VW GOES BANANAS
What looks like a banana, is hugely expensive and chiropractically impractical? The answer isn’t this car, but Mercedes-Benz’s exotic CLS, the saloon for high-paid execs who’d give their Blueteeth for an out-and-out coupé. But the CLS has been far from a flop in the UK – it sold more than 3,000 here in its first year and somehow sits on the high slopes of automotive cool.
And just because an eccentric success makes little sense, it doesn’t mean others won’t follow. So here comes Volkswagen, having already shown itself keen to be seen as BMW-bashers and Merc-molesters through the painfully ambitious Phaeton, with a shameless attack on the CLS’s weird haunches.
The Passat CC comprises entire styling riffs (witness the side sculpting and rear outline) from the CLS’s songbook, but it importantly differs on one crucial point: price. While Merc’s 2+2 cruises in at £46,255, this pretender to the crown of best coupé-shaped saloon wafts onto wishlists from just £21,895 in diesel form. So you could have two, leaving £2,515 to celebrate your pioneering work against brand snobbery.
Not that it’s quite so simple as that. My GT-spec model, tested here for £22,795, costs a lesstriumphant £29,150 by the time we’ve ticked boxes for such chattels as a panoramic sunroof at a skyhigh £795, bendy bi-Xenon beams at a go-swivel £865, cow-clad sports seats at an are-you-sittingdown £1,445 and metallic paint at a how-canthis- be-extra £365. For free, you get an adaptive suspension, two-zone climate control, computer and… well not much that surprises, really. Like the CLS, it’s a triumph of style over sanity. Rear visibility competes fiercely with a windowless shed and, at 34mm longer, 35mm wider and 55mm lower than the standard Passat, you don’t know whether to turn the wheel or hoist the mainsail. Speed-sensitive steering and a firm ride redeem the plot, but although the CC is muscular and calmly competent on all roads, it’s the kind of high-carb car that imparts the same gut feeling as it exudes bloatiness.
To top it all, this model came fitted with the latest in slothery: a system for self-parking. Simply cruise up the road, wait for the radar to measure a viable gap, engage reverse, touch the throttle and it’ll do the rest, hands-free. For £525, it’s an amazing bit of theatre, and this boat’s a pain to park without it, but one assumes alpha males will insist that real men steer.
For quality and refinement, the CC is further proof that Volkswagen can out-swank its toughest homegrown rivals. And with more than 40mpg being easily achievable, it proves luxury doesn’t have to shred your wallet. Beyond that though, given the lack of rear space and voluminous proportions, it’s my suspicion that it’s destined for that great cul de sac marked “What were they thinking?” Whatever next, a BMW coupé that thinks it’s a 4×4?
RIVALS: ALFA ROMEO 159 1.9 JTDM LUSSO, JAGUAR XF 2.7 V6 DIESEL LUXURY, MERCEDES-BENZ CLS 320 CDI
- Engine: 1968cc, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 138bhp at 4,200rpm
- Max Torque: 236lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,800kg
- Combined Consumption: 48.7mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 153g/km (D)
- 0-62mph: 9.8secs
- Max speed: 132mph
- Insurance Group: 11