and VW's 4Motion four-wheel-drive system.

Performance is pretty brisk, although everywhere you go, you'll hear a V6 howl that's a long way from being tuneful. Still, it fades into the background at speed.

If VW wanted the R36 to be fun, then it's missed the mark, because although the Passat will corner reasonably quickly and without too much body roll, it never feels like it's up on its toes.

On top of that, the front wheels lose grip earlier than would be ideal, and the steering is pretty cagey about what the front tyres are up to.

You'll struggle to get near the average economy figure if you use the performance, and the R36 sits in the top band for company car tax - not cheap.

The R36 makes for pretty rapid executive transport, but fun it isn't.

• The Passat R36 is available now and costs £30,990.

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