If you’re looking for a new midsize sedan with a V6 engine, your options are shrinking with each year. Not long ago, you had plenty of opportunities to upgrade to a 6-cylinder engine over the usual 4-cylinder found in midsize sedans, but that’s rarely the case anymore as brands shift to higher-powered turbocharged 4-cylinder engines in place of V6s. Blame/thank the quest for higher fuel-efficiency.

After decades, Honda dropped the V6 option with the introduction of its all-new Accord, and Nissan plans to do the same with the upcoming 2019 Altima. That leaves only four mainstream midsize sedans with a 6-cylinder in the offering: The Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat.

If you’re among the sliver of buyers who prefer the smooth and refined power of a V6 over a force-fed 4-cylinder, you’ve routinely had to pay a hefty premium for the advantage, usually somewhere around the $35,000 mark. The new Volkswagen Passat GT, however, flips that logic on its head.

The German automaker says the 2018 Passat GT resulted from something of a skunkworks project by the engineers at the Chattanooga, Tenn., plant where this model is made. Based on feedback from customers and dealers, the team set out to make a powerful and sporty Passat without the premium price tag. After spending several days in this model, I’d say their mission is a success.

Price advantage

Let’s start with the price advantage. At $29,995 including destination, the new Passat GT is the least-expensive 6-cylinder midsize sedan available, narrowly edging the aging and size-above Dodge Charger. It undercuts the V6 Camry by over $5,000, and the Ford Fusion Sport, which offers a twin-turbo V6 matched with all-wheel drive, by over $4,700 before incentives. The closest competitor in its class is the all-wheel-drive Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited with an MSRP of $32,805. The standard Passat V6, the SEL Premium, meanwhile, starts at $35,500.

Compared to the other, top-line V6 Passat, the GT lacks higher-end amenities like genuine leather interior, hands-free trunk, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power-adjustable passenger seat, Fender premium audio system, navigation, and driver-assistance features like adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning. Still, even just shy of $30,000, the VW Passat GT is well-equipped with two-tone leatherette seating, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power driver’s seat, 19-inch wheels, sunroof, LED headlights, and push-button start. Also impressive is that it includes active safety features like blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision alert with automatic emergency braking.

Also: See the 12 Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2018

Notable differences

Power from its naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 is the same as the V6 Passat SEL Premium – 280 horsepower – but the GT differentiates itself with a lower ride height (4.9 inches of ground clearance vs. 5.4 inches), a sport suspension, and exhaust with an acoustic package that emits a nice growl.

Aesthetically it sports a black contrast roof, R-Line bumper, red brake calipers, and its most obvious giveaway – a snazzy red accent line running across the front grille, akin to a Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Rewarding on the road

Whether pushed on a winding road or cruising on a freeway, the Passat GT is rewarding to drive. It feels substantial but not heavy, and thanks to its V6, there is a reservoir of power across the entire rpm range. One of the best attributes of a V6 engine as opposed to a turbo 4-cylinder is there’s no “turbo lag,” that momentary lapse between sinking your foot into the accelerator and then actually accelerating.

Paired with a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission that eagerly kicks down gears when prompted, the Passat GT is quick off the line. In Sport mode it holds gears longer, enabling the engine in this midsize sedan to remain in the higher reaches of the power band. And though its suspension is tuned for a sportier feel, it never felt like it was trading comfort for the added performance.

Like every other new Passat, the GT is front-wheel drive. A few times when I nailed the accelerator, the car chirped its tires, flickered the traction control light as the rubber fought for grip, and sending some twist through the steering wheel. That’s the downside of a higher-powered front-drive vehicle, and an upside for rivals like the Ford Fusion Sport and Subaru Legacy 3.6, which come with all-wheel drive standard and thus don’t have the issue of torque steer.

That quibble aside, the Passat GT proved a pleasure to drive and operate. Its cabin and smaller 6.3-inch touchscreen are starting to feel dated, but I give props to the standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration and the ease of its controls in general. As a mono-spec model, the biggest choice you’ll have if considering a Passat GT is the color: white, silver, gray or black (all have the black roof). Well, that and deciding what to do with the thousands you’ll save compared with the few remaining V6 sedans.

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