The Volkswagen Passat is not a sedan known for sportiness. It’s very spacious, and it comes in a plain and simple wrapper. That’s why it was a bit of surprise when Volkswagen showed a concept for a “GT” version that looked like a big GTI, complete with black grille and red highlights, lower ride height and big wheels. It was even more surprising that the car, which VW said was developed by folks at the company’s Tennessee facility playing around with ideas for what a Passat could be, became a production vehicle shown at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.
Something has concerned us, though, and that’s the fact the Passat GT’s only performance upgrades are retuned suspension and a louder exhaust. So despite the GTI looks, it seemed to lack the full complement of GTI-style upgrades. To find out if the Passat GT has any of the sporting chops of its legendary sibling, we took one for a spin in southeast Michigan.
Engine and transmission
Keen readers will notice that the engine and transmission were not listed among the parts upgraded for the Passat GT. It retains the same 3.6-liter narrow-angle V6 (commonly known as the VR6) that you can get in the less-sport-oriented Passat. Thankfully, it’s still a reasonably powerful engine with 280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
Ride and handling
As mentioned, about the only significant performance upgrade the Passat GT gets is the new suspension. It has stiffer springs and shocks than normal models. The new suspension also lowers the Passat GT by 0.6 inch.
All VW Passat GTs come with the same interior, which features black plastic and two-tone black and gray leatherette upholstery. There are a few small visual changes including removal of the analog clock on the center stack in favor of a Passat logo, and the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel and stainless door sill plates that say “GT.”
Pricing and value
The Passat GT’s highlight might actually be its price. It starts at $29,995. Until now, the only way to get a VR6-powered Passat was to get the SEL Premium, which started at a substantial $35,500. It’s also substantially less than a Camry V6, and a bit less than the Mazda6 turbo, Kia Optima SX, Honda Accord 2.0T and Chevy Malibu with the 2.0-liter engine.
If you’re married to the idea that the Passat GT needs to be a big GTI, this sedan will disappoint you. But if you can let that idea go, the Passat GT is a highly compelling car. It offers good power with a sweet sound at a competitive price. It has handling that will keep you reasonably entertained when the roads get twisty while not punishing you when you’re cruising potholed city streets.