Throughout automotive history, coupe was a term used to describe a two-door car. Enter the Volkswagen CC. First introduced for 2009, the four-door midsize car was dubbed a coupe by its German creators, much to the chagrin of purists. Those who argue the case for a coupe with more than two doors claim the term really refers to a car's roofline, which is low and sleek. Using this argument, the CC delivers. With its wide stance and athletic profile, this sporty four-door looks and drives like a luxury vehicle, no matter what you call it.
Built on the Passat platform, the Volkswagen CC is a cooler-looking alternative to its more traditional sedan sibling. Unfortunately, its chic styling takes its toll on practicality. The low roofline makes for greatly reduced rear headroom, and the cabin generally has a less spacious feel all around. Still, for those who don't mind the cozy dimensions, the Volkswagen CC is a sophisticated alternative in a sea of vanilla midsize sedans.
The 2013 Volkswagen CC gets revised front and rear styling, along with a usable rear center seat, which allows the CC to seat five, unlike pre-2013 CC models, which only had room for four. Volkswagen says the old seating arrangement was a top reason many shoppers failed to purchase the CC.
The 2013 Volkswagen CC lineup includes two new trim levels: a 2.0T Sport Plus with 18-inch wheels and navigation and a VR6 Lux model that comes with leather upholstery, navigation with 6.5-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, heated headlight washer system, and memory function for seating and mirrors.
As with most Volkswagens, the CC interior design is stylish, yet simple, with high-quality materials. 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 comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. On our test drives, we found it powerful and smooth. It uses front-wheel drive and is available with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox.
Volkswagen CC VR6 models use a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 280 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. An all-wheel drive version of the VR6 is available, but is pricey.
Volkswagen CC comes standard with front-wheel drive, and 4Motion all-wheel drive is available for slippery conditions.
The 2013 Volkswagen CC walks the line between affordable family sedan and entry-level luxury car. It's a more upscale alternative to traditional four-doors such as the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Passat, yet in the higher trim levels can also go head-to-head with prestige vehicles such as the Audi A4 and Acura TL and Infiniti G Sedan.
The refreshed exterior for 2013 incorporates stronger Volkswagen styling cues, yet the Volkswagen CC still looks like an expensive European luxury car. The new front bumper, headlights, and radiator grille use cleaner lines and geometric shapes. As with the Passat, the CC also has an extra air intake beneath the bumper with foglights housed inside.
New headlights are bi-xenon and use integrated LED Daytime Running Lights. Also standard is the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS), which turns the headlamps for visibility around corners.
The 2013 Volkswagen CC's rear bumper has increased in volume. New tail lamps and license plate lighting use LED bulbs.
From the side, the CC's C-pillar is wide but barely visible because it flows back, not down. Although it shares its underpinnings with the Passat, the CC is shorter, wider and lower. And the CC's roofline is sleek and swept back as if the car were racing into a 200-mph wind.
From the driver's seat, the cabin of the 2013 Volkswagen CC feels like a luxury sports car. The windshield is steeply raked, the doorsill is high and the seat is seat low. Visibility out front is good. It's not bad out the rear either, although the tall headrests don't help. Blind spots from the wide C-pillars are reduced by fixed triangular rear door windows behind the passengers' ears, which are close to the steeply sloping roofline.
The instrument panel feels far away, because it's not very vertical. The multitude of gauges look clean and are easy to read, and the layout of the center stack is not nearly as complicated as other German carmakers like to make it. The analog clock carries over for 2013.
According to Volkswagen, one of the biggest reasons shoppers avoided purchasing the CC was because it could only accommodate two passengers in back. For 2013, the rear middle location has been made into a cushion, which now allows the CC to seat five instead of four. That said, the slightly higher cushion, combined with the steeply raked roofline, means only children and petite, svelte adults make for a good fifth passenger. On the plus side, there's a decent but not sumptuous 37.3 inches of rear legroom.
The leatherette upholstery is soft and supple, and could almost pass for real leather. On cars equipped with two-toned leather interior, the execution is sporty, yet tasteful.
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, and the Volkswagen CC is as quick, smooth and satisfying as just about any V6 in any sedan: The Volkswagen CC can accelerate 0-60 mph 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.
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 was easy and comfortable, but wasn't particularly engaging.
One of our biggest complaints was the shifter, which, like other VW models, felt sloppy and slipped into gear a little too lazily. We'd prefer the gates to feel a little more precise, especially on a model called Sport.
Driving the Volkswagen CC around town, up hills, passing on two-lanes, it doesn't feel like a four-cylinder engine. 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 five-seat, four-door, it feels and looks like a luxury coupe but with a base price around $30,000. The interior materials in the Volkswagen CC are very high quality, especially the leather seats, even in a more expensive car. 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 correspondents Laura Burstein and Sam Moses contributed to this report.