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.