The Volkswagen CC is a four-door with the sort of swoopy styling normally associated with two-door coupes. Low and sleek, with a wide stance and athletic profile, this sporty four-door looks and drives like a luxury vehicle, whether you call it a sedan or a coupe.
First introduced for 2009, the Volkswagen CC got revised front and rear styling for 2013, along with a more usable rear center seat, which allows the CC to seat five, unlike prior CC models, which only had room for four. The 2014 Volkswagen CC gets a few updates: navigation comes standard, with six-month, no-charge trial of VW Car-Net connected services. Those security/convenience features include automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle location assistance, as well as remote vehicle access and boundary/speed alerts. A vehicle health report also is part of the service.
Also new for 2014, the Volkswagen CC 2.0T Executive trim level joins the lineup, with many of the features found on the top-of-the-line Volkwagen CC VR6 4Motion Executive model. Among them: leather seating surfaces, ebony interior trim, a sunroof, rearview camera, premium navigation system, keyless access and pushbutton start, and 18-nich alloy wheels. All Executive models now have a hands-free trunk, which opens with the swipe of one's foot under the back bumper.
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 dashboard. It's cozy inside, and there isn't as much front legroom as in the Acura TSX, Nissan Maxima or Lexus IS. Cargo space is small for the class, comparable to that of the Lexus IS.
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. The Sport model has front-wheel drive and is available with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox.
At the top of the line, the Volkswagen CC VR6 4Motion Executive is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard.
Built on the Passat platform, the Volkswagen CC is a cooler-looking alternative to its more traditional sedan sibling. However, its chic styling takes a toll on practicality. The low roofline makes for greatly reduced rear headroom, and the cabin generally has a less spacious feel all around. But for those who don't mind the cozy dimensions, the Volkswagen CC is a sophisticated alternative in a sea of vanilla midsize sedans.
The 2014 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 premium models such as the Audi A4 and Acura TLX and Infiniti Q50 sedan.
The refreshed exterior for 2013 incorporated stronger Volkswagen styling cues, yet the Volkswagen CC still looks like an expensive European luxury car. The front bumper, headlights, and radiator grille adopted cleaner lines and geometric shapes. As with the Passat, the CC also has an extra air intake beneath the bumper with foglights housed inside integrated winglets.
Volkswagen designers emphasized horizontal lines, as well as harmony between the headlights and grille.
Bi-xenon headlights use integrated LED Daytime Running Lights. Also standard is the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS), which turns the headlamps up to 15 degrees for visibility around corners. 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. The new R-Line edition features performance-oriented styling, led by a more aggressive front bumper.
From the driver's seat, the cabin of the Volkswagen CC feels like a luxury sports car. The windshield is steeply raked, the doorsill is high and the seat is 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. An analog clock carries over from the previous CC.
According to Volkswagen, one of the biggest reasons shoppers avoided purchasing the original CC was because it could only accommodate two passengers in back. For 2013, the rear middle location was made into a cushion, which 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 comfortable fifth passenger. On the plus side, they get a decent, though 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 a 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.
The 2.0-liter turbo is rated 200 horsepower 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 with manual shift is EPA-estimated at 21/32 mpg City/Highway, which is what we got with more than 50 percent highway driving, including some rapid two-lane transit. With automatic, the estimate is 22/31 mpg City/Highway. Volkswagen's VR6 engine shrinks the EPA figures to 17/25 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended.
We found the highway ride smooth and solid, firm but not harsh. This isn't a high-performance car, but it's lighter than the Nissan Maxima or Lexus IS. The electromechanical steering was easy and comfortable, but not 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. Even 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. 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 near $32,000. The interior materials in the Volkswagen CC are very high quality, especially the leather seats in Executive models. 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.