The Volkswagen CC is a four-door coupe, which may be a contradiction in terms because coupes are traditionally thought of as having two doors, not four. So the CC is a four-seat sedan with a sleek, low stance. It looks more expensive than it is.
The CC, for Comfort Coupe, was launched as an all-new model for 2009 and carries through 2012 with few changes. The CC will be revised for 2013 with new front and rear styling and more standard equipment.
The interior design and materials are exceptional. The optional two-tone stitched leather bucket seats are downright Italian-like. The cabin feels racy due to the steeply raked windshield and distant dash. It's cozy inside and there isn't as much front legroom as in the Acura TSX, Nissan Maxima or Lexus IS. The rear bucket seats accommodate just two in cozy comfort with decent legroom but limited headroom. Cargo space is small for the class, comparable to that of the Lexus IS.
The Volkswagen CC is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 200 horsepower. We found it impressively powerful and amazingly smooth. It uses front-wheel drive and is available with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox. The 2012 Volkswagen CC with the 2.0-liter engine gets an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg City/Highway on Premium fuel with the DSG, 21/31 mpg with the 6-speed manual.
The Volkswagen CC VR6 4Motion features the narrow-angle 3.6-liter V6 rated at 280 horsepower and 17/25 mpg. It comes with all-wheel drive. The 2012 Volkswagen CC VR6 4Motion can accelerate from 0-60 in less than seven seconds, according to Volkswagen. The VR6 4Motion is a pricey package, however.
We found the highway ride smooth and solid, firm but not harsh. It isn't a high-performance car, but it's lighter than the Maxima or Lexus IS. The electromechanical steering makes parking easy. The brakes work very well.
The Volkswagen CC looks like an expensive European luxury car, a Mercedes CLS, for example. The sleek roofline seemingly came straight from a hotrod chop shop, lower by a couple of inches to 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. The CC is built on the same 106.7-inch wheelbase as the previous-generation Passat, and looks somewhat like a lower, slimmer, and sleeker version of VW's old mid-size sedan. Now that the 2012 Passat has grown to a 110.4-inch wheelbase, and into a more formal look as well, the differences between the two models are even more obvious. The CC is now 2.7 inches shorter, nearly and inch wider, and almost 3 inches lower than Volkswagen's more practical-minded mid-size. Weight difference is a negligible 23 pounds.
The CC is unmistakably Volkswagen from the front, because of the big VW in the grille; but the front end is just as clearly upscale: the wide grill with two horizontal bars; the wraparound headlamps with arrowhead corners; the long, thin amber slivers for turn signals (echoed by amber slits on the mirrors, very cool). The air intake under the grille gives the CC a strong jaw.
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 from utilitarian transportation. The CC looks more upscale than even the full-size, slow-selling Phaeton of 2004-06. 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 dull finish of the rocker panels, which visually lowers dark-colored CCs even more.
The standard “Phoenix” 17-inch alloy wheels with 10 heavy spokes are fairly good looking, but the top-level “Interlagos” 18-inch rims with 10 thinner spokes, which come on the Lux Limited and VR6 Executive, make the CC look stunning. In between are two different five-spoke, 18-inch designs, each a bit racier than the 10-spokers but every bit as handsome.
The Volkswagen CC seats four. The cabin 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.
Visibility out front is good. It's not bad out the rear either, although the headrests don't help. The 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 roll top cup-holding console, as well as a fold-down armrest. Not just cupholders in there, but small triangular bins for poker chips or peanuts or whatever. There's a decent but not sumptuous 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.
The perforated leather is two-tone and handsomely done, not always the case with daring two-tones. The Cornsilk Beige looked great, with stitched inserts. The four doors are totally stylish, with leather armrests and grab handles and swoopy brushed aluminum or wood trim. (The walnut used previously, VW tells us, has been replaced for 2012 with an unnamed but “sustainable” species.)
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. New for 2012 is an analog clock above the radio. It's a driver's compartment made for relaxing, with good vents to control the climate.
The trunk is on the smaller end of the class but usable. The CC offers 13.2 cubic feet of cargo space, slightly better than the Lexus IS but less than that offered by the Acura TSX (14 cubic feet) or Nissan Maxima (14.2). Behind the armrest is a pass-through hatch to the trunk for skis and such.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine shoots the car forward impressively, as quick, smooth and satisfying as just about any V6 in any sedan: The Volkswagen CC can accelerate 0-60 in 7.4 seconds. It's nearly as quick with the 2.0-liter as the VR6, only 0.1 second slower in the quarter-mile.
The 2.0-liter turbo is rated at 200 hp at 5100 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque at 1700 rpm. The engine features variable valve timing and direct injection, in addition to the turbocharger and intercooler.
Fuel economy 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 suspension can't earn grades like the engine, however, especially not when it's asked to perform at its sport-tuned description. The overall handling is not particularly crisp, but the turn-in is sharp enough. If all you ask for is a solid and smooth highway ride on a firm suspension that doesn't rock or wallow, no worries. The electromechanical power steering makes maneuvering in parking lots easy.
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 interior materials in the Volkswagen CC are very high quality, especially the leather seats, which would be at home in a Maserati. The overachieving turbocharged 2.0 engine holds its own with the big boys, along with the DSG transmission; it's smooth and strong enough that the expensive VR6 isn't needed. Needing the winter capability of 4Motion all-wheel drive is the best justification for the VR6. The brakes are excellent, the ride firm but smooth.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses reported from the Pacific Northwest's Columbia River Gorge. Additional material by John F. Katz.