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Volkswagen Passat coupe

New coupe version smartens up Passat range

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Hard to believe, perhaps, but the Volkswagen Passat is getting sexy. Just launched at the Detroit Motor Show is this, the new Passat CC, a four-door coupe version of VW's family car.

Following a similar concept to the Mercedes CLS, the CC takes the basic Passat and clothes all of it qualities in a much sleeker body. Slightly longer and wider than the standard saloon, the CC is also a little lower to accentuate the more elegant and sporty look. However, it still includes four doors and four seats, with a big storage cubby between the two individually sculpted rear seats and, VW claims, loads of headroom in the back. To further add to the feeling of space inside, the roof includes a panoramic glass section to allow plenty of light in.

Complementing the new-look body is a host of changes in cabin. The new steering wheel, for instance, incorporates controls for the phone and entertainment system, while the dials and ventilation controls are also revised and there's a subtle new ambient lighting system as well as the option of wood or aluminium finishes. Buyers can also specify equipment previously only available on the Phaeton, such as heated and ventilated front seats.

On top of all that, VW has also given the car sharper suspension to go with its sharper looks. Even the standard CC has a more sporty drive than the standard Passat, but it also has the option of DDC (Dynamic Drive Control), which offers three settings for the suspension - Comfort, Normal and Sport - as well as adjusting the steering to suit.

In all, there are five engines to choose from, three petrol (160PS 1.8, 200PS 2.0 and 300PS 3.6 V6) and two 2.0-litre diesels, with either 140 or 170PS. All except the V6 (which has a DSG semi-automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive) have a six-speed manual as standard, but with the option of an automatic (DSG or conventional automatic, depending on the model). Even the slowest model in the range, the less powerful diesel, hits 60mph in less than 10 seconds, but the flagship V6 manages the same benchmark sprint in just 5.6 seconds.

Last, but not least, as well as having a wide range of standard safety equipment, the Passat CC also has the option of Lane Assist - which can prevent the car from drifting out of its lane on the motorway - and Park Assist, which automatically steers the car into a parking space, while the driver operates the throttle and brakes.

Production of the car starts in the spring, and UK sales are expected to begin in the late summer, when prices and specifications will be announced.