Like this super-efficient force-fed diesel, Europeans will get several high-tech/luxury options that the States will not, including Lane Assist (senses when the car drifts out of the lane and steers it back), Park Assist (automatic parking), Active Climate Seats (perforated seats that heat and cool), and Adaptive Cruise Control (monitors and adjusts the gap between the car ahead). We're on the list to get Adaptive Chassis Control (adjusts the suspension damping and steering ratio for sport, comfort, or normal driving), while a back-up camera (which hides behind the VW logo in the rear) will be an available option at launch.

Though not as powerful as some, this TDI CC is a solid performer, capable of a sustained 130 mph on the autobahn. Also less nimble than the much smaller GTI, the CC still behaves beautifully, combining remarkable smoothness with an underlying sportiness. I threw the Passat onto 360-degree off-ramps with abandon, listening to its tires shriek with smoky joy. The car held the line admirably while I steered with my right foot, a maneuver I doubt many Passat owners will re-enact. That's too bad, because this CC seemed to enjoy a bit of naughtiness.

Invariably, it will be said that Volkswagen is overstepping its 'People's Car' boundaries, encroaching into areas where Audi has long held sway. And sitting in the new Passat CC is a distinctly Audi-like experience. Is that a bad thing? No, not of itself. But it certainly could be for the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

2009 Volkswagen Passat CC

*Layout
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive

*Engines
2.0-liter inline four, dohc 16-valve, turbocharged. 3.6-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve

*Transmission
Six-speed manual/six-speed automatic
Length/width/height (in.): 188.9/73.1/56.0
Wheelbase: 106.7 in.
Curb weight: 3,400 to 3,900 lb

*Performance
2.0T: 200 hp (est.)/207 lb-ft (est.)
3.6 V6: 280 hp (est)/265 lb-ft (est.)
0-60 mph: 6.6 to 7.4 sec (est.)
Top speed: 130 mph (limited)

*What We Like
Looks, luxe and lope

*What We Don't
Ideas above its station?

*Price Tag
$27,000 -$40,000 (est)

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