2010 Volkswagen CC Expert Review:Autoblog
We still cringe upon hearing marketing types utter the phrase "four-door coupe." It's inherently a lie, a scam. Who are they trying to fool? It's not a four-door coupe, it's a sedan with a sloping roof – generally one that's missing a middle rear-seat. And there's nothing wrong with that. But, just like automakers the world 'round bend over backwards corrupting the language to avoid calling a station wagon anything but a station wagon (Sportback, Avant, Sportcombi, etc.), the oxymoronic four-door coupe appears to be here to stay. Where's George Carlin when you need him? With that rant out of the way, the 2009 Volkswagen CC is the best four-door coupe we've ever driven – at least this side of a Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, which is three times the price.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Good looking isn't even the right word for VW's rebodied Passat. Handsome, exquisite, sharp, revolutionary and awesome all spring to mind. But, let's just settle on two: segment busting. Not only that, but the CC renders the current Passat about as desirable as a late-model Ford Five Hundred. Which is to say, not at all. In fact, with the exception of third rear-seat, we can't think of a single reason to choose a Passat over the CC. Not one.
Price? You want to argue price? Okay – the Passat starts at $28,300. The CC? $27,100. And the CC gets better gas mileage, too. So your total costs ought to be less. How's that possible? Probably because of improved aerodynamics, as the Passat is only 44 pounds heavier than the CC we tested. Of course, both cars have identical wheelbases and widths, though the CC is half an inch longer. Our tester had but one $375 option (Sirius) and a $750 destination charge, bringing the total to $28,225 – $75 less than a Passat. To summarize, buy the CC.
The interior's better, too. In fact, this is one of our favorite cabins currently on the market. It has the 'no compromise' character found in Piech-mandated VWs like the Phaeton and O.G. Touareg, though the absolute quality of the materials has been taken down a shelf or two. Still, imagine the haptic quality of an Audi without all the fussy, cluttered and oddly placed buttons. That's how VeeDub laid out the CC's controls. Props are given for the two-tone dash layout (in this case black and tan), which is a wonderful change of pace from the usual Germanic black-as-my-soul theme. Special praise is reserved for the two-tone, pleated leather seats – all four of them. The quad thrones conspire with the overall roominess to make the cabin an excellent place to spend some time. Yes, if you're tall you'll want to sit up front as the sloping roof cuts into your headroom, though we placed a six-foot, four-inch guy back there and he only complained once.
And we haven't even gotten to the best part – the manual transmission! We know sticks are on the way out. We know soon every (new) car on earth will sport a dual-clutch, flappy-paddle autobox and that Volkswagen's own DSG is leading the robotic charge. But for many of us, it's like playing drums without a high hat – what's your left foot supposed to do? We argue that in terms of sheer driving pleasure, four limbs involved is better than three. And we found the CC Sport to be a delight to drive. Surprisingly so. We even liked the ride, which is a great balance between well-damped performance-oriented stiffness and pile-on-the-miles plush.
Combine the six-speed to Volkswagen's tried and true 2.0-liter VVT direct injected turbo with its 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque and you not only get a bit of sportiness but plenty of real world usability. Getting on the freeway is a snap, getting up to freeway cruising speeds is even easier and according to the CC's computer, 80 mph nets you 31 miles per gallon. That's admirable for such a large machine.
True, more powerful CCs exist. You can opt for the 280 hp 3.6-liter FSI VR6, or even the 4Motion (VW-speak for all-wheel drive) VR6, but during our week with the four-banger model, we never once thought that we needed more power. Not only that, but a heavier engine would upset the excellent balance inherent to the CC Sport, netting you a little more straight line thrust at the expensive of the base car's fine handling and a bit of fuel efficiency. Unless you live in a place where AWD is a must (Colorado, Vermont, Kabul), the front-driver CC just makes more sense.
Things we don't like? Yes, a couple. Volkswagen has chosen to follow Audi's lead and banish the manual handbrake in place of an electronic parking brake. Like the ever encroaching DSG, this very well may be the shape of things to come, but we don't like it. First of all, what's wrong with a handbrake? Second, the button to turn off the parking brake is on the extreme left side of the dashboard, where you'd find the ignition in a Porsche – nowhere near the stick. Unlike Audi's method, which is in fact a little toggle switch you can pull up, the button on the CC is exactly that – just a button. It feels very artificial.
Additionally, the CC has a hill holder feature that engages whenever the nose is pointed up or down a degree or two. This means at the slightest incline, the parking brake is engaged and unless you account for it, you will stall the car during a normal take off. Yes, you can deactivate the hill holder, but you have to do it every time you fire up the engine. Which means you'll forget and stall the car. That's annoying. And standard.
All-in-all, however, we'd hardly change a thing. Especially when you consider the CC's non-Passat competition, like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Malibu. In fact, out of all those sedans, the only one this author feels competes with the CC in the looks department is the new super-sized Accord (and we know that's a love-it-or-leave-it design). A few of them are as, or nearly as, sporty (again, the Accord, the Fusion and the Mazda6) but in terms of all around desirability when looks, interior comfort, performance, handling and price are taken into account, yours truly will take the CC Sport, thanks much. Nothing else in its segment really competes.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Is "four-door coupe" an oxymoron or a clever twist on automotive design rules? That was a popular question among the 50 or so journalists invited to drive Volkswagen's new CC from Atlanta to Nashville last week.
The seemingly contradictory term was apparently first used to describe the Rover P5 Mark II in 1962, but was revived more recently when Mercedes introduced its CLS in 2004. In both cases the cars' low rooflines defied conventional saloon styling and needed a unique descriptor for marketing pizazz.
When rumors of the VW CC began to leak out, some speculated the CLS would be its main target. But Volkswagen learned from the disappointing U.S. acceptance of the Phaeton: Luxury buyers pay for brand cache as much as they do for supple leather and high-tech gadgets. This time around, says Brett Scott, VW's product planning manager, they expect many of their customers to be Camry and Accord shoppers attracted to the CC's stand-out styling.
All photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.
Those two cars are dead center in Volkswagen's sights. At the bottom of four trim levels, the CC Sport comes in at $26,790 with a 200-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder and a 6-speed manual. That's more than $6,000 above a base 2009 Accord sedan, and more than $7,600 than a base Camry. The two Japanese models can also seat one more passenger, and while the Camry is routinely knocked for being boring, the Accord's looks are at least memorable. Looking at pure numbers, it's hard to see how VW expects to woo 28,000 buyers away from Camry and Accord eacy year. But then, emotion usually trumps numbers in the car-buying decision making process.
And if you're wondering, CC stands for "comfort coupe."
The general consensus among journalists attending the ride and drive from Atlanta to Nashville was that the CC is an attractive car and a welcome divergence for VW design. The aggressive front fascia incorporates an updated take on the familiar VW grille, badge and headlights that curve into the fenders. Rectangular turn signals sit below the headlights and above subtle fog lamps recessed into the lower grille extensions.
The cut line for the hood becomes the top of the doors, which are accented by a prominent and design-defining character line. Chrome surrounds the frameless side glass and is also used as a lower door guard. Four different wheel styles are available, though they're all rather similar in design.
Complaints about the CC's exterior styling were rare during the event, but most focused on the car's rear. Thumbnail images of the car's back side could easily be mistaken for the Buick Lucerne or even the competing Camry. Sharp-eyed car fans can tell the 4-cylinder CCs from the upper level VR6 models by the exhaust pipe location. The smaller engined car has two outlets on the driver's side, while the VR6 wears a single pipe on each side of the car.
But Volkswagen must win over more than just the opinions of a bunch of journalists. What about the car-buying public? Will they accept what is basically an upgraded Passat with one fewer seat? We talked to several folks on the street and the results were mostly good.
Mike McDonald of Greenville, N.C. and a father of two stopped to take a look at the CC as we photographed it outside our Nashville hotel. "My question is, why don't (all Volkswagens) look like this?" he said after giving the car a good once over. But even if the car's looks draw curious shoppers into dealerships, the CC's interior will be the make or break issue.
VW says the frameless side windows should help ingress, but getting into the car for the first time, more than one journalist bumped his head on the roof. With practice we learned to bend just a bit further before settling into the bolstered seat.
Our friend Mike had no trouble getting into the car, though. He thought the cream on black interior of our CC Sport was attractive and the quality seemed above that of Hondas and Toyotas he had seen recently. He was surprised to learn the seats on the Sport trim weren't actually leather, but instead Volkswagen's V-Tex upholstery. Mike currently drives a Prius but has been thinking of replacing it. But his emotional response to the CC's looks soon gave way to reality, though, as he contemplated the car's four-seat setup.
"We have two kids," Mike said from the rear seat, wondering how he and his wife could get two child seats and all the required gear in the car. A look at the CC's voluminous trunk, though, brought the spark back to Mike's eyes and the car seemed doable again. "Why would anyone pay more for a BMW?" Mike asked before heading to his hotel room.
We had just finished a 250-mile drive that took us over Interstate highways and through twisty mountain roads. And we knew why BMW could charge more for their cars.
The CC's steering seemed heavy at slow speeds, and light but numb at highway speeds. Once out of Atlanta's choking traffic, our Sport trim CC's tires hummed noisily over a highway in need of resurfacing and the suspension gave an occasional bass-note boom over larger road flaws. The car's low-profile Continentals could be to blame for some of those noises.
Wind noise was also louder than we liked in a car with luxury aspirations. The sunroof seemed to be the source for some of the problem, though, since another car we drove without the option was much quieter. In our opinion it's an easy fix, though. Since the sunroof only tilts open a small amount, the only reason to order it is if you want you car hotter on sunny days and you have a thing for the sound of rushing wind.
With our readers in mind, we risked our untarnished driving records with some noise-level tests. During sprints nearing 100 mph, the rushing wind was not much greater than at more legal speeds without the sunroof. We soon found cruise-control necessary to keep our speeds in check.
My 6'5" driving partner said he usually had trouble finding cars that fit him, but eventually manipulated the CC's power heated seat and telescoping wheel until he was comfortable. The sunroof reduced head room, but he still had a good inch before hitting the roof.
The back seat is a comfortable place to be. Leg room is ample and, surprisingly, so was head room despite the low roofline. The rear center armrest provides a place to park your Big Gulp and also leaves room for a pass-through to the trunk.
We drove both a leather-seated CC and one with V-Tex upholstery. The pleated, black leather seats were certainly pleasant to touch, but honestly difficult to discern from the perforated fake stuff. The all-black interior even seemed less opulent than the more visually pleasing, and cheaper, vinyl cabin.
VW takes the currently popular push-button start and reduces the process by a step. Push the key fob into the dash, push a little further, and the engine comes to life. We never quite got the hang of it. We were continually ejecting the key with too many pushes or turning on, then off, the engine. It will certainly take some getting used to.
The CC's available navigation system is also different than VWs before it. Instead of being controlled solely with buttons and a knob, the nav now supports touch control. It's a very welcomed feature from VW. The unit offers traffic data and can also display maps in an easier to understand 3D mode.
And, supposedly, the CC's iPod integration is much refined. We tried connecting our iPhone to the USB cable hidden in the glove box, but got no response from the car's head unit. It's quite possible we weren't doing something right, but even some of the latest head units don't account for iPhones yet.
Acceleration from the turbo four was delivered with only slight hesitation and almost no hint of turbo lag. The exhaust note from a fully-pressed accelerator was much more aggressive than we expected from the usually quiet engine, and that's not a complaint. With the Tiptronic transmission in sport mode, we got to hear it even more often.
Volkswagen brought along only a few VR6 models and even fewer manual transmission-equipped CCs. Despite our best efforts we weren't able to get any seat time in them, but we're already trying to get one of each in the AB garage.
The car's disc brakes were nothing to celebrate or complain about. It had them. They worked time and again with no hint of fading after some spirited driving.
Over our two-state course, the CC's instrument panel told my lead-footed partner and I that we averaged 28 mpg. That is an amazing number considering our judicious use of sport mode, which prevents the transmission from shifting above fourth gear. EPA estimates the turbo four-cylinder to get 19 city / 29 highway mpg with the Tiptronic and 21/31 with the 6-speed manual. That's all the more impressive when you consider that VW claims the automatic-equipped four-cylinder will race to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.
The 280-hp VR6 option is estimated to get 18 city / 27 highway and will get you only a .3 second advantage to 60 mph over the turbo four. Add 4motion and fuel economy drops to 17/25 with 60 mph coming up in 6.2 seconds.
Pricing for the turbo four model starts at $26,790 for the manual Sport trim and $27,890 with the Tiptronic transmission. Stepping up to the Luxury trim gets a long list of extras including rain-sensing wipers, a 12-way power driver's seat, leather and dual climate control, though it is only available with Tiptronic and starts at $31,990.
In addition to the larger engine, the VR6 Sport trim gets an upgraded sound system, 18-inch wheels and bi-xenon lights. That's gonna cost you $38,300, though. At the top of the line is the VR6 4motion. Choosing it will cost at least $39,300 and only adds the all-wheel drive system to the VR6 trim package.
Brett Scott, VW's product planning manager, told us they expect 70% of CC sales to be the 2.1-liter turbo model. We agree, since it gets the attractive styling without the extra cost of a lot of fancy options, as well as better fuel economy and a negligible difference in performance.
When asked why the company's DSG transmission isn't an option, VW reps would only say that the Tiptronic was sufficient for the engines available in the CC. We think Volkswagen fears cutting into Audi sales with the CC as it is, and adding DSG would only further erode Audi's market- and mindshare. Scott also said there are no plans to offer a diesel-powered CC.
The Volkswagen CC is expected on lots on October 18, with some dealers getting a few cars earlier. We're convinced it won't set any sales records, but it's an interesting take on the four-door family sedan that has few faults beyond its price tag. Sounds like a lot of other Volkswagens we know.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.
Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.
New Car Test Drive
The style of a luxury coupe in an affordable four-door.
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 2010 Volkswagen CC models include the Sport, Luxury, VR6 Sport, and VR6 4Motion. Sport and Luxury use the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, while the VR6 models use the 3.6-liter V6. the only transmission available in the other three models.
Sport ($27,550) comes with leatherette upholstery, heated 12-way adjustable driver's seat and eight-way passenger seat, premium 6CD/MP3 audio, 17-inch alloy wheels with 235/45R17 self-sealing all-season tires, sports suspension, traction control with differential lock, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and multi-function steering wheel with aluminum trim. The Sport comes standard with the six-speed manual transmission, but is also available with the six-speed Tiptronic ($28,650) automatic.
Luxury ($32,830) upgrades to leather upholstery, fancier alloy wheels, tilt panorama sunroof, dual zone climate control, park distance control, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, heated washer nozzles, Homelink, brushed aluminum interior trim, Sirius radio, memory seats and self-dimming rearview mirror. The Tiptronic comes standard.
VR6 Sport ($39,015) adds paddle shifters, power rear sunshade, a 600-watt Dynaudio premium sound system. The VR6 Sport comes with the V6 engine and Tiptronic automatic.
VR6 4Motion ($40,115) adds Volkswagen's sophisticated all-wheel-drive system with Haldex center differential.
Safety equipment includes six airbags (frontal, side front and full curtain), advanced stability control with ABS, tire pressure monitoring system. 4Motion can enhance safety in adverse conditions.
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.
Volkswagen CC Sport ($27,550), Luxury ($32,830), VR6 Sport ($39,015), VR6 4Motion ($40,115).
Options As Tested
Volkswagen CC Sport Tiptronic ($28,650).