It seems like the de-facto performance engine for reasonably priced cars these days is the 2.0-liter, turbo, 4-cylinder.
From Audi A4, BMW 3, to Honda Accord and Kia Optima, the moderately-sized, turbo motor strikes as the perfect combination of power and economy.
But what about 6-cylinders? For a long time the 6 was the engine, that sweet spot between big muscular V8’s and wheezy fours. Now, it’s a premium item – out of the reach of most buyers – especially if you want that engine wrapped in some sexy European sheet metal.
VW to the rescue
Yes, the brand that owns affordable Euro performance. And they did the driving enthusiast a solid – giving us a handsome 4-door sedan with a powerful V6 and some other goodies, and… wait for it, brought it in under $30,000. Enter the Passat GT.
Flying under the Radar
The Passat is not the newest model in the VW lineup, far from it. But it wears its age well – the conservative lines and ample size makes for a tasteful base to build a tasty sporting sedan. To separate you from lesser models and give it some sizzle, the GT features particularly handsome 19-inch Tornado wheels, red brake calipers, and for a touch of custom, a black-painted roof, rear lip spoiler and some GTI-like red trim circling the LED headlamps and GT-specific honeycomb grille.
You also share the sporty R-line front and rear fascia for an aggressive look. All this added to our tester’s conservative Platinum Gray Metallic to make a handsome, discreet sport sedan. And if Platinum Gray Metallic is not your taste, the GT is also offered in Pure White, Reflex Silver, and Deep Black. VW is clearing you to fly low under the radar.
Stealth need not be Small
All this goodness is wrapped around VW’s largest sedan, and that pays off in a spacious interior that’s super comfortable. Like the exterior, the emphasis is on function, with some added flair to be appreciated by those in the know.
So, you’re in the know, that includes black leatherette seats with moonrock gray inserts (no leather at this price!) that lighten up the somewhat somber interior color, along with some eye candy, including aluminum sill plates with GT logo, piano black and unique faux carbon-fiber trim, contrasting stitching, and black headliner and door pillar trim.
The rest is typical VW – sensible, with a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel and sensibly laid-out controls. Not flashy, but it leaves you with an impression of thoughtful quality.
While the Passat isn’t their newest model, VW keeps the infotainment up to date with a 6.3-inch display with Bluetooth, Voice Control, and integration for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. SiriusXM satellite radio is standard with a free 3-month trial, and there are USB ports for front and rear seats.
Speaking of seats, the fronts are uber supportive in that German way that makes long journeys feel like short ones, while the rear seats enjoy loads of rear legroom. An added bonus of that long wheelbase – with the rear seats folded down and a generous pass-through from the trunk you’ve got impressive cargo space, especially for longer items.
Not the game, the real thing…the GT moniker perfectly fits the big Passat, delivering enjoyable performance for the driver that won’t rattle passengers.
The grins begin with VW’s 3.6-liter V6. It starts with a throaty snarl that no 4-cylinder can provide. The 3.6-liter narrow angle VR-6 motor pumps out 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. It even runs on Regular – many turbo competitors require more expensive Premium grade.
This is a lusty powerplant, reminding us of the wonderful, linear response of a finely-tuned, normally-aspirated engine. It’s hooked up to VW’s 6-speed DSG transmission, and it’s still one of the best in the industry, snapping off quick shifts, and in Sport mode, letting the engine give off a little “braap” between cog changes. Good fun.
The GT also has unique suspension tuning including an 0.6-inch suspension drop, and it makes for a lovely ride/handling compromise. This is true Grand Touring – supple even on choppy surfaces, but with added control and confidence when pressing hard. It’s a rewarding car to drive quickly, rather than to drive fast, if you get the difference.
The steering is lightly weighted, making it easy to maneuver around town, but it’s a little lacking in feel. Again, appropriate for Touring rather than Sports Car duty.
The most impressive part of the Passat GT is when you run the other numbers. If you’re just a fan of big Euro sedans, you can get a Passat 2.0T S for just $22,995. Like most Europeans, adding features adds price. A particular sweet spot is the R-Line model which we have tested in the past, a handsome performer at $24,995. At that top of the turbo-four ladder, a loaded SEL Premium with goods like leather and Fender Premium Audio starts at $31,650.
Now, if you want a V6 Passat you used to have to have to go for the V6 SEL Premium, starting at $34,650. And that’s where the magic of the V6 GT comes in play. For just $29,145 you can have a car like our tester. With VW’s destination charge ($895) you run a hair over 30k at $30,040.
Let’s throw some added value your way – The People First Warranty, standard on the Passat, comes with “America’s Best Car and SUV bumper-to-bumper transferrable warranty” – 6 years/72,000 miles New Vehicle Limited Warranty. Nice.
Fancy another European with a silky 6-cylinder? The BMW 340i starts at $48,950. If you want a V6 Audi, you’ll need $51,400 for an S4. At Mercedes, it’s the C43 AMG at $53,400. Hole-y Lederhosen!
Okay, closer to reality, even the Camry XLE V6 starts at $34,050. And the Altima 3.5SL is $33,630.
(Big neon BARGAIN sign over Passat GT, please)
We love that VW (in this case, VW of America) cares enough about enthusiast to make a vehicle with the V6 power we love and crave, strong handling, a comfy ride and keeps it nicely-equipped.
The Passat GT delivers more thrills, and a few less frills.
If you choose any competitor remember this –
You coulda had a V6!
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.