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Sartorial saloon. Image by Mark Nichol.

Sartorial saloon
Volkswagen has made a new and much better looking Passat, but for some reason it's forgotten to stop selling the old one.


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| Week at the Wheel | VW Passat CC GT 2.0 TDI 170 |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

"Is that a convertible?" That's always the first question asked when you mention to someone you're driving a Passat CC. Obviously that's because the acronym 'CC' has become synonymous with the folding hard top coupé-cabriolet. The problem is though, that actually correcting the mistaken questioner is a slight problem; after saying "no" you then have to divulge what it is. And what exactly is it?

It would be harsh - but fair - to claim CC stands for 'chubby coupé,' (it actually stands for 'comfort coupé'), because although the Passat CC is graceful and handsome in the metal, it's also a bit of a barge. From the outside, it's as though someone has taken a picture of a regular Passat, scanned it into Photoshop and messed around for an hour. Everything seems stretched backwards and squashed a bit. That's not to disparage it, though, because it all works really well.

Then there's the cabin, which is similar. It's all very pleasant, all very high quality, but all very much like a standard Passat that's been toyed about with for the sake of difference. That's no bad thing - this is, after all, a Passat - but at the same time it has no real pretention to sportiness. All CCs come with a touch screen for the radio - satnav equipped or not - and the ergonomics are top notch, but it's far from a visual party in there. If you're not expecting sportiness then the touchy-feely plastics and general whiff of Germanic solidity will impress, but if you are it's a minor disappointment. Mind, the boot is huge - you could probably slide a competition-spec pool table in there - and there's loads of legroom for both rear seat passengers. And, we think, more than enough head and shoulder space.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Let's start with the transmission: it's got the DSG dual-clutch gearbox. We love DSG for its sharpness of response and refusal to get caught out and, in this application, it's a perfect symbiosis with the Passat's torquey diesel engine and the chassis's fundamentally lazy character. See, to cut to the chase - and in case we haven't been clear enough yet on this - the Passat CC isn't sporty for even a second. Try to lay aside any preconceptions this Passat's 'CC' nomenclature may bestow upon you, however, and you'll find the DSG and TDI combo served up is pretty delightful. At first the 168bhp TDI unit seems a little lacklustre, to be honest, but that might be down to the whole sporting misconception thing again; get this on a motorway and its strengths shine. All 258lb.ft of torque makes itself felt in motorway overtaking situations, especially if the DSG is flicked into 'sport' mode. It's just an effortless way to cruise, really, and only blighted slightly by slow throttle response.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

The CC comes with no less than six fancy-pants braking and handling assist acronyms that altogether mean you'd have to be fairly keen on crashing to actually stuff one. They are: ABS, BAS and EBD on the braking front, and ESP, EDL and ASR for stability. Oh, and there's something called 'countersteer support' to help you out in a tank slapping emergency. So, raw this is not.

The problem is, even more so than with the engine and transmission - and I think you can see where this is going - you expect the CC to provide some sort of coupé-like driver involvement. It doesn't. Active Chassis Control, which allows the driver to switch the damping between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes - with the speed sensitive steering assistance varied accordingly too - is standard on GT models. Sadly, because the steering has no involvement to speak of - direct as it is - selecting Sport just makes the ride fidgety and the steering feel a bit heavier. Comfort on the other hand, is too soft - although it's great on the motorway (the Passat's natural habitat).

Fundamentally, this is a car built for comfort but dressed for speed. That's the top and bottom of it and it's infuriatingly dichotomous.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

This really is a well-equipped car, and though it's not a cheap one, you should still feel you're getting what you pay for whatever you choose. It's pitched differently in terms of trim and equipment to its more mundane namesake, so a direct model-for-model comparison is unfair and slightly difficult, but there's definitely a small premium to pay for style. All cars get alloys, two-zone climate control, front sports seats, automatic wipers and lights, an electrically adjustable driver's seat and the aforementioned touch screen radio with an iPod auxiliary input. GT spec adds bigger wheels, front fog lights and the Adaptive Chassis Control.

Our DSG-equipped car commands a cheque for a fiver under £25k, and although that may seem expensive, it actually represents pretty good value if you think about it. Put an auto box into an M Sport dressed BMW 320d, for example and you'll be thousands over that price, with a spec notably lowlier and build quality that's arguably no better. The CC's running costs should be ok too, thanks to the quintet of available tried and tested VW Group diesel and petrol engines (well, unless you get the 3.6-litre V6 petrol, but why would you?). Our 168bhp TDI - which won't be as popular as the lesser 138bhp version - mustered economy worthy of its official 46.3mpg figure over the week we had it, and its 159g/km CO2 figure puts it in the £145 per year VED band D. Insurance group 14E seems a bit high, though.

Overall: star star star star star

You'll note that we've given the Passat three stars when really the average of its constituent scores merits four. In fairness, it probably is a four-star car, but we just don't understand what it's supposed to be. The question we'd like to ask VW top brass is, why not just give this a proper rear bench seat and make it the standard Passat? It's nothing like a coupé in driver involvement or actual terms, but it is as spacious as the Passat (if not more so), better looking inside and out and generally just a far more interesting car. As it is, it's hamstrung by having only two seats in the back, and by endowing the driver with the vague hope it will be fun behind the wheel, then failing to deliver. If it were just the Passat, VW would arguably have the most desirable sub-premium rep-mobile available today on its hands - and a really comfortable, motorway friendly one at that.

Ultimately, the Passat CC is a good car - very good at times. The thing is, it's like a Taste the Difference Volkswagen: it's in fancier packaging and a bit more expensive, so you expect it to be a bit special, but really it still uses all the same basic ingredients as the ordinary stuff.

Mark Nichol - 17 Apr 2009    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- Passat CC images

2009 Volkswagen Passat CC specifications: (GT 2.0 TDI 170)
Price: £24,995 on-the-road (DSG included).
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Top speed: 139mph
Combined economy: 46.3mpg
Emissions: 159g/km
Kerb weight: 1473kg

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 VW Passat CC. Image by Mark Nichol.


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