AT THE AUSTRALIAN release of the Passat CC in February, outgoing Volkswagen Australia Managing Director Jutta Dierks said, “We feel we have something very special on our hands with the CC.”
Most who have spent some quality time behind the wheel of the four-door coupe would agree. It is arresting looking – unmistakably Volkswagen - but lower, longer, leaner and wider than anything we’ve ever seen in Australian Volkswagen showrooms.
And inside: understated, integrated, with sumptuous leathers and trim and a six-speed DSG transmission lingering at the fingertips, it carries an elusive air of quality and sophistication that sets it quite apart from the regular Passat range.
In the V6, with 220kW under the right foot, it is also impressively swift, effortless really, and, with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive below, equally impressively sure-footed.
Adding to the good news is the sharp pricing; of the diesel model in particular. You can slide the CC TDI diesel into your drive for $54,990 plus statutory and dealer charges, while the V6 FSI rattles the cash register at $65,990 plus charges.
So, on face value, the Passat CC would indeed seem to be “something very special” and a rock-solid inclusion on any premium sector short-list.
But what’s it like when we dig a little deeper? How does it measure up to its natural showroom enemies, like, say, BMW’s 3 Series, Audi’s A4 and Ford’s G6E Turbo?
The CC’s wide low stance, sweeping roof line, heavily accented curves and pronounced boot lip give it an individual and striking presence.
While its silhouette is clearly influenced by the Mercedes CLS, the Passat CC reeks of distinction and, arguably, its lines more comfortably gel than the car that inspired it.
While the CLS looks slightly ungainly from some angles, the CC is beautifully proportioned from any angle. Everything – from the black panoramic glass roof panel, to the frameless doors, to the deep heavily slatted grille and hooded ‘eyes’ – integrates seamlessly and stylishly.
Its long, lean and wide stance is not just illusory. Next to the standard Passat, the CC is 31mm longer, 36mm wider and its roof height 50mm lower.
The play of light on the strong creases, the superbly finished coachwork and that long low silhouette, give it real presence in the carpark. And though low, the incredibly long rear doors and low-set seating provide good access and reasonable head-room under the CC’s long roof.
A bonus of that long roof, and the high tail, is that the CC’s boot is immense.
Both the less-expensive diesel TDI and the V6 FSI hunker down over 18-inch alloys, nicely filling the guards and putting solid rubber to the tarmac.
As we mentioned when we first drove the sublime CC, it looks good, and more to the point, it looks like you paid very good money for it.
It’s equally smart inside with a premium ‘feel’ to the surfaces, highlights and trim.
With soft Napa leather seats, sumptuous buckets both front and back, and a stylish and restrained dash, the accommodation inside is quite up-market and tastefully understated.
A brushed metal panel, canted away from the driver and running the full width of the dash, is a particularly appealing touch in a very nicely styled and user-friendly interior.
The electric front seats (with three-position memory) are deep, supportive in the right places and comfortable. In the rear, instead of the more-conventional three-position seating, there are just two individual buckets with a wide console between them.
While they offer unusual comfort for rear-seat passengers, not all will favour this set-up. It’s a fair bet though that Volkswagen has done its research on what buyers want in arriving at this configuration (fact is, I don’t mind it at all).
There are a whole lot of premium touches like shopping bag hooks and luggage net in the boot, stainless steel sports pedals, height and reach-adjustable multi-function leather-bound steering wheel, reading lights front and back, heated front and rear seats, heat-insulated tinted glass and chillable glovebox.
Everywhere the eyes rest inside the cabin the Passat CC appeals. It really is quite a nice place to spend some time, either at the wheel or as a passenger.
Equipment and Features
There is no shortage of technology and features in the Passat CC FSI V6. If you want to impress the neighbours, just throw the doors open and wait a couple of minutes.
It comes featured as standard with Bi-xenon self-leveling headlights, cornering lights and an automatic ‘kerb-function’ exterior side mirror when reversing.
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, eight-speaker sound system, while sat-nav is available as an option.
A trip computer with multi-function display, dual-zone automatic climate control, and multi-function steering wheel, are also among a long list of standard features.
Parking sensors that provide an optical silhouette of the car - so you can ’see’ the space available – make parking easier, or you can option VW Park Assist (and freak yourself out while the car steers itself into a parking space).
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 things to a complete stop should it be necessary).
Both V6 and diesel CC models feature Continental’s remarkable ‘mobility’ tyres. These contain a viscous polymer seal (it feels a bit like chewing gum) coating the internal surface of each tyre that, for punctures up to 5.0mm in diameter, reseal automatically.
It’s remarkably effective, and, like most good ideas, brilliant for its simplicity.
It not only works, but the tyres feel and perform like any other high-performance tyre at the wheel (unlike, it has to be said, the harder on-road feel that comes with ‘run-flats’).
For protection, the CC comes as standard with driver and passenger front and side airbags, rear-seat passenger side airbags plus curtain airbags front and rear. There are also three-point seatbelts front and rear with pre-tensioners.
Dynamic safety features include anti-lock brakes, brake assist, traction control, and electronic stabilisation program (ESP), plus, of course, the security of Volkswagen’s sure-footed 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.
Nothing missing in that features list.
The CC V6 FSI, with six-speed DSG, and 4Motion AWD, shares the narrow-angle 3.6 litre V6 with the R36.
It musters up 220kW @ 6600rpm and 350Nm @ 2400-5300rp, and, as we commented in our ‘first drive’, though the CC V6 FSI is not as sprightly as the R36 (nor with the same glorious wail when being pressed), it has serious urge available should it be called upon.
The six-speed twin-mode DSG is selectable between Sport or normal Drive settings. When left to its own devices, shifts are blindingly quick in both modes, hanging on in the gears right to the redline in Sport.
Or you can take things in hand, snicking through the delightful six-speed twin-clutch box using the smallish (… perhaps too small) paddles on the wheel or the centre shifter.
Down below, directing traction where it’s needed, is Volkswagen’s proven 4Motion all-wheel-drive system with an electronic Haldex clutch.
Both diesel TDI and V6 FSI models come with Volkswagen’s Adaptive Chassis Control - switchable between Sport, Normal and Comfort modes. It works by analysing the signals from the steering, engine and DSG transmission and adjusts the damping to each wheel every millisecond.
Sport is harder and sharper; Comfort is softer, while Normal is… well, for normal driving. (A word about its effectiveness in ‘real-world’ driving shortly.)
Braking performance – ABS and ventilated discs front and rear – is at the top of the class, pulling up arrow-true and without a hint of fade on a long winding sub-snowline run while in our care.
On the road the Passat CC performs very impressively; here its overall sophistication and premium segment credentials shine.
At the wheel it is quiet and well-balanced, and beautifully refined. Even at speed, wind noise is at a minimum, and road roar barely a distant shearing.
While you are aware of its weight over the Passat, it tips the scales at 1656kg, the CC’s double wishbone front end and multi-link rear communicates what’s happening with the wheels without jarring or pitching (depending on the chassis control selection).
The steering is speed sensitive, it lightens at lower about-town speeds and for parking, becoming heavier and with improved feel as speeds rise. Some may find it a little ‘dead’, but the CC is, after all, more sporting saloon than sports car.
With that potent 3597cc ‘narrow head’ V6 up front, the CC is deceptively swift. Even in the wet it does things with such balanced aplomb and all-wheel-drive surefootedness (thanks to the 4Motion system below) that you can be unaware of how quickly you are swallowing the kilometers.
According to Volkswagen, the V6 FSI will pull 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds. Though that’s a feat we couldn’t achieve in a couple of unscientific runs, it is nevertheless seriously quick.
Off the line, the grip of the 4Motion has it bogging down momentarily, but it simply soars once speeds begin to rise.
Taking the DSG in hand in Sport mode, it can be punted around a mountain road with alacrity. Turn-in and grip is at performance car levels, only the weight of the CC reminds you that you’re in a large luxurious saloon.
But after a week on a range of urban, freeway and secondary country roads, my view of the effectiveness of the Active Chassis Control system – for real-world driving – has changed somewhat.
While I can feel the 'setting' changes, I don’t discern a noticeable improvement in performance in the Sport mode setting when pushing the envelope.
Perhaps it’s just me. But while the CC sits flatter in Sport’, and the suspension firms noticeably to the contours of the road, neither turn-in, ‘get out’, nor over-all balance is discernibly improved in the harder setting.
On more broken roads – that we have a lot of in Australia – a little additional initial compliance and controlled rebound can assist the balance of a car and the feeling of ‘connectedness’ to what’s happening below.
Firming things up can simply unsettle things.
I suspect ‘Sport’ mode has been calibrated for smooth tarmac and high-speed freeway driving (like, for instance, a German Autobahn).
To my thinking, Normal is the preferred setting for all but the smoothest Australian roads. It provides a comfortable ride over most surfaces (though thumping a little over bridge joins and bumps), while not compromising the astonishing grip of the 4Motion below.
The Passat CC V6 FSI is a very appealing car. With arresting lines and dynamic at the wheel, it is 'European sporting saloon' through and through.
Its low, lean style attracts a lot of admiring glances. Now, nearly six months on from its Australian release, I must admit to a little surprise in not seeing more of them on the roads.
It is a worthy contender in the segment – the diesel in particular representing very sharp buying at $54,990 plus on-roads.
But we’re talking about the V6 FSI here. At $65,990 plus on roads, it is up against some stiff competition. Ford’s G6E Turbo is considerably faster, costs less and is also beautifully appointed. And while the FSI has the legs and is more heavily-featured than a similarly priced BMW 3 Series, it lacks – arguably – the badge cachet and the involvement at the wheel.
So the CC is in a very interesting place. Superbly finished, swift and sophisticated, it is certainly worth a close look. Ultimately, there is little separating the top contenders in the segment, and it will come down to personal leanings.
With stunning coachwork, sumptuous finish and effortless performance, there is something special about the Passat CC.
- Sophisticated, understated interior
- Sumptuous leathers and finish
- Arresting style and refinement
- 4Motion grip and unfussed cornering performance
- Potent, free-spinning V6 up front
- Sport mode in Adaptive Chassis Control is of arguable benefit
- Though loaded, the V6 FSI is perhaps a little expensive
- Low-speed ‘thumps’ on breaks in the road
- Slightly woolly steering