Trying to recover from Dieselgate, Volkswagen has made several moves that should spur sales.
One is to offer a six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that leaves most luxury cars in the dust. The other is the advent of a new model, the 2018 Passat GT, a legitimate gran turismo that is well-enough-equipped to be offered without factory options and yet has a base price of just $29,145. That’s more than $6,000 below the average new car transaction price in this country. It’s also in the neighborhood of $5,000 less than comparable models such as the Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, the Ford Fusion Sport, and the XSE V-6.
I got a chance to spend a recent week with this sporty variant on VW’s erstwhile, albeit aging midsize sedan, and found it very pleasant, lively company. It does what a true GT is supposed to do: It mixes the kind of performance and comfort you want on a trip.
This new VWs is the brainchild of product planners based at the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. They made a business case to VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, which agreed to let the Chattanooga group build a sporty Passat.
The GT starts out with a clean, handsome Passat body and adds sporty styling cues, including nifty, 10-spoke alloy wheels, discreet GT badging, a blacked-out roof, the replacement of chrome trim with gloss black elements, a small, tasteful black spoiler, and red brake calipers, which seem almost obligatory these days on performance-minded machinery.
Sporting cosmetics inside include black leatherette seats with gray inserts and contrasting stitching, and good-looking faux carbon fiber trim on the doors and dash.
The front-drive sedan’s sporty cosmetics are backed up by sporting hardware. The GT’s motivation is furnished by the direct-injected, 3.6-liter V-6 employed in the much more costly Passat SEL. This narrow-angle V-6, buttoned to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic, engenders 280 horsepower and 258 pounds/feet of torque, which is enough to get the GT from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds, which ain’t dawdling.
As it turns out, the GT rounds that first turn as well as it gets out of the chute, thanks to suspension tuning unique to this model. The performance revisions include somewhat stiffer springs and shock absorbers, as well as a 6-inch drop in ride height. The result is flat, composed cornering at ambitious velocities.
In true gran turismo fashion, the GT’s suspension manages to afford agile cornering without herniating the discs in your lower back.
The GT is, indeed, fun to play with. The power from that normally aspirated engine is delivered in a linear fashion. No turbo lag here. And put the GT in sport mode, and that dual-clutch gearbox delivers crisp, timely shifts.
Before I get too carried away with fun and games, we can’t forget that the GT is also a very roomy, comfortable car with a standard equipment list almost as long as War and Peace. The backseat affords enough legroom to accommodate NBA sequoias like Kevin Durant. This car’s trunk is large enough that Ulysses’ old buddy, Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant, could sleep there while his cave is being renovated.
The standard amenities in the GT range from safety electronics such as blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking, to hedonism such as heated front seats, a sunroof, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
With EPA mileage ratings of 19 city and 28, the GT is a moderate drinker by midsize V-6 standards. It does a tad better in the crash wars with a top, five-star government safety rating.
2018 Volkswagen Passat GT
Base price: $29,145
As tested: $29,995 (including shipping)
Standard equipment: 3.6-liter engine, six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, front-drive, a sport-tuned suspension, and a plethora of electronic safety devices, and comfort and convenience features.
Fuel economy: 19 city and 28 highway (premium fuel)
Engine performance: Sprightly
Handling: Competent, composed
Styling: Clean, civil
Ride comfort: Fine
Warranty: Six years/72,000 miles bumper to bumper
Four bens: Excellent