August 18, 2008

Lithe VW Passat CC lineup, pricing announced; sales to begin Q4 2008

Inspired by the sensuous lines and stately presence of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-series four door coupe, German automaker Volkswagen will bring the same dynamic design flair to the masses this fall under the aegis of the Passat CC moniker.

At Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance last weekend, Volkswagen unveiled a special edition of their newest addition to the U.S. lineup.

Dubbed the Passat CC Gold Coast Edition, the car featured a 3.6 liter V-six gasoline engine with FSI direct injection, the company's DSG dual-clutch six-speed transmission and subtle aerodynamic revisions, lending the car a sporty, yet restrained presence. 19 inch propeller style alloy wheels and a unique paint hue — co-developed with DuPont and consisting of a mix of gold, brown and silver tones — completes the exterior package.

Inside, four ergonomically sculpted seats wrapped in warm brown leather with bronze piping, are set against dark brown interior panels with matching leather highlights. The balance of the interior arrives unchanged from the CC's sedan stablemate , yet with the new color palette and sweeping expanses of glass, the effect is anything but staid.

Taken in sum, the Passat CC is an alluring and refreshing design that brings the sleek essence of plutocrat CLS-class coupes to a new, more attainable price point, all while retaining enough visual DNA to remain a part of the Volkswagen brand.

Despite the dramatic visuals, the timing of VW's newest product comes at a turbulent time for automakers. Today's pricing announcement builds on last month's news that the company would commence construction on a $1 billion dollar plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a part of the company's long term plans to bump Toyota from their slot as the world's second most prolific automaker. It would appear then, that confidence remains high.

Yet Volkswagen is keenly aware of the icy reception Americans bestowed upon the $70,000 Volkswagen Phaeton four years ago this spring. Despite reviews that praised the car for its combination of power and understated grace, buyers rejected the notion of paying a premium price for a premium sedan spoiled by a plebeian badge.

Price, therefore will pay a key role in ensuring the Passat CC's success. The base model CC 2.0T will sell for less than $27,000. Equipped with a 200-horsepower 2.0 liter turbocharged inline-four and a six-speed manual transmission, the base model will be joined by the 280-horsepower CC 3.6 which also borrows its drivetrain from its Passat sedan cousin.

European markets will also receive a 1.8 liter, 160-horsepower model (for markets where road tax is based on engine size) and two diesel variants developing 140 and 170 horsepower respectively.

In a release accompanying the pricing announcement, company marketing chief Detlef Wittig said that the company expects 60 percent of CC sales will come from the U.S. market. In total, production of the CC is expected to top 300,000 units over the next seven years.

Upon initial review, those figures seem timid. The Passat CC combines sleek styling and proven mechanicals at a price heretofore unseen. If there's an automotive iPod marketing theme to be found — a gotta have it product with wheels — the Passat CC has the chutzpah to tap it.

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