We evaluate the transport of three-dimensional chemical transport models in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere applying observed distributions of CO2 and SF6. The data consist of high-resolution in situ observations, obtained during all seasons at subtropical, middle and high latitudes over Western Europe within the SPURT (Spurenstofftransport in der Tropopausenregion) project (2001–2003). We show that the combination of the two passive tracers SF6 and CO2 with their different tropospheric characteristics and the propagation of the temporal trends of these two gases into the lower stratosphere is a powerful diagnostic for evaluation of model transport. The model evaluation shows that all models are able to capture the general features in the tracer distributions including the vertical and horizontal propagation of the CO2 seasonal cycle. However, the modeled CO2 cycles are a few months out of phase in the lowermost stratosphere due to tropospheric mixing. Two models show a too strong Brewer-Dobson circulation causing an overestimation of the tracers in the lowermost stratosphere during winter and spring. One model displays a too strong tropical isolation leading to an underestimation of the tracers in the lowermost stratosphere during winter. All models suffer to some extend from diffusion and/or too strong mixing across the tropopause. In addition, the models show too weak vertical upward transport into the upper troposphere during the boreal summer. Sensitivity studies show that our initial conditions and boundary constraints are realistic and that a horizontal resolution higher than 2 degrees and an increase of the meteorology update frequency (from 6 to 3-hourly) have negligible impact on the modeled CO2 and SF6 distributions.