New double-clutch gearbox adds to VW's slick four-door coupe

2010 Volkswagen Passat CC 2.0 TSI Highline(Photo: Michael Bettencourt)

Don't kid yourself, looks matter, whether you're talking about aspiring singers, cluelessly mamboing celebs or four-door sedans pretending to be coupes. Okay, especially with the latter. When you're plunking down more cash for a four-door car that's less practical, it had better please the eyes, and the heart.

Thus is the case with the Volkswagen Passat CC, introduced in late 2008 as one of the latest trends to hit the automotive scene: the slinky sedan. It may be an oxymoron, but the four-door coupe has turned out to be a profitable one for Mercedes-Benz with the CLS, which is basically a hotted up E-Class sedan. What VW has tried with the CC is a similar formula of sharpening the staid Passat sedan's looks, but limiting most of the practicality loss to the rear seat. For 2010, VW has added its advanced DSG transmission and upgraded the optional sound system.

Gallery: 2010 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Highline

Midsize cars don't come much more fashionable than this

2010 Volkswagen Passat CC 2.0 TSI Highline(Photo: Michael Bettencourt)

For most potential buyers, the Passat CC's sales pitch starts and ends with its design, moreso than with most practicality-focused four-door buyers. Mainstream midsize sedans like the Mazda6 and Nissan Altima may offer bolder-looking styling in this class, but the CC is a league apart. One could argue that VW's coupe designation and only two rear seats would make the Nissan Altima Coupe a closer rival. The CC's roof is two inches lower than the regular Passat, so clambering in and out is tougher no matter where you sit, but headroom up front and even in the rear is fine for six-footers.

Once inside, a welcoming and classy interior awaits, with fine materials and easy to use controls. This particular tester was a loaded Highline tester, which came with fine looking cream coloured leather seats with black accents and carpets, the latter you're certain to appreciate if you've ever pulled your hair out trying to keep light-coloured carpets clean.

2010 Volkswagen Passat CC 2.0 TSI Highline(Photo: Michael Bettencourt)

The main practicality loss with the Passat CC is in the rear. It only offers seating for two, plus the rear seats are divided by cupholders and a storage system with a sliding cover, and no middle seat belts. Volkswagen has seen the light in Europe, and has started offering a five-seat option to the back of the CC, although the scalloped outboard seats that make it tough to attach child or booster seats remain.

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Fiddly key fob starter an annoyance

2010 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Highline(Photo: Volkswagen)

Other little annoyances also came up in the front. The unique starter system which requires you to push the entire key fob into the dash to start, and push again to eject, was occasionally a pain, as it makes the accessories-on (but engine off) mode difficult to access. The setup is so fiddly, that you're likely to just leave the car idling out of frustration, simply to hear the end of a song you like or program the optional touchscreen navigation system.

That system comes in a Technology package that also includes a very useful rearview camera, and a 30 gig hard drive that stores and plays music through a crisp sounding 600 watt 10-speaker and iPod-controlling Dynaudio sound system.

Looking at our well-optioned tester's $44,860 as tested price tag, though, all of a sudden such features become less surprising and more expected - plus a little more. In the mid 40k range, you're in the price neighbourhood of other stylish and more sporting cars like the Audi A4 and Lexus IS 250, which offer prestige badges as well as plenty of interior toys - luxury buyers want both, as VW learned the hard way with the super luxurious VW Phaeton sedan that crashed and burned in the North American market a few years back.