For Volkswagen Australia, 2008 was a record year with the brand locking away just shy of 30,000 new car sales here. Despite the obvious challenges of a stuttering economy and a declining new vehicle market ahead, Volkswagen Australia has high hopes for the brand in 2009. With the release of its sublime new Passat CC, and a new Golf coming soon, that optimism may not be misplaced.
Having spent a couple of hours behind the wheel in both the diesel and V6 models, I have happy things to report about the Passat CC: it is an impressive drive and, as Sydney Motor Show visitors discovered last year, very appealing 'in the metal'. Its wide low stance, sweeping roof line, rising shoulder and 'duck-tailed' boot lip, give it a strong, individual and athletic presence.
A black panoramic glass roof panel, pronounced crease-line and wide frameless doors also enhance the CC's lean and nicely integrated lines.
It's smart inside too; particularly appealing is the stylish brushed metal panel - canted away from the driver - running the full width of the dash and inside the instrument binnacle. With soft Nappa leather seats and trimming, an unfussed centre console and interior layout, the first impression is of 'a class act'.
The Passat CC looks good; and more to the point, it looks like you paid very good money for it.
What will surprise some then is the sharp pricing. The CC 125 TDI with six-speed DSG and 2.0 litre common-rail turbo diesel putting out 125kW and 350Nm, can be had for $54,990 plus on-roads. This diesel is no slouch: it's good for an 8.6 second 0-100km/h dash and returns a miserly 6.3 l/100km on the combined cycle.
The CC V6 FSI, with six-speed DSG, and 4Motion AWD, shares the 3.6 litre V6 from the R36. It puts 220kW under the toe, and, though not as sprightly as the R36 (nor with the same glorious wail when under the whip), endows the V6 FSi with serious 'get-outa-there' urge. The V6 FSI will pull 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds. You're talking turkey here at $65,990 plus on-roads.
In both models, there are some neat touches to impress the neighbours. Both come with Adaptive Chassis Control, which, at the touch of a button, adjusts the damper characteristics of each individual wheel between Normal, Comfort, and Sport settings. Sport is harder and sharper; comfort is softer - natch. And, in case you're wondering, at the wheel you can feel the changes to the settings.
Both models also feature 'mobility' tyres. Unlike run-flats, these feature a viscous polymer seal within each tyre that, for punctures up to 5mm in diameter, reseal automatically. (It works, we witnessed it after a drill was deployed.) Produced by Continental, the 'mobility' tyres provide identical road performance to a high-performance tyre, rather than the handling compromises of 'run-flats'.
For communications and entertainment, the CC comes with Media Device Interface with USB port and IPod connections (Bluetooth integrated hands-free), touch-screen display, CD and MP3 compatible 600W sound system, while sat-nav is available as an option.
It also comes with climate control, individual heating for front and rear seats, 12-way electric adjustment, split-fold rear seats, and height and reach-adjustable steering wheel. There are also all the usual acronyms: ESP, ABS, ASR... and all that nanny stuff.
Parking is made easier with parking sensors that provide an optical silhouette of the car (so you can 'see' the space available), or, if you're prepared to part with the shekels and your parking skills are poo, VW Park Assist, in which the car steers itself into a parking space, is available as an option. Radar-operated Adaptive Cruise Control is also available as an option which monitors the speed of the vehicle ahead, and adapts the CC's speed accordingly (bringing the car to a complete stop should it be necessary).
On the road the Passat CC performs very impressively. It is quiet and well-balanced at the wheel. Wind noise is at a minimum, road roar, a distant shearing. While you are aware of its weight over the Passat, in Sport setting, the CC's double wishbone front end and multi-link rear communicates what's happening with the wheels without jarring or pitching, and, while there was little opportunity to explore its cornering adhesion, both V6 FSI and 125 TDI seemed well-sorted down below.
And on the freeway on-ramp blasts, even the diesel was happy to pick up its skirts and bolt.
With sublime lines, handsome from every angle, a premium interior and well-balanced dynamics, we were left with a strong 'first impression' of Volkswagen's new ace in the deck - the Passat CC.
As Managing Director of Volkswagen Australia, Jutta Dierks, said,
"We are confident the Passat CC will give the VW brand a lift in Australia. It gives us a chance to talk to people we have never talked to before. We feel we have something very special on our hands with the CC."
A full test will tell the story, but after our first drive, we think Volkswagen has every reason for confidence in its stylish CC.