By on May 15, 2009

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.

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52 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2009 Volkswagen Passat CC 2.0T (Manual)...”

  • avatar

    I grew up on a manual and I do enjoy the fun and the control a manual offers. Certain cars just really should be manuals. There’s nothing like matching a great gearbox to a capable car. And then I get into traffic. I agree, manuals have thier place as do automatics. A car like this with a manual in the US will never sell enough to make it cost effective.

    On a side note, the CC is probably the best looking sedan in it’s class on the road.

  • avatar

    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.

    Not so much the pursuit of driving pleasure as the avoidance of driving hell. Small displacement engines with automatics are fail.

  • avatar

    [ED: dead men don’t buy cars.]

    Then who’s kept Buick in business all these years?

  • avatar

    I wonder why they didn’t design the current non-CC Passat like this from the beginning. The Passat is a bloaty, hideous abomination in comparison. Not only non-descript, but non-designed.

  • avatar
    Aloysius Vampa

    It’s not too big to have a manual transmission, in my opinion.

  • avatar

    What’s missing is rear-seat headroom. Nice seats, yeah, but what’s the point if you have to tilt your neck just so your head doesn’t rub the ceiling? I sat in the back of one of these, and in the back of a Mercedes CLS. The four-door with a coupe roof line does not work for anybody above average height. Here’s hoping your rear-seat passengers don’t use hair gel.

  • avatar

    Big cars and stick shift don’t mix.

    Unless, of course, it’s an M5. Or a G8 GXP, or a (previous-gen) TL type S, or any other large sedan that has or had a manual transmission.

    VW offers a manual equipped Passat CC in North America. Huh? Americans are manual aversive, save a few diehards.

    You must notify Audi, BMW, Acura (and probably a few other manufacturers immediately) – I think those folks are stupid enough to actually offer manual transmissions in their respective lineups as well! I mean, a manual in a 2.0T A4 must be as preposterous as a manual in a 2.0T VW CC, right?

  • avatar

    I saw one of these on the road 2 weeks back and I am forced to ask… am I the only person that thinks the CC looks too much like a Chrysler Sebring from the front? I’m just not sold on the design but perhaps I am not sensitive enough to appreciate the fine/subtle details of the CC’s exterior.

  • avatar

    Less than four percent of Americans know how to drive a stick shift. The arrival of the DSG gearbox should halve that number, eventually.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Sounds like a car worth looking at next time I’m in the market, if VW’s reliability and customer care scores improve.

  • avatar


    If you haven’t reviewed the comments from the most recent piston slap, you should know that you have a neurological disorder if you don’t prefer manual transmission.

    Seriously though, I agree with you. Though, I would say that cars that aren’t meant for all out sportiness and large don’t need a manual transmission. Taking the point F8 made, I wouldn’t put this in the same class of car as
    a G8 or M5 with the tire smoking v-8 performace. As a car made for cruising in style and comfort with a bit of sportiness thrown in, the manual is overkill.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A whole review dedicated to dissing manual transmissions? Now can we learn something about the CC please?

  • avatar

    The car looks good except for the tail lights. Those strange organic blobs just dont fit in.

  • avatar

    @ lightford:

    No, you’re not. A guy in my building owns one of these and I’d say it looks like a Volvo S60, 3-series, and Hyundai had a menage.

    I’m also a little mystified at the perception of VWs mainline sedans as driver’s cars.

  • avatar

    “Less than four percent of Americans know how to drive a stick shift. ”

    That is painfully sad. Supposedly, of new car sales only 6% have manual stick shifts (source: a random dude on a site somewhere). Driving a manual in a car becomes an art form after awhile… like sword fighting, painting, singing or karate. I remember learning how to shift with that long Audi. Stall, stall, stall. After awhile though, the genius of the artform became clear. It’s a little like learning how to cycle. Crash, crash, crash. Then finally you learn how to balance.

    However, yes, it would seem that certain cars really are more suited to automatic land. However, certain other cars should always, ALWAYS have the option of a manual.

  • avatar

    I was surprised that the last time I was in Italy, when I rented a car, they offered me a choice of auto or stick. I assumed that an auto rental would be rare and much more expensive over there. It wasn’t. I guess they’re catering more towards American tourists.

  • avatar

    Automatics aren’t rare at all in Europe, it just seems that way because they are so prevalent in America.

  • avatar

    I absolutely love the interior on this vehicle and it even fit my 6’7″ self (in the front). The exterior is very nice as well. I always find myself staring at the CC when one goes by me. If VW didn’t have horrible reliability (just ask my sister about her Passat) and this car was a bit more driver-oriented, I would’ve been all over it. I definitely don’t see it needing a manual and 4 of the last 6 cars I’ve owned have been manuals.

  • avatar

    Please do not advise car companies to not offer manuals on as many products as they see fit.
    Its bad enough that many cars aren’t available with a stick at all ( I’m looking at you G8 GT) To me, even a mediocre car can be made far more enticing to drive with a manual.

  • avatar

    As much as I hate to admit it, manuals are in a slow decline in the US. Now we have newer, better engineered automatics that have improved performance and gas mileage and we have urban areas with steadily have rising populations. Now consider the emergence of dual-clutch transmissions and I’m not surprised.

    Besides, without a manual shifter we now have a free hand to hold our cell phone, put on makeup, grab some fries, or hold our latte.

  • avatar

    Too bad it’s not rear wheel drive. I’ll stick with BMW 3 and 5 series, thank you very much.

    Yes, I’m a stick shift fan, but I’d take an automatic E-Class MB (E 6.3 preferred)in RWD over a VW in FWD or AWD any day.


  • avatar

    Love the look of the new cc, can’t warm up to the reliability issues with VW, however (my ownership of a spankin’ new Golf a few years back was NOT pleasant).

    As for manual transmissions, it is a shame that the stick shift is nearly AWOL here in America. I just test drove a 2007 Civic Si and can’t see it being anywhere near as enjoyable if it were sold with the AT…heck, even my Fusion is a manual.

  • avatar

    @ F8,

    The Passat CC is a much longer and softer car than an A4. An A4 needs a stick, wants a stick, craves a stick. An A6? Nah, the auto suits it much better, just like the XF, CLS, 7-series… blah, blah blah (yes I realize they are all different sizes… but the intent of the car is the same). The 5-series? Its sporting enough of a large car to warrant a stick, to where I would want one at least.

    But the CC? Its like getting a stick in an old-style non-SHO Taurus. Or a stick in a Lumina, or a Lincoln Continental. I appreciate that they did it, but it completely falls out of character with the car.

  • avatar

    @rochskier :

    “I’m also a little mystified at the perception of VWs mainline sedans as driver’s cars.”

    They are! They are tow truck driver’s cars, as in, usually picked up on the side of the road by tow truck drivers.

  • avatar

    Will they be able to sell more than 5 per month?

    At this price level, and expected ownership costs, an Infiniti G would make more sense.

  • avatar


    Agreed, Chrysler Sebring was the first thing that popped into my mind upon glancing at the photo.

  • avatar

    The last time I had to get the emissions checked on my car, I went to a Jiffy Lube. I was sitting patiently in the waiting room when the woman working there came in to apologize. She couldn’t do the test on my car because she didn’t know how to use a manual trans.

    I must confess, however, that I didn’t learn how to drive a stick until I was in my late twenties (my father hates ’em – too much having to drive rush hour on I-285 when it was being expanded, I guess). Now I love sticks, and occasionally experience a frisson of panic when I am in an automatic as my left foot stomps around for the clutch pedal…

  • avatar


    Until I read your comment about a non-SHO Taurus or Lumina, I couldn’t understand your point. You’re right, though. Putting a stick shift in either of those cars would be useless. When you start with a dull, large ride, adding a stick shift is like tearing a page out of War and Peace. What’s the point in that.

    Are you saying that the CC is a dull, large ride?

  • avatar

    I used to be a manual diehard… until I suffered with one in an old Volvo 240 wagon I had as over the winter. The clutch was too heavy and the gearing too spread apart for fun (at least the electric overdrive worked.)

    I’ve modified my manual-only edict to include the phrase “if I can have fun with it”. Lotus Exige? Check. Mazda MX-5? Check. The ’68 VW Fastback going together in my garage? Check. The wife’s ’03 Jetta TDI? Check. The ’06 Dakota Quadcab I’m driving right now? Automatic all the way. Drove one with the 6MT and it was more chore than fun. The truck is for utility not fun so it has a slushbox.

  • avatar

    Blindspots, no rear headroom… Jesus, if I’m going to buy a four-door, I’m going to want some practicality.

  • avatar

    Manual (stick shift) equates to driving involvement which equates to fun IF it is a ‘fun’ car.
    I ride a motorcycle and most motorcyclists do it for fun. How many automatic motorcycles are there?
    Imagine how much fun a shiftless Yamaha R1 would be. Or perhaps a Suzuki GSXR 1000 with CVT.
    Even better, a Harley with CVT so you could get that same grating exhaust howl at any speed.

  • avatar

    “REAL MEN” bang their own. Transmissions that is, not that theirs anything wrong with it.

  • avatar

    RF: “Less than four percent of Americans know how to drive a stick shift.”

    Seriously? Is that a real number, or just a figure pulled out of an nether orifice?

    10% I could believe But a measly four percent? Sigh. I weep for my country if that is true.

    For what it is worth, I deal with heavy traffic every day. I live in the Seattle area and wrestle with it’s legendary traffic (and HILLS!) driving a stick shift. I actually find it easier and more enjoyable with the manual transmission than an automatic (experienced when driving my wife’s car.) Reason being is that while there is an extra pedal to use, when NOT in motion, which in heavy traffic is quite common I don’t HAVE to be always on a pedal. Frequently I can use no pedals at all; rolling or stopped. Even on hill, a small tug on the handbrake holds the car where ever I am sitting. Often times on a long slow downhill grade I can just “drive” using the handbrake alone. I can also sit it 1st or 2nd gear and just roll very slowly with no pedal effort at all. Of course having a Diesel helps a lot here as all the torque comes on at low RPMs.


  • avatar

    No, No, No. You are all overlooking the primary reason for having a manual transmission.

    It keeps the Wife/GF from driving your hooptie.

  • avatar

    Like I would date, much less marry, someone who couldn’t drive a manual.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    What’s the image of this car in the US? Over here in Germany, it’s a car for vain old people — like guys who get a trophy wife. I’d like to rent it, but I’d never ever think of owning it.

  • avatar

    It’s not the actual size of the car. It’s the perceived size of the car. Seems the CC feels less than agile. The larger, heavier G8 GXP feels great with a manual.

    In TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey 2008 and 2009 VWs and Audis appear to be faring significantly better than earlier years. Time will tell if this continues to be the case as the cars age.

    No stats for the CC yet–need more owners signed up. Know a CC owner? Send them here:

  • avatar

    I also love the looks and drive.
    But why oh why the rear seat?
    It one thing to call a 4 door a coup, but to force the image by absolutely not allowing for an optional third rear passenger OR the option of laying lengthwiise on a lonf trip is odd.
    I mean, they say they even softened the suspention for a long drive.
    But that high hard middle plastic is wrong.
    I just think style over road thought.

  • avatar

    A large sedan with a manual is a “keep it forever” car in the US. No one will want it for trade. Few would imagine you can even buy one. I remember, years ago, must have been 1988-9, slumming through the local Orlando, Fl. Mercedes/Audi dealer (before they sold the Audi franchise). They offered a pearlescent white Audi V8 Quattro–that is what it was called, very Germanic and utilitarian name–with a STICK! I fell in love, if it is possible to fall in love with a machine. I think at the time it was selling in the mid 40s. Of course, at the time, all I could afford was an Audi 90…same paint color, unusual 5 cylinder engine, and loads of fun to drive.

    Where I live VW is a player, but I’ve only seen two CCs. Plenty of Passats, Jetti, and the various Golf iterations, but only two of the former. Probably just the economy.

  • avatar

    Ok I’ll risk it. ‘Cause I hope what follows is not perceived as flaming…

    Stick no stick…that isn’t the problem. The problem is that this VW, like most of its brethen, is just so, how can I put this, turdish to drive.

    And I do mean that politely.

  • avatar


    They aren’t turdish to drive at all. They are actually quite good at the bends, just in differing degrees. The CC controls its motions very well, however, it still is a largish car, so GTI like handling is not there. Body control is good, but its set up for cruising, not balls to the wall backroad blasting. When you get a cruiser, and automatic is more in order, as a manual makes it a bit bi-polar.

  • avatar

    As a daily bicycle commuter and the driver of a turbo-charged, manually transmission-ed, AWD sports sedan I can tell you with high confidence that ALL VW drivers are insane!

  • avatar

    VW should continue to offer manual Passats because the alternative is too hard to countenance: their nice-when-it’s-new-but-built-to-fail tiptronic.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Mike Solowiow :
    The Passat CC is a much longer and softer car than an A4.

    Much longer? Not even 4 inches.

    @MikeInCanada :
    No, No, No. You are all overlooking the primary reason for having a manual transmission.
    It keeps the Wife/GF from driving your hooptie.

    My girlfriend hates automatics.

  • avatar

    @Mike Solowiow

    Ok, Mike, I’ll take your word for it.

    Enjoy your capsule reviews very much. And also your stories (about the Posche and the MB was brilliant!), but pls. do try to get a non-German car once in a while, if at all possible.


  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @FromBrazil :
    …but pls. do try to get a non-German car once in a while, if at all possible.

    He did one about the Nissan Note…

  • avatar

    @Mirko Reinhardt

    Yep, and I read it and commented on it. Been fed once, but that didn’t kill the hunger! All I can say is: Keep them coming!

  • avatar

    but pls. do try to get a non-German car once in a while, if at all possible.

    Does Chrysler still sells a diesel-powered Dodge Magnum with a 300 nose in Europe?

  • avatar

    @ Mirko,

    The CC seems a lot longer, considering I got it stuck in my garage, where the A4 was a breeze to park in my 400 year old stable house.

    @ Ajla,

    Yes, they still make it, as I was stuck behind one blocking the narrow road up to Schoenburg Castle


    I live in Germany, non-German cars are hard to come by! Just like if I lived in Korea, doing a review on something other than a Hyundai or KIA would be impossible. And I did do a Euro Focus a few weeks back…..

  • avatar

    @Mike Solowiow

    Pls, pls.! No Kias!! (Intended as a joke)

    I recently saw some German sales stats. In the Golf section of the market, the Golf had like 15K sales and the next up, I think, was the Focus at under 2K. So I see your drama!

    The Germans don’t know what they’re missing. Variety is the spice of life. I mean really, try a Focus, a Bravo, even an i30! Like some old pop song said, that could just spice up your life!

  • avatar

    I am late to comment here, but i have to say that the 2.0T combined with the 6 speed manual is a great drive. The CC, despite it’s long looks, is based on the Golf/Jetta platform, so I don’t really get the beef here.

  • avatar

    Germans seem to have a lot of pride in their brands… that is the only reason someone could explain to me why they willingly pay exhorbitant premiums for bargain basement Benzes over equally competent other cars.

    And I agree with the premise of the article… it would be strange for the CLS to come with a stickshift, no matter how good the box was. Stickshifts are reserved for econo cars, sports cars, and everything within that range (i.e. sports sedans etc).

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