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Fri 18 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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What’s in a name?

Damian Brandy discovers that the Volkswagen Passat CC isn't much like its older brother, not that that's a bad thing.

What’s in a name?

Damian Brandy discovers that the Volkswagen Passat CC isn't much like its older brother, not that that's a bad thing.

Here's the scenario. You're in the market for a new car but the economic gloom, weighing heavily on businesses the world over, is making everyone - at every level of the corporate food chain - reassess their spending patterns.

With that in mind, enter the Volkswagen Passat CC - no not a coupe/cabriolet, but a younger and prettier so-called ‘comfort coupe' version of the original Passat - which quite frankly was about as exciting as an evening with the in-laws.

At a touch under $34,000, it's half the price of a Mercedes CLS without giving away 50 percent of the styling, so if you're looking for a compromise between financial responsibilities without giving the impression you're one step from food stamps and bucket-washing, you're on the right track. It is little wonder the Passat has won design awards.

The CC is a saloon with a complex; one that values its style responsibility as much as its practical ones. A trend started by the Jaguar XF, and continued with the Mercedes CLS; Volkswagen now wants a piece of, and by the look of the Passat CC they have made a decent attempt at getting it.

It is, perhaps, less of an authoritative, refinement-oozing German saloon than we are used to, and more of a pan-European cross-breed that carries a strong hint of Italian flair without the temperament. But picture a Bavarian sausage casserole with a serving of garlic bread. Somehow, it works.

The aggressive new front-grill and 19-inch alloys make for a mean stance that begs to be taken seriously, and although the rear-end is a little less purposeful, the overall look does a good job of attracting and maintain attention.

In the performance stakes the 1.8 litre turbo version is a pleasingly engaging drive. It's basically the same engine as the road-munching GTI, apart from the DSG double-clutch transmission.  The CC comes with a, now old-school, torque-converter tiptronic auto. Nevertheless the 158bhp TSI power-plant revs with first-date enthusiasm and sounds delicious too.

Moreover, its trio of ride options ‘comfort, normal and sport' mean that there is a ride quality for all situations and to suit all drivers. We preferred sport mode, mainly because it was a far more engaging drive than the other two but also because we wanted to see if it's ostensibly sporty aspirations were followed through.

From the engine there is plenty of urge, and strong acceleration. Transmission changes are smooth and swift if not perfectly punchy, and there's good road holding and a ready reluctance to display the sort of under steer you might have been expecting.

The design tweaks aren't without sacrifices, however. The rear seats are stylishly moulded to only accommodate two individuals, and any rear rider of a claustrophobic disposition is in for a slightly nauseous experience because the roofline cuts back in low above and around your head.

Perfect for a long weekend in Oman with the wife and two kids, but keep the family extension plans on hold. Even ferrying more than three business associates between meetings will cause problems.

Aside from that, the interior is everything you'd expect from German engineering. The two-tone leather seats, walnut trim and 3D Sat Nav all got the thumbs up, and the instrument dial that lit up like a Boeing flight deck at night was a sight to behold.

All without mentioning the rear park assist, which once activated would sense the parallel space and adjust the steering to maneuver itself into it, and lane assist, that sought to correct the driving line should you wonder too close to the edge of the lane. If there was one mistake VW made with the CC it was naming it a Passat. Seeing as the two cars bear little resemblance to each other it's a wonder the marketing gurus in Wolfsburg didn't veto the move at the first opportunity.

The truth is that it's far too pretty to be a Passat and that alone may affect overall global sales, which are estimated to be in the region of 300,000 across the lifespan of the car.

See past the name however, and the Passat CC works on several fronts.

Whether it will win awards for its drive as well as its styling remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure - the goal posts have moved and the Passat CC has successfully reconfigured its aim.

Fact file


Engine:1984cc, 4cyl, 200BHP @ 5100, 207lb ft @ 1700


Performance:7.8 sec 0-100kph, 232kph


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