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Used Volkswagen Passat review: 2008-2011

Most carmakers have a hot car division dedicated to turning mundane everyday drivers into fire-breathing, tyre-shredding, road-burners, and VW is no different.


Most carmakers have a hot car division dedicated to turning mundane everyday drivers into fire-breathing, tyre-shredding, road-burners, and VW is no different. It's almost a given that VW would offer hot versions of its regular models, Mercedes has its AMG models and BMW its M-Series, so it was only natural that the Wolfsburg carmaker would follow suit.

VW is perhaps best known for its Golf-based GTi hot hatch, but it also offers hotties based on other models, one of them the Passat R36. The R36 wasn't the first R model to arrive here, that was the V6 R32 Golf in 2006, which was followed by the R50 Touareg, making the Passat hottie the third in the R line.

The concept was simple: lower the ride, pump up the power, up the wheel size, and add some body bling. In the case of the R36 its sports tuned suspension dropped it 25 mm, a direct-injection 3.6-litre V6 delivered 220 kW and 350 Nm, 18-inch alloy wheels filled its wheel arches in diameter, and a sporty body kit toughened its looks. Boxes ticked.

The R36 was based on the Passat, VW's mid-sized model and was offered in sedan and wagon versions. It's looks weren't too boy-racerish, it had smooth flowing lines and neat proportions, while inside it was quite roomy with good head and leg room for four to five adults, and it also had a decent boot.

The V6 engine ensured it had all the punch you could want, it's six-speed DSG auto added to the sporty feel, and the handling was sharp and precise. If there was a criticism it would be that the ride was a little on the firm side, but some would say that comes with the territory and would be happy with it.


In days past it was wise to use caution when shopping for a performance car like the R36, because they were often thrashed hard by uncaring drivers and suffered the consequences of beating treated harshly. Those were the days when sports cars were often steered by young drivers who liked to explore the limits of their cars.

It's a little different today, particularly with a car like the R36, which is out of reach for most young drivers. It's more likely to be driven by a middle-aged businessman who just wants to look the part. Still, it's well worth having your potential purchase checked by an expert in the area to make sure all is well under the bonnet.

It's also worth thoroughly testing the DSG gearbox given the issues that have plagued it since its introduction. Look for hesitations on take-off, shuddering, reluctance to shift, or engaging the wrong gear at the wrong time, particularly selecting neutral at the wrong time.

VW recalled 6-speed DSG-equipped cars in 2008 for a problem relating to the clutch protection system that could lead to a loss of power. Expect regular brake changes, both pads and rotors, it's something that affects European models more than most.

Look at the tyres for even, or more importantly, uneven wear. The tyres can exhibit uneven wear. Some R36 owners complain of their seats wearing and collapsing at quite low kays, so have a close look at the seats and the trim. Overall though, the Passat is a generally reliable car and can be bought with good confidence.


Fast, fun mid-sized performance car that will surely excite the senses.

VW Passat R36 2008-2011
Price new: $64,990 to $66,990
Engine: 3.6-litre V6, 220 kW/350 Nm
Transmission: 6-speed DSG auto, AWD
Economy: 10.7 L/100 km
Body: 4-door sedan, 4-door wagon
Variants: R36
Safety: 5-star ANCAP


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Year Price From Price To
2011 $6,500 $22,440
2010 $6,400 $18,700
2009 $6,800 $16,720
2008 $6,200 $15,510

View all Volkswagen Passat pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

Based on 26 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
Highest Price

Range and Specs

103 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $6,300 – 9,790 2008 Volkswagen Passat 2008 103 TDI Pricing and Specs
125 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $6,600 – 10,230 2008 Volkswagen Passat 2008 125 TDI Pricing and Specs
147 TSI 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP $6,600 – 10,230 2008 Volkswagen Passat 2008 147 TSI Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $6,200 – 9,680 2008 Volkswagen Passat 2008 2.0 TDI Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist


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