The Volkswagen CC is a four-door, four-seat sedan, but Volkswagen calls it a coupe, and it could pass for an expensive luxury car, without the price. The styling is radical by Volkswagen standards, certainly eye-catching in its sleekness. The CC, for Comfort Coupe, was launched as an all-new model for 2009 and carries through 2010 unchanged.
The interior design and materials are exceptional; and the optional two-tone stitched leather bucket seats are downright Italian-like. The rear bucket seats accommodate just two in cozy comfort with decent legroom.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with the six-speed Tiptronic transmission can pass for a powertrain that might be in a luxury sports sedan or coupe. Yet it retails for less than $30,000 taillights over the curb, making it a compelling value. The 2.0-liter engine makes 200 horsepower and gets an EPA-estimated 31 mpg Highway on Premium fuel. We found it delightful underway, smooth and very responsive.
VR6 models use the dynamic VW 3.6-liter V6, now making 280 horsepower, and the Tiptronic. It's a great setup, though with its higher price the value equation isn't as compelling as it is with the 2.0.
We found the highway ride smooth and solid, firm but not harsh. The electromechanical steering makes parking easy. The brakes work very well.
The CC was a surprise to the market, and the reviews of its styling since its launch have been very favorable. It achieves what it sets out to do: look like a really expensive car. Namely like a Mercedes coupe, in particular the CLS, also a four-seater.
The CC takes the Passat platform, and rips off the skin (then guts it like a big fish, see Interior Features). The new sleek roofline seemingly came straight from a hotrod chop shop, lower by a couple of inches (a mere 56 inches tall) and swept back as if the car were racing into a 200-mph wind. The C pillar is wide, but barely visible because it flows back, not down. On the same wheelbase as the Passat, the CC has a slightly wider track and is only 1.2 inches longer, but the shape makes it look bigger. But it's only 62 pounds heavier than a Passat.
It's unmistakably Volkswagen from the front, because of the big VW in the grille, but mistakable from other angles. It's hard to see that the track is only .4 inches wider in the front (.6 in the rear), because of the width of the chrome grill with two horizontal bars, and the wraparound headlamps with arrowhead corners front and back. The air intake under the grille gives the CC a strong jaw, with foglamps each side, under long thin amber slivers for turn signals (with amber slits on the mirrors, very cool). The whole nose says upscale.
The profile says upscale too, but it sure doesn't say Volkswagen. Think of the Beetle, and you see that we've come a long way baby. The CC looks more upscale than even the $80,000 Phaeton. Just not as big.
Out of the bold front fender flares, character lines zoom rearward and upward like speed lines, most dramatically the top lines that nearly touch the taillights. The lower line has a chrome strip pasted over it, and it wraps around the rear of the car over the rear bumper. Next you notice the chrome rocker panels and sigh, and know that this is someone's perception of style.
The standard 17-inch standard alloy wheels with 10 heavy spokes are fairly good looking, but the optional 17-inch alloy wheels with 10 thinner spokes make the car look stunning, chrome strips notwithstanding. There are a total of four styles.
Did we say the interior of the CC was a Passat gutted like a fish? The other half of the story is that the innards were expertly and expensively (to VW if not to you) replaced as if by a taxidermist. Upgraded to the nines.
The four-passenger seating is controversial, which is curious, because it's not like an owner would drive one home from the showroom and look back over his shoulder and discover only two seats and go, huh? That's the way VW made it, and if you need three seats in the rear, so go buy another car.
If the CC looks like a luxury coupe from the outside, it feels like a luxury racecar from the cockpit. The windshield is steeply raked, the doorsill high and the seat low, although it doesn't have to be that way because height is one of the 12 ways the seat is adjustable. So visibility out the front is not compromised. It's not bad out the rear either, although the headrests don't help; and blind spots from the wide C pillars are reduced by fixed triangular rear door windows behind the passengers' ears. Which are perilously close to the steeply sloping roofline. Rear seat headroom is something that definitely has been compromised by the lower roof.
The two seats in the rear are bucket-like, ergonomically designed like the fronts, with wide thigh bolsters, separated by the space taken up by a rolltop cupholding console, as well as a fold-down armrest (behind which is a pass-through hatch to the trunk for skis and such). Not just cupholders in there, but small triangular bins for poker chips or peanuts or whatever. There's a decent but not sumptious 37.3 inches of rear legroom.
Each seat is a cozy compartment that makes a passenger feel special, to have his or her own space, like a space ship. It's perfect if you have two kids, separated from fighting by the barrier, although a bulkhead would be better. It's a safety thing, because you won't have to turn around while you're driving and smack them. Plus, there's an emergency medical kit in that console. You never know.
The perforated leather is two-tone and handsomely done, not always the case with daring two-tones. Ours was Cornsilk Beige and looked great, with stitched inserts. The four doors are totally stylish, with leather armrests and grab handles and swoopy brushed aluminum trim (optional).
The instrument panel feels far away, because it's not very vertical. There's a lot of leather up there, but sure enough there are gauges: with white-lit needles that stand up and fly around when you start the car. They're clean enough to read, and the layout of the center stack is not nearly as complicated as other German carmakers like to make it. It's a driver's compartment made for relaxing, with good vents to control the climate.
The 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine shoots the car forward impressively, as quick, smooth and satisfying as just about any V6 in any sedan: 0-60 in 7.4 seconds, and only 0.1 second slower in the quarter-mile than the VR6. Torque is 207 pound-feet, but, importantly, it comes on at 1700 rpm. With variable valve timing and direct injection, in addition to the turbocharger intercooler, the 2.0 leads its class in technology.
Fuel mileage for the 2.0-liter engine is EPA-rated at 21/31 City/Highway, which is what we got with more than 50 percent highway driving, including some rapid two-lane transit. Premium fuel is recommended.
Driving the Volkswagen CC around town, up hills, passing on two-lanes, it just doesn't feel like a four-cylinder engine. Top speed is 130 mph, and we didn't go there, but we'll bet it could run near those speeds without stress, on the Autobahn. At 90 mph it's not straining one bit; totally smooth, amazingly smooth for a 2-liter four-cylinder.
The Tiptronic transmission, in automatic mode, is matched just about perfectly to the engine's power curve, meaning you aren't even aware of the changes. And although the Tiptronic manual mode lends itself to playtime, the rest of the car doesn't really. This is a gentleman's sport sedan comfort coupe thing. It's not a long-wheelbase luxury GTI, despite some shared components.
Although we didn't drive a CC with the 280-horsepower V6 engine, everything we've read, including the acceleration specs, indicate that for a lot more money you don't get much more speed with the VR6. And if it's all-wheel-drive you're after, available only with the VR6, the higher 4Motion price erases the competitive advantage of the CC.
The suspension can't earn grades like the engine, especially not when it's asked to perform at its sport-tuned description. Sport is a relative game. But it's fair to suggest that most CC buyers won't ask that much of their Comfort Coupe. If all they ask for is a solid and smooth highway ride on a firm suspension that doesn't rock or wallow, no worries. We read in one online review (just one) that the suspension was mostly rough and especially jarring over freeway expansion strips, but our own notes contain no such complaints.
The overall handling is not particularly crisp, but the turn-in is sharp enough. The electromechanical power steering makes maneuvering in parking lots easy.
In a Motor Trend review, using instruments measuring braking and grip, the CC wowed its fans. Its braking was equal to the Audi A4 and its skidpad grip better, making it faster around the figure 8. These things matter, even to drivers who don't race around figure 8s on their way to the store, because they reflect not only a car's capabilities, but its standards.
The Volkswagen CC is a unique car that succeeds. A four-seat, four-door, it feels and looks like a luxury coupe but with a base price under $30,000. The overachieving turbocharged 2.0 engine holds its own with the big boys, along with the Tiptronic transmission; it's smooth and strong enough that the optional V6 isn't needed. The interior materials are very high quality, especially the leather seats that would be at home in a Maserati. The brakes are excellent, the ride firm but smooth.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Volkswagen CC in the Columbia River Valley.