What’s in a name? Not much if you are Volkswagen, which trades model names like Top Trumps. As from this year, the 39-year-old Passat name graces the rumps of two entirely separate models, the first in Europe, the second in North America and the Far East. The larger American Passat is built at VW’s new Chattanooga plant in Tennessee, whereas European Passats continue to be built in Emden, Germany.
This leaves the niche models from the European platform in a bit of a spin. The Passat CC, for example, is a four-door, four-seat coupé, launched in 2008 and well received in the US and Europe. But which Passat should form the basis for a CC upgrade, US or European? VW has stayed with the European Passat as a base. The Passat name has been dumped though, so that the new “Passat” coupé is now called simply CC.
How new, then, is the new CC exactly? As we established with the revised Passat last year, there wasn’t a lot of reason to relaunch this car, other than VW Group Purchasing demanding that its new electronic architecture was adopted across the entire group. Since the old (Passat) CC coupé had upgraded electronics and additional refinement over its old Passat basis anyway, there was even less reason to upgrade other than a new satnav screen and a host of electronic whizz bangs of dubious merit.
And so it transpires. The new CC gets new wires and a new nose and tail, but keeps its frameless doors, roof and wings. It is the last VW to receive the Walter de Silva corporate grille, while the headlamps and tail lamps are sleeker and narrower. In truth, it doesn’t look much different: this car is as smooth as a lounge bar pianist, without a bum note along its 15ft 9in of coachwork. There’s quite a wedge look to it and the roofline sweeps across the compound curved rear screen and into a gently tapered tail. This is still a quietly handsome car.
Inside, the fixtures are standard Passat with upgraded trim, instruments and steering wheel. It sets high standards: the fancy double-curved dashboard top, the soft-touch plastics, the Teutonically concise sans-serif typefaces on the instruments; a lot of thought has gone in here. Accommodation is generous and the whole cabin has a simple, attractive, almost transatlantic design that rivals BMW and Mercedes and even the vanguard of German interiors, sister company Audi.
The driver’s legs are offset towards the centre and the seats aren’t the last word in comfort or support, but there’s lots of space in the front, with well-designed storage. All UK CC models have five seats and rear-seat passengers will rub shoulders if three abreast, but there’s adequate headroom and limousine-levels of leg room.
The boot is restricted in height, but long and wide, and good for a couple of big Samsonites. Most of it is easy to use, ut the boot switch, which is activated by “air kicking” under the bumper is inconsistently useless, the lane guidance system doesn’t always pick up on road markings to activate itself and the electronic parking brake ranks alongside Aztec trepanning and witch burning as some of the great unexplained stupidities of mankind.
The UK has revised the engine choice, which is hardly surprising when you consider that all except a handful of last year’s 6,948 sales were of the 2.0-litre diesel engine and most of those (40 per cent) were of the 138bhp manual version in GT trim. An explanation of this lemming rush to one model might be found in the statistic that more than 82 per cent of sales are to fleets. So UK buyers lose the 3.6-litre V6 model, which is no great loss, and get a four-cylinder line-up comprising two versions of the 2.0-litre diesel with 138bhp and 168bhp and two, direct-injection petrol engines, a 158bhp, 1.8-litre and a 207bhp, 2.0-litre.
We drove both diesels with the standard manual and optional (at £1,480) twin-clutch transmissions. They are refined, well damped and powerful units, but while the higher-power version has a bit more vim, the engine’s vibrations fizz through the major controls under load and it sounds noisier. You can’t buy the high-power diesel in the basic spec, but in the higher GT specification there’s a £1,050 price difference between the two oil-burners.
The lower-powered diesel in base CC specification costs £25,345, but it’s also worth giving serious consideration to the 1.8-litre petrol, which is a storming little engine, with a surprising turn of speed, 39.8mpg Combined fuel consumption and 165g/km CO2 emissions.
With the Passat’s wheelbase, long body overhangs and a kerb weight of 1.5 tons, the CC is no rally car, but it handles respectably, retaining its impeccable ride quality even when being pushed along the Route Napoleon in the south of France. It rides lower than the standard Passat, with which it shares more than 50 per cent of its parts. The electronically powered steering is well weighted, if a trifle inert in feel. Our test car was sporting £800 worth of adjustable dampers and turn in to corners was spirited in Sport, but too roly-poly in Comfort. With less weight in the front, the 1.8-litre petrol car had a better initial bite than the more ponderous diesels.
I ended up quite confused as to whether the optional 18-inch wheels (£200) were worth having as they seem to have a deleterious effect on the ride quality compared with the standard 17in and the optional 19in (£975) wheels and tyres. At all times, however, the CC was calm, refined and supremely quiet at speed. You could travel a long way in this car and not feel fatigued.
With Peugeot now out of this market, and Ford still sitting on the fence about the possibility of a coupé version of next year’s new Mondeo, there’s not a rival within a country mile. Pity VW chose not to make the CC a hatchback to attract all those Saab 9-3 fans, but that might have brought the car too close to Audi’s £39,995 A7 Sportback.
While this new version isn’t a great deal different from the old, this is still a clever piece of marketing and a highly desirable car.