Volkswagen Passat CC – Sharp Looks but Where’s the Point?

By Andy Bannister

07.07.2008

Just going on sale in Europe at the moment is the latest attempt to push Volkswagen into more upscale territory, in the shape of the stylish Passat CC.

Confusion reigns, however, about what this car is all about and even why it exists in the first place.

Let’s look at the facts. The existing Passat is a perfectly nice, rather square saloon which in Europe has always been at the top end of the choices offered by mainstream manufacturers, without straying into prestige territory. In short, a safe, solid middle-class buy which does everything it is asked to do quite competently.

Some generations ago it was a hatchback, but more recently it has always been a saloon or estate. VW has had ambitions for the Passat to reach for the stars before but its attempt to position a version of the previous generation model as a luxury car, in a big-engined fully-loaded version known as the Passat W8, failed miserably.

A few years on, VW is trying again and has decided the flagship Passat needs its own body to cut it with the prestige set. At first glance the CC looks appropriately sleek, if a little too much in its details like a regular Passat that has been sat on. Crucially, it still has four doors, but it is longer, lower and wider.

There’s no secret what inspired the CC – the success of the banana-shaped Mercedes-Benz CLS. One obvious selling point of the newcomer is it costs far less than its luxury rival, although I doubt many Benz customers will be trading down to a Volkswagen. In the Mercedes line-up the CLS badge stands alone with no reference to its relatively humble E-class roots.

The CC name itself actually stands for “Comfort Coupé”, but VW isn’t making too much of this. Perhaps it thinks buyers turning up in the showroom might reasonably imagine a coupé should have two doors.

The title also risks confusion with a different series of well-established CC models from Peugeot, the 207CC and 307CC. In Peugeot’s case the acronym stands for “Coupé-Cabriolet”, as they denote those metal-roof convertibles which are unfathomably popular at the moment.

Inside, the Passat CC manages to prove it has coupé credentials by being strictly a four-seater and offering restricted headroom – anyone over 6 feet tall will struggle in the back. That apart, it seems to offer a much classier cabin than the everyday Passat, with different seats and more luxurious trim. Legroom and luggage space is generous and the ambience is not unlike a Mercedes, BMW or Audi.

Hold on, though, surely anyone wanting an upmarket car from the VW group will head off to their nearest Audi retailer, rather than mixing it with buyers of Polos and Golfs or the little Brazilian Fox? That applies especially to potential buyers of the 155mph 3.6-litre range-topping model with all the bells and whistles as standard.

The lack of snob-appeal certainly hurt the chances of the big Volkswagen Phaeton, and VW seems intent on making the same mistake all over again, saddling what’s actually a really good car with the wrong badges.

Volkswagen’s European line-up is already confusing enough, with too many similar models chasing the same customers. The Golf (Rabbit) hatchback, for instance, has a slightly roomier, slightly taller half-brother called the Golf Plus which seems equally pointless.

VW’s other big coupé news this year, of course, is the return of the Scirocco. It might have made more sense to have ditched the name and family resemblance to the Passat family and instead marketed a sexier version of the CC as the Scirocco’s bigger brother, perhaps reviving another old badge like Corrado or even picking an all-new name as they did with the Eos.

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Author: Andy Bannister

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2 Comments

  1. It’s puzzling to a lot of people why VW keeps trying to move upmarket wheb they have a perfectly good luxury division called Audi available to them for the premium stuff. There doesn’t ever seem to be any good answer to this question of why, why, why they keep trying to introduce VW luxury cars.

  2. There is more money upmarket, that’s why. Nothing too hard to figure out about that.

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