2012 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 VR6 4MOTION Euro-Spec – First Drive Review

Volkswagen has shifted a lot of its attention to the U.S. market, so much so that we now get a dedicated Passat. Should we be flattered, or should we lament the fact that we don’t get the European model?

We like the new-for-’12, U.S.-built Passat, which rides on a longer wheelbase and has unique sheetmetal, as evidenced by its comparison-test victory against a Honda Accord V-6 and a turbocharged Hyundai Sonata last October. But whereas our car is large and roomy with Americans in mind, the European Passat remained closer in size to its predecessor when it was redesigned for 2011, carrying over its 106.8-inch wheelbase. That’s 3.6 inches shorter than the U.S. Passat’s.

Top-Shelf Forbidden Fruit

We went straight to the top of the tree for our drive, plucking free the loftiest Euro Passat, which packs a 300-hp, 3.6-liter VR6 and 4MOTION all-wheel drive. The VR6 is essentially the same engine that’s available in the U.S.-market Passat, albeit with an additional dollop of horsepower. The Euro engine makes 300 hp at 6600 rpm; the U.S. Passat is rated at 280 hp at 6200 rpm. Maximum torque is the same at 258 lb-ft, but peak twist is available over a slightly broader rev range in the Euro-spec car, from 2400 to 5300 rpm instead of 2500 to 5000. The VR6 routes its power through the same dual-wet-clutch six-speed automatic transmission on both continents.

The VR6 AWD European Passat weighs in at a claimed 3950 pounds; VW says it can hit 62 mph in 5.5 seconds. Our European test car’s top speed was governed at 155 mph, and we repeatedly reached that speed without effort. (The U.S. VR6 is governed to 126 mph.) We like the flexible, smooth engine and its slightly aggressive sound. As on our car, the powerplant and the six-speed dual-clutch box make a great team; the DSG offers whip-quick shifts (they can be manually initiated with paddles on the steering wheel), a trait that makes the most of the engine’s linear power delivery. In terms of fuel consumption, however, the Euro car doesn’t fare particularly well. We found it difficult to do better than an indicated 21 mpg. In the aforementioned comparo, we measured 27 mpg with the American Passat and the Accord and 26 with the Sonata.

 

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