What does Volkswagen mean to you? And think carefully now, because the careers and happiness of many “brand consultants” and “image stylists” may depend on your answer. Hitler’s car, perhaps – the car of the people? Bit out of date, that one. How about a cute, Beetle image? Headlights that wink; Lindsay Lohan before the drinking and the no-underwear. Maybe so. But how about this: VW, prestige marque.
Yes, having done AHit and LiLo, VeeDub has gone upmarket and not bad timing, either. The Passat CC emerges as the car industry and its consumers prepare to crawl into a cave and go to sleep until the whole horrible recession is over. If you sell a luxury car now, you are looking at graphs down 27 per cent (Porsche) and 28 per cent (Mercedes); if you own one, it’s on eBay, with your boat and your trophy wife.
But Passat is the concept that makes Alpha’s GQ colleagues wince and adjust their designer beards: affordable luxury. And what a damn fine job they’ve made of it.
For your $54,990, 2.0-litre front-wheel-drive TDI, you get a big, stylish and low-slung sedan, with a sweeping roof, cool frameless windows and 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, VW have tried hard to put the comfort in “comfort coupe” with good Napa leather upholstery and quality materials everywhere.
At the front, at least, the set-up screams, “cruise, baby”, with a relaxed feel to the controls, and plenty of space. In the rear, you’re fighting a little more for knee-room and some of the bigger potholes will readjust Nanna’s spine, especially on the sport setting. But who cares about them back there? As a driver, your only concern amid the quiet splendour, is keeping an eye on the speedo. On the freeway, the Passat CC comes into its own as an effortless drive, with good driver position and intuitive handling. In heavy traffic, it remains responsive and light on its feet for the size, with a reasonable turning circle.
For your money, you are naturally less than overwhelmed by gee-whizz technology, but there are nice touches, including the reversing camera and proximity sensors, heated seats (feels like wetting yourself, but without the social stigma) and, my favourite, the electronic parking brake, which, after 10 minutes’ search, I realise is a small button on the far right of the dash.
The Passat CC is a car with polished design, while what’s under the bonnet demands to be taken more seriously than LiLo ever did (the TDI will get you to 100km/h in 8.6sec, while the V6 will get you and your surprised parents-in-law up there in just 5.6sec). It’s an all-round good job; a powerful, versatile sedan, with reasonable economy – between seven and eight litres per 100km – style comfort, luxury. And within reach.
But can you do it? Can you bring yourself to claim the VW Passat CC as your recession-friendly Rolls? Your credit-crunched Bentley? It’s either that or crawl into the cave with the rest of them.
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