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Motors took to the roads of southern France to test drive the VW Passat CC replacement, now simply named 'CC'.

Motors took to the roads of southern France to test drive the VW Passat CC replacement, now simply named 'CC'.

The flagship VW may be the vast Phaeton saloon, but CC offers a similarly beautifully crafted exterior that can rival many a luxury car. Based, of course, on the Passat, the new CC has a revised front and rear that freshen up its original identity – a car that still turns heads. Six-hundred Passat CCs were sold in Ireland since its launch in 2008, so it is quite a rare sight. The new four-door coupé hopes to take sales from the latest generation of executive cruisers - not an easy task. CC has to also tempt buyers to move up to it from Passat, Mondeo, Insignia and Avensis etc. CC prices start at €34,950 for the entry-level TDi BlueMotion (140bhp).

CC is all about looks first and foremost. Irish CCs will come in just two grades: CC and CC Sport. There are 17-inch alloys as standard with nice 18-inch rims on the top spec 'Sport' grade. CC on the road looks squat and purposeful, so what is new on the outside? Up front the large, one-piece, clamshell-like extended bonnet is a beautiful piece of engineering (much like MINIs). The five-bar chrome grille announces the VW CC to other road users confidently, while under the bumper is darkened. The rear-end of CC shows the biggest change. The car's profile is the same but little design tweaks have been made to emphasise the sloping tail (Audi's A7 and Mercedes-Benz's CLS do this, too). The distinctive curved taillights are gone and replaced by new LED lights that are now horizontal units which I feel look less distinctive.

Inside, Irish cars get a three-seat rear bench to aid practicality – something that only became available a couple of years after launch. In Europe and most other markets the car is sold with seating for four people.

Under the skin all the electronic toys have been added with many as standard. The main party trick - that is for now unique to CC - is the automatic parking feature that, like most auto-park systems, will electronically spot a parking space and then steer the car for the driver into the space. But CC goes further and will take you out of the parking space, too! This impressive ability to get out of a parking space requires only 25cm at either end of free space to do the manoeuvre. I tested the system and didn't feel like I was holding up traffic – it worked, very efficiently.

Only two engine options will be on sale in Ireland and both are diesel. Power outputs are 140bhp or 170bhp. The engines have decent torque and are economical too and fall in to the lowest tax band 'A'. The transmission is a manual six-speed as standard, but if you can afford to spend an extra circa €2,500 on the DSG automated manual you'll enjoy the experience more. CC is a cruiser and not a sports car. On the twisty hills around Nice and the painfully slow coastal roads of Monaco the CC was a confident machine but not exciting. Electronic suspension damper settings of Comfort/Normal and Sport can be selected; I found 'comfort' to be the best choice and a match for the CC's character.

With VW's CC you get a car that looks almost as good as an Audi A7 or MB's CLS at a fraction of the cost.

Michael Sheridan