I know what you are thinking-“Hm. Another attempt by VW to go upscale. Can’t they just leave that market for Audi?” For the better part of the past decade, VW has tried to move its brand upmarket. In North America at least, the results have been a catastrophe. Few buyers could be found for the pricey but visually indistinguishable eight cylinder Passat. The ultra-expensive Phaeton, designed to compete against the best from BMW, Audi and Mercedes, was a sales dud.
This time around, VW has nailed it. Partial credit goes to Mercedes-Benz. In 2005, the CLS class was introduced-a four door based on E-Class mechanicals, but styled and marketed as a four door coupe. In 2009, VW borrowed the same recipe-take an existing chassis and drivetrain (the Passat), and wrap it in a swoopy, sexy four door coupe profile. The Passat CC (the CC stands for Comfort Coupe) is born. It sounds simple enough, but as a package, the CC is simply the best mid-size car VW has ever produced.
The CC doesn’t overwhelm you with its appearance, and after a week with the car I cannot point to any one detail that especially impresses me, but taken as a whole, the CC is just stunning. The car reeks of class that belies its base price of under $29,000USD. For all the cars I have reviewed for The Garage, only the Chevy Camaro beats out the CC for people approaching me wanting to know more about the car. In an era where so much value is placed on utility, pulling up in a Passat CC announces loud and clear that it’s OK to trade in a little practicality for some style. There is a sense of occasion in the CC that is missing in the Passat, and the fact that VW can pull this off at this price point is reason to smile.
Our CC was the mid-level Luxury model, equipped with a 2.0L turbocharged inline four rated at 200hp coupled to a six-speed automatic. One look at the leviathan CC, and a glance at the spec sheet, I wondered if this car had enough power to get out of its own way. The CC, to my surprise, has plenty of pep off the line. Merging onto highway traffic and passing power was never an issue. Under hard acceleration, the sounds from the engine room did nothing to increase my heart rate, but was never harsh or intrusive either. Where the CC shined was highway cruising. Holding a steady 80mph, the CC is whisper quiet and solid as a rock, true to its autobahn upbringing. This is a car you could push all day at that speed and never tire of it.
The Passat CC is a true German sedan, so she can handle. While she doesn’t go like a Jetta GLI, the CC is composed through the corners, never sloppy. The steering had a nice weight to it, but a slight lack of road feel reminds you VW engineers tuned this a little closer to luxury than sport. Our tester was a 2009 with a six-speed automatic, but for 2010, that transmission has been replaced with a 6-speed twin clutch DSG that should prove as a definite upgrade.
VW has a reputation for outstanding interiors, and the CC gives credence to that. Everything you touch has a quality feel. The seats are not only gorgeous to look at, but they offer great support, adjustability, and hold you tight when you crank it up. Gauges and displays are crystal clear, and it only takes a moment to situate yourself in the car and go. At night, the center console is bathed in a soft, amber light, highlighting the alloy trim. This is an interior that can easily stand up to cars costing $10-$15,000 more.
Strangely, it was the options or Ã‚Â extra features on our tester that failed to impress, or took away from the car. The navigation system was on the clunky side, and at one time was actually directing me away from where I wanted to go. I joked that the voice commands were a bit stern-“Turn right…NOW!” The Park Assist feature was very intrusive, too sensitive, and seldom useful. For an extra grand, we also had the Dynaudio premium sound system. At normal volume sound quality was decent, but if you prefer to go loud once in a while, the depth and quality of sound I expected just wasn’t there. Also, I’ve never had a car with satellite radio that lost signal as often as the CC.
One final complaint, and this is no joke. I say this as a parent. With my 3-1/2 year old son strapped snug in his car seat, he had total access to not only unlock his door, but open it while I was doing 75mph on the highway. For what it’s worth, the VW has a child lock you can activate, but still…
Minor complaints aside, this car is one solid effort by VW. I am even tempted to say this car has the potential to be a future cult collectable. I am not suggesting in fifty years the Pebble Beach Concours will be filled with CC’s, but there is a beauty, and a romance of what a four door can be if you let your designers off the leash a bit, and the Passat CC embodies that spirit perfectly. For sure, some buyers will be turned off that this car only seats four, and the design loses some trunk space. But the Passat CC is not meant for everyone. For those who want the sexiness of the Mercedes CLS at a fraction of the cost, the VW Passat CC is the one, and only answer.