April 13, 2024

[singlepic id=496 w=320 h=240 float=left]By Cor Steenstra, Photography Christopher Jones, Model Dominique

The Volkswagen Passat CC follows the directions set by Mercedes’ CLS a couple of years ago, for a 4 seater, 4 door coupe version of a sedan, aiming at a more sporty image. The Passat has a coupe-like profile and a long sloping tail, and does indeed not have a large hatch at the back, preventing it from being associated with a normal 5 door hatchback.

Leaving out the hatch has the obvious advantage that the headroom in the rear would not have to be sacrificed for the mechanics of the hatch, and the Passat thankfully does provide enough headroom.. and legroom for that matter. In our test of the Brabus CLS it was so bltantly clear that the Mercedes did not have any useful space in the back at all, not even for small children, and the Passat learned from this mistake. It does have the coupe shape but does also have the 4 seating spaces.
Just like the Mercedes CLS the Passat CC was developed under former Mercedes Benz chief designer Murat Guenak during his stint as top of Volkswagen Director of Design, before being ousted in favor of Walter Da Silva. Guenak was brought in by BMW’s Pischetsrieder while Da Silva was a clear choice of Piech. Plitics, politics, politics.

The CC we had came equipped with a 4 cylinder turbo coupled to a 6 speed gearbox, and it did peform really well. It was fast to accelerate, easy to control, even at high speeds, and had the right balance between sporty and comfort, never making the passengers in the car feel ill at ease. The exterior is clearly VW, but also clearly set itself apart from the other offerings in the category buy displaying a more exclusive image, a sporty style, and an overall sense of quality.

This was enhanced by the interior, trimmed in leather with a combination of black and white colors that could so easily look cheap, but were executed in a way that was just right. The design of the dash, though again using the clever offset services to make tolerance problems much more difficult to spot, was the weakest link in the whole interior, primarily because of the flatness of the main surfaces. We just came out of the Nissan 370Z and the Nissan maxima, and with that in mind the Passat CC is just flat. A little more sculpture would have made a world of difference.

The one big problem the Passat CC has is the pathetic and dangerous hand brake system. This feature will no doubt lead to countless lawsuits here in the US, simply because in all its cleverness it simply does not work! There is no conventional handbrake, but instead there is an automatic system that, when the car rolls to s standstill simply applies the handbrake automatically, and when a gear is selected and the clutch comes up, simply is supposed to disengage.

The override is that, to apply the hadnbrake yourself you need to step on the brake pedal and press a button on the far left at the same time, and to disengage you do the same. Sadly we experienced it frequently that after parking the car and on our way out, the car turned out to not be on the parking brake, which means that you have to jump back in, remember the sequence and press the brake pedal and the button on the far left side. People can and will get hurt doing that in panic, if they make it at all prior to hitting something.

We also experienced that at traffic lights the handbrake did not disengage, which choked the engine and made for a panicky ordeal of having to restart the engine, then press on the brake pedal and the button on the left, and then put it into gear and drive off, while everyone around you is honking their horns and making certain hand signals…. and there goes the image…

This feature was such a bad part of an otherwise excellent car that we really want to warn VW about this. If it isn’t fool proof for even experienced people, don’t put it in the cars. It will cause trouble and with the Audi experience still vividly there, VW doesn’t want any other trouble in the US. It takes a lot to overcome image problems.

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