VW Passat CC (2008) review

Published:11 April 2008

VW Passat CC (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

No, the VW Passat CC isn't a folding tin-top elder bother for the Eos... Nomenclature connotations of Coupe/Cabriolet are entirely misleading. CC first stood for Concept Coupe when the show car was revealed and, as the real deal hits the streets in summer 2008, actually stands for, um, Comfort Coupe. Only in Germany…

VW has done to the Passat exactly what Mercedes did to the E-class, the difference being that the latter acquired a standalone badge - the CLS - whereas this new VW must struggle through life burdened with all the attendant baggage of the Passat name. Personally, I’ve always found the Passat saloon to be an entirely worthy proposition, but I seem to be in a minority amongst my peers.

Ultimately, I suspect, your views on the CC will largely depend on whether you consider the Mercedes CLS to be quite the best-looking thing on the road, or merely mutton dressed as a banana.

There seems to be more than a hint of Phaeton about the front end…

Indeed. And those of us who’ve always felt that the current giant grille treatment meted out on one unsuspecting Audi after another makes them all look like inflatable dolls wearing chrome lipstick will be delighted to see that Walter de Silva’s recent efforts to subject Volkswagens to the same fate have, in the case of the CC at least, been mercifully shunned.

In the metal, the CC is an entirely handsome car which artfully melds oven-melted Passat saloon styling cues with an aggressive new hooter and a coupe roofline. Interestingly, unlike the CLS, the CC doesn’t appear to be colour sensitive, and even looks pretty sharp coutured in the new black, white.

Click 'Next' to continue reading CAR's Passat CC first driveBut now you’re going to tell us that it’s just a bog-standard Passat on board...

Happily, not. In fact, the new interior positively oozes class. Switchgear and instrumentation have been rigorously revamped to include a new instrument binnacle which, backlit in white, is a paragon of clarity. A brushed metal-finish centre console houses a tidy new air-con panel and the latest generation touch-screen multimedia system featuring a 3-D sat-nav system that zooms in on junctions life a fighter-bomber on a staffing run.

One version I drove featured a two-tone, black-and-cream trim which extended to the leather upholstery. It was so elegant that even the fillet of wood spanning the dashboard (and I never thought I’d hear myself say this) looked the part. Don’t worry, though, the wood will be replaced with either brushed aluminium or carbonfibre for the UK market.

The front seats are instantly comfortable, and my only gripe with an appropriately flexible driving position is that the steering wheel rake won’t drop quite down enough for those of us who like to sit low within a car. Though 31mm longer than a Passat saloon, none of that gain has gone into the CC’s wheelbase, so accommodation dimensions are much as you left them.

The rear bench has been deliberately sculpted into just two seats, set further inboard than usual to guarantee a surprising amount of headroom whilst effectively negating an increase in car width over the saloon of some 36mm. The boot, though not too tall, is of badminton court proportions.

Presumably the usual mix of VW powerplants are on offer?

Yes, but with one notable addition: joining 138- and 168bhp variants of a 2.0-litre turbodiesel, and 197bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged and 296bhp 3.6-litre V6 petrol derivatives on the launch pad is an Audi-sourced, 1.8-litre 158bhp 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit making its first appearance in VW here. It's this 1.8 TSI that we'll concentrate on here.

Surprisingly, though giving away 52lb ft of torque to the 236lb ft of the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI - and considerably more to the four-wheel drive and DSG gearbox abetted V6 - this new 1.8-litre engine from the right side of the pumps feels better suited to the CC than the other offerings I sampled.

It’s as smooth as a freshly buttered banister, revs with first-date enthusiasm and sounds delicious. Moreover, thanks to a slick six-speed manual transmission, it also gets quite a heavy car moving with slightly more alacrity than the oiler.

Click 'Next' to continue reading CAR's Passat CC first driveAnd it handles just like a Passat saloon?

Hard to say, because every variant I drove was fitted with a new, active damper, Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) system boasting Comfort, Normal and Sport settings and complimentary adjustment to the weight of the electro-mechanical steering assistance. However, extensive button stabbing merely confirmed my view that, all too often, such systems merely obviate engineers from the responsibility of hunting down the proper compromise between ride and handling in the first place.

Differences in ride quality between the three settings don’t exactly yell out at you, though sport mode does offer perceptibly more nuggety progress on all but the very smoothest surfaces, allied to a considerable, and entirely artificial-feeling build up in steering weight. Left in normal guise, the system offers continuous, active adjustment to the damping anyway, offering an acceptable balance of ride comfort and cornering poise. So unless you wish to modify the steering feel to something akin to opening a submarine hatch, I remain gently baffled as to why one should need ACC here.

Any other toys we should know about?

Something called Lane Assist proved highly entertaining at 120mph on the autobahn. This system uses a camera mounted above the rear view mirror to identify the lane markings on the road and, should you stray, actually introduce steering input to bring you back on course. And we’re talking proper input you can feel, here; so much, in fact, that trying a little hands-free motoring became essential…

Hands off the wheel at a good lick, the car drifted gently towards the line, and neatly caught itself on the point of crossing into the next lane. I left it alone and, having slightly over-corrected, it promptly repeated the process on the other side of the car. Further over-correction mapped a sine wave of ever decreasing frequency on the road, and by the third correction, the CC had had enough, yelling audibly, and via message screen, for driver assistance in a carefully crafted tone of voice that drew a fine line between ‘Ahem…’ and ‘Wake up you dozy bastard…’

Amusingly for a German product, this system also promotes rotten motorway driving practice, only leaving the helm alone once activated if you indicate before crossing lane markings. Which leaves it in the realm of the increasingly numerous numpties who will insist on indicating as they pull back in after overtaking.

Click 'Next' to continue reading CAR's Passat CC first driveWhisper who dares… I think I may want one.

And why not? Priced at around £1500 more than the comparable Passat saloon, the CC consistently presents itself as a considerable bang for your bucks; remember, the Mercedes CLS is double the price of this humble VW. Which makes it all the more peculiar that VW is talking about total global sales figures of just 300,000 over the entire lifespan of the car.

However, and despite voluble protestations of an ‘intensive growth strategy’, I suspect the VW top brass are entirely conscious of the fact that their elegant Glass Factory in Dresden now spends most of the time building Bentleys, and do not want another niche marketing, rose-without-trace, Phaeton incident on their hands. Which makes it all the more ironic that the Passat CC should boast an almost identical radiator grille.

I don’t think VW has any real cause for such overt caution here though; the Phaeton is a fine car with the wrong badge being sold too cheaply in the prestige segment. The new Passat CC is a fine car being sold at the right price in a segment that presents no direct rivals at all.

Specs

Price when new: £21,000
On sale in the UK: July 2008
Engine: 4-cylinder petrol, turbocharged, 1798cc, 158bhp @ 5000rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500-4200rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, 140mph
Weight / material: 1430kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4799/1855/1417

Rivals

Volkswagen CC Cars for Sale

View all Volkswagen CC Cars for Sale

Photo Gallery

  • New VW Passat CC apes the look of its big brother the Phaeton
  • VW Passat CC front three quarters
  • VW Passat CC: a cut-price Mercedes CLS
  • VW Passat CC cabin interior
  • VW Passat CC rear passenger compartment: two sculpted rear seats

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

Comments