First Drive Review: 2009 Volkswagen Passat CC
By Mike Monticello of Road & Track
Munich, Germany — The first indicator that the Volkswagen Passat CC is a very different Passat is that it doesn't share a single body panel with the "regular" version. One look at its coupelike sloping roofline, striking side character line and all-new front and rear ends, and you realize this Comfort Coupe has something the current Passat lacks — true "look at me" styling from every angle.
Of course, 4-door "coupes" demand compromises to achieve their high style. For although the Passat CC is actually 0.7 in. longer and 1.4 in. wider than the standard Passat, that sloping roofline endows the car with 2.0 in. less height. Head room is fine up front, but anyone over 5 ft. 10 in. sitting in one of the two individual rear seats is going to brush the roof with his head, while the massive C-pillars limit the outward view.
Not only is the CC the nicest-looking Passat ever, it's also the nicest-driving, largely due to the first use of "adaptive chassis control" (DCC in VW-speak) in a Volkswagen passenger car. This system offers three suspension settings to choose from: Normal, Sport and Comfort, operated by a button inconveniently located on the right-hand side of the shifter on the center console. The different settings affect the suspension's damping as well as the amount of boost from the electro-mechanical power steering. But regardless of the setting, DCC constantly adapts to both the road and the driving situation.
Although we were driving European-spec Passat CCs, they were pretty close to what we'll get here. The base car for the U.S. will be the 2.0 TFSI 4-cylinder turbo with 200 bhp, mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic with front-wheel drive. The Euro 1.8 TSI we drove makes do with just 160 metric horsepower, and in this form the 3300-lb. Passat CC felt a bit underwhelming. But the extra horsepower of the U.S. version should prove more than adequate.
The car to aspire to will be the 3.6-liter V-6, with either front- or 4Motion all-wheel drive, pumping out a smooth and powerful 280 bhp and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Unfortunately, as with the 2.0 T, VW's much-lauded twin-clutch DSG will not be available in the U.S., the only transmission for the Passat CC V-6 being the 6-speed Tiptronic automatic. Regardless, the V-6 has oodles of power (though it doesn't make the sweetest sounds at high rpm), put to the pavement in absolute terms by the latest generation of 4Motion.
Combined with DCC, the Passat CC provided a driving experience that was sporting enough to have a fun time on the tight German back roads, yet comfortable, stable and quiet on the Autobahn. One minor annoyance is the super-small gear indicator, hard to discern from the digital clock's readout since it lies right next to it within the instrument panel.
Unfortunately, many of the European Passat CC's most innovative features — including Lane Assist (which steers the car back into the lane if you veer without using your turn signal), Park Assist (steers into a parallel parking spot for you), Adaptive Cruise Control and ventilated seats — won't be available in the U.S., VW execs citing both liability and cost reasons. Even the excellent DCC adaptive suspension system won't be available at the car's U.S. launch, though we're told it might be offered later.
The Passat CC will go on sale in the U.S. in mid-September. Prices have not been set, but expect the 2.0 T to range from $27,000-$32,000, the 3.6 front-drive at around $38,500 and the full-zoot V-6 4Motion about $40,000.
While we're not sure who the typical buyer of the Passat CC will be, we're positive the car will sell a lot better than VW's previous upmarket attempts — the Passat W8 and the Phaeton. For not only is the Passat CC a better-driving Passat, it's also a darn cool-looking car. For many, that will be reason enough.