Q Cars: Volkswagen kings of Q
Why VW is the unassuming hero of Q cars
The art of the “Q car”. While every car nut drools over supercars and sportscars, most of us revel in the idea of a rapid, usable everyday car. These days, cars like this are everywhere, from fast estates to bonkers hot hatches. But perhaps we need to recap on what a Q car should be. Is an SUV a Q car? What about a hot hatch? Firstly, it must not be brash, so no modern SUVs can really qualify. Maybe a subtly specced first gen Volvo XC90 with the V8 engine. Maybe. Secondly, it must have a slightly oversized engine in a relatively ordinary body. And that engine should offer rather a lot of performance. But the main factor in my eyes, is the look. It must not be attention seeking.
This lead me to search for the best Q cars on sale today. The obvious answer would be anything made by Audi Sport, BMW M, or Mercedes AMG. But now, I’m not so sure. For example, the preferred bodystyle for Q cars, i think, is a saloon or an estate. Now Audi RS makes two, the RS6 and RS4. These cars offer blistering performance, but are simply too showy. In a dark shade the RS4 is slightly more under-the-radar, but will still be rocking huge shiny alloys. The RS6 on the other hand, for an estate car, is unbelievably over the top. While the beautiful C5 generation RS6 of the early 2000s was menacing, it was also a clean and subtle design. The latest car boasts huge swollen arches, a horrible diffuser and gopping grille. Sporty yes, subtle no. This is the problem. BMW M have the same problem, the new M3 doesn’t go unseen does it? AMG, weirdly, when in a dark shade all over and possibly debadged, are very Q. Another contender, which again is very spec dependant, the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. Yes, it’s huge, but in silver, the appeal is overwhelming. But what people often forget, is that Q cars don’t have to be the fastest possible offering. You can be fast without being the fastest. For example, an Audi S6 Avant is not slow by any means, and has the bonus of a toned down body compared to the wildly styled RS6. A BMW 540i is a rapid machine, and can be had in touring form unlike the M5. We haven’t even talked about luxury saloons yet. The Audi S8 looks rather average, but is faster than a base level Porsche 911 in a straight line. You may have noticed the German theme here, but in fairness, no other country seems to be doing it quite like the Germans at the moment. Britain’s offerings are either too brash or simply too slow. Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake could be an offering, but is only available with four cylinder engines, which does hurt it’s cause. Bentley, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin and McLaren are of course, too expensive, and are all about as subtle as walking through the high street wearing nothing but a top hat. Vauxhall have previously built the Lotus Carlton, which fits the Q car brief perfectly. But that was in 1990. Since then we’ve had V6 Omegas, Cavaliers and Vectras, but none are exactly cool. Their last contender was the Insignia VXR, but I’m told that was a rather awful car. There was of course the brilliantly yobbish VXR8 Tourer, but that was a bit too showy to qualify. France, nothing springs to mind, and with Italy Alfa’s Giulia QV, in a dark shade possibly. Moving on to Sweden and Volvo, who have produced one of the greats, the 850R. But at the moment, there is nothing fast or exciting enough, unless they build a V60R or V90R, either of which would of course instantly qualify. Other ones i can think of could be Skoda’s Octavia VRS, the Kia Stinger or Seat’s Leon Cupra ST without the horrible bronze details.
So back to Germany, and specifically to Wolfsburg. Volkswagen, despite being the creator of some rather boring cars, is also the creator of some fine Q cars. Firstly, the Passat W8. This is the very pinnacle of Q cars. The Passat, the best yet most average and unexciting car on sale, with an 8 cylinder engine under the bonnet. Take a trip to Youtube, and you’ll find many a clip of straight piped W8 Passats. Sorry to spoil it, but they sound utterly insane, yet if it were parked on the street no one would bat an eyelid. Until the owner started the engine, that is. Another wonderful Q car is also a Passat. The R36. From the same era as the MK5 Golf R32, the wheels and styling are similar to the Golf, and the engine is also similar. But in the Passat, the V6 is a 3.6 litre, and like the Golf, sounds wonderful. After you’ve peeled you jaw from the floor, curtesy of the W8 sounds, search up the R36. Recently also, we’ve had the Golf R estate. A wonderfully understated body, with four wheel drive and three hundred horsepower. Now, there’s another VW estate. The Arteon R. If you were aware of the Arteon’s existence, you could be in a minority. The Arteon is VW’s take on the Audi A5. From that piece of information, you can work out that it’s a bit of a pointless car. But now, there is an R variant, which makes it a thousand times more interesting. With the announcement of the R version, there is also a new shooting brake. Or like we say, estate. With the engine from the Golf R. Delicious. This is a brilliant example of a Q car, and could be my favourite so far. Which is yours?