I love the way the Volkswagen CC looks. It’s a perfectly proportioned pastiche of everything I admire about BMW, Mercedes and Audi design. The CC is as handsome as the priced-to-fail Phaeton, only more so. Inside, the seats alone are worth the price of admission: firm yet endlessly supportive. The CC’s toy count is high, the price affordable. And, yet, something’s missing. Other than reliability. It’s that vital mojo that makes the Jaguar XF such a joy to behold, and the Mercedes-Benz CLS the ultimate boulevardier. Let’s call it . . . an automatic gearbox.
Quick aside: I am a purist. I will buy my cars with a manual gearbox until the last stick operated automobile is dead and buried, or they pry the gear lever from my cold, hard, smashed-into-the-Armco barrier hands. [ED: dead men don’t buy cars.] There are plenty of reasons why Europeans buy manual transmissions at more than twice the rate of their American counterparts. I like to think driving pleasure is foremost amongst them. Of course, that’s only wishful thinking. And for those Americans who long for big stick shift cars like, say, the manual version of the Passat CC, here’s news: it’s like Captain Kirk wearing a girdle. It’s wrong on more levels than a 3D chess game gone bad.
Changing gears, heel-n-toeing, trying to maximize the sporty appeal of the Passat CC on the back roads of Deutschland just didn’t work out. The car was like a one-legged supermodel trying to dance (ask Paul McCartney how that turned out). The CC’s steering was a tad too light; the massive car resisted changes in direction. Equally unsettling: the sedan’s swoopy styling left blind spots that hid Fiat Pandas. At 220 kmh in the Passat CC, darting around in the crosswinds, I finally learned a lesson that our Best and Brightest probably forgot in their sleep: manuals have their place. Big cars and stick shifts don’t mix.
The CC was designed for a driver ready to enjoy the joys of sitting back, flipping their fingers on the paddle-shifted six-speed automatic, and cruising quickly, not frenetically. If they’re feeling slightly rambunctious, they can find a nice little backroad and push the CC just enough to not spill their cup of espresso from the corner bread store. And when they’re done seeing the sights, they can cruise to the autobahn/highway, slam the accelerator/switch on the radar detector, and let the car do its thing.
VW offers a manual equipped Passat CC in North America. Huh? Americans are manual aversive, save a few diehards. To offer a stick in a car so clearly designed to have an automatic may satisfy the purists, but it probably won’t. Not if they know what’s good for them.