In its single-minded pursuit of the 2018-target of becoming the world's largest automaker, Volkswagen might appear to have put its fingers in too many pies. From one of the world's most luxurious saloons to the best-handling hot hatch on the planet, the German giant has it all covered. But the most amazing thing is it's proven time and again that it's ruddy good at all these.
The same applies to the Passat CC, which was introduced in 2009 as a fastback version of the slab-sided mass-market saloon, and went on to be a reasonably successful model, with 320,000 examples sold to date. And with good reason too. With its elegantly stylish lines, the CC offers customers who would never have considered a regular Passat saloon an infinitely more desirable proposition. And it's these qualities that earned the Passat CC the wheels Family Saloon of the Year award in 2010.
For 2012, there have been a handful of subtle additions to the model, but conspicuous by its absence is the Passat name. In a clear bid to further distance it from its lesser sibling, the car is now just called the Volkswagen CC. This — coupled with a new grille and headlight assembly reminiscent of the flagship Phaeton as well as new taillights and redesigned bumper — adds to the up-market allure. With a roofline that sweeps back gracefully and a rising beltline, the CC's profile matches those of much more expensive cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Audi A7.
Even the interior is crammed with materials and features that are clearly a cut above the rest of the cars in the segment. Build quality is right up there and the flawless workmanship is a match for any Audi, let alone anything in its price range. Buttons and knobs are all regular VW fare, but the one new element in the cabin is the Phaeton-style analogue clock that takes centre stage in the dashboard. The standard kit is quite generous considering the segment it competes in, and includes leather seats, cruise control, parking sensors, adaptive high beam headlights, heated and cooled front seats, a reversing camera and so on.
The previous version had space for just two in the rear, while the new model gets a raised, padded bit in the centre which VW claims can seat an additional passenger, but forget about actually getting a full-sized adult comfortable there. If there's one drawback in the CC, it's the rear leg- and headroom, the latter being a result of the tapering roofline. Also, if you're a six-footer who weighs a ton like me, getting in and out of the car would call for a fair amount of contortion.
The CC's polished ride does justice to the expectations raised by the plush interior, with the 210bhp 2.0-litre turbo unit flirting merrily with the silky smooth DSG auto 'box. Adding to this refinement is the impressive soundproofing job done in the car that makes highway cruising a highly pleasant experience. Although not as sporty as its muscular looks might suggest, the CC's handling proves engaging enough to give you momentary visions of being behind the wheel of an Audi A5. It's no performance saloon, but it's no Passat either, with a steering that feels much more responsive and compliant.
It's a far more entertaining saloon to drive than most of the other cars you'd get for this money.
VW tells me that the more powerful 3.6-litre engine variant will hit our shores in a few weeks' time, but after driving the 2.0T, I don't see any reason why anyone would need that extra power as the turbo unit is up to the task in most driving situations. And to top it, this powerhouse returns impressive economy and emissions figures of close to 8.0 litres-per-100km and 182gkm of CO2 respectively.
The 2012 refresh has been mild, but the good thing about that is the CC remains what it already was — the most attractive Volkswagen by far. With some minor tweaks to the design that deftly combine restrained elegance with athleticism, the CC has strengthened its stranglehold on the niche that it created in the mid-sized family car segment three years ago. After all, when you're aiming at being the world's best, you should know how to have all your pies and eat them too.