VW Passat gets GT swagger

Charles E. Ramirez, and Henry Payne

After the new Jetta debuted Sunday night, Volkswagen's best-selling model brought a hot date to the Detroit auto show floor Monday. Say hello to the sporty 2018 Passat GT.

The Passat GT, revealed by Volkswagen at the Detroit auto show Monday.

Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen's North American region, said the car is the first vehicle VW designed and engineered in the U.S. for the local market.

The production model, previewed as a concept at Automobility LA in 2016, was designed in Santa Monica, Calif., and engineered by VW's North American team in Chattanooga, Tenn. The GT -- available in four exterior colors — Pure White, Reflex Silver, Platinum Grey, and Deep Black -- joins the Passat lineup for model year 2018 as a limited-run special model based off the R-Line trim.

Its black and red highlights echo the Golf hatchback GTI's sporty look. But though the GT gets the Passat's powerful 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter VR engine, it will not be built on the same, more athletic MQB chassis that the German-built Golf and Jetta share. The award-winning, front-wheel-drive MQB chassis is due for the Passat later this decade at VW's Tennessee plant.

Desperate to get in good graces with its American customers after the Dieselgate fiasco, VW is offering an industry-leading, 6 year/72,000 mile, fully-transferable warranty on its cars. EPA fuel economy is 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

The GT gets 20 design changes from the base Passat and is expected to arrive at U.S. Volkswagen dealers in the second quarter of 2018. Pricing for the Passat GT starts at $29,090.

cramirez@detroitnews.com; hpayne@detroitnews.com