Thumbs Up: Stylish, comfortable and affordable.
Thumbs Down: No cloth seat option.
Buy This Car If: You’re looking for a sedan that stands out from the herd.
Nowhere is it written that affordable cars can’t be stylish, yet many automakers seem content to churn out the same blandly-styled boxes, year after year, generation after generation. Volkswagen’s dynamically styled CC sedan (or four-door coupe, if you prefer) breaks from even its own conventional sedan designs to give buyers a bit of high-end European style at a (relatively) affordable price point.
To be clear, other automakers do offer equally bold designs at an affordable price point. Hyundai is a good example, as is Kia, but both offer up polarizing style which consumers either love or loathe. In our brief time with the Volkswagen CC, its style seemed to have universal appeal.
Perhaps the most noticeable trait is the CC’s chopped roof and steeply raked windshield, a la the Mercedes-Benz CLS550, which gives the impression of speed even when the car is standing still. Strong character lines atop the doors, running from the front fender to the rear taillights, add to the effect.
In profile, the plunging roof and short rear deck give the car a coupe-like appearance, despite its generous length. Both front-end and rear-end styling, while reminiscent of Volkswagen’s current design language, somehow manage to look more sophisticated, with more attention paid to the details.
The net result is a car that looks more expensive than it actually is, and we wonder how many Passat-shoppers pass it by as “too expensive” without so much as glancing at the car’s window sticker, which begins at just under $31,000 (roughly the same as an optioned-out Passat). Get heavy with the options, however, and the CC can sticker for more than a 3 Series BMW (though not comparably equipped).
That sense of style carries over into the interior as well. The dashboard, at least on our Sport Plus model, was an artfully crafted blend of materials, shapes and textures, with an impressive amount of attention paid to detail. Trim below the topper, for example, is brushed aluminum, which sweeps across the dash to encompass the instrumentation and a small analog clock. The aluminum-colored trim surrounding the infotainment screen is curved to perfectly match the lines of the lower dash, and even the vents and instruments get contrasting metallic trim. For those of us who loathe fake wood inside a car, the CC should be served up as an example of proper interior style and design.
Instruments, though plucked from the Volkswagen parts bin, are both attractive and functional. We’re big fans of VW’s driver information display, which can be configured to show details on range, fuel economy, average speed, audio settings, phone settings and an impressive array of other data such as direction, time and outside temperature.
Front seats are comfortable and offer up a surprising amount of head and legroom, and even offer a reasonable amount of side and hip bolstering. Seats are heated but not cooled, and the seat material is our one big gripe with the CC. Called V-Tex, it’s a synthetic leather substitute that we used to simply call “vinyl.” Sure, it looks a lot like leather, is perforated for breathability and probably holds up for years without any care, but in our minds it’s just not as comfortable as cloth. The old B5 Passat had superb cloth seats, as does the current GTI in lower trims. Cloth is cooler in summer, warmer in winter and more aesthetically pleasing, in our eyes anyway.
Rear seats (the outboard ones, at least) are comfortable enough for long trips and offer up a decent amount of legroom. Headroom is sufficient for those six-feet and under, but significantly taller passengers may find the plunging roofline not to their liking. Rear seats don’t get heat, but rear seat passengers do get their own HVAC vents.
Unless you opt for a range-topping V-6 variant, power comes from the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four that Volkswagen seems to be putting into everything these days, ranging from the Tiguan crossover to the GTI hot hatch. It’s a superb engine, willing to pull hard to near redline, although it does suffer from a bit of off-idle stumble. Don’t let Volkswagen’s power ratings fool you: they’re conservative, and based on the use of 91 octane premium unleaded. Step up to 93 octane, and the engine produces some 216 horsepower (instead of the rated 200) and 227 pound feet of torque (instead of the rated 207). If that’s still not enough to amuse you, a simple aftermarket ECU reflash can yield an output of 254 horsepower and 303 pound-feet of torque, though at the potential expense of your drivetrain warranty.
Most drivers will find that the engine produces more than enough horsepower for a family sedan. In stock trim, the car will run from 0-60 mph in around 7.3 seconds, yet still deliver EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. We saw an average of 25.5 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.
On the road, the Volkswagen CC never manages to feel as big as it looks. We’d stop short of calling it nimble, since it is a fairly large sedan, but it never manages to drive like a big car. The ride is composed, even over bumps or broken pavement, yet there’s still enough firmness in the suspension to make cornering enjoyable. No, the CC doesn’t offer the same immediate turn-in as a sport sedan, and there’s noticeable body roll in corners, but the trade off is a comfortable ride for the daily commute. We didn’t test the brakes excessively, but they provided short enough stopping distances to keep us happy in day to day driving. If we had one wish, it would be for better steering feel; while the wheel initially felt a bit numb, with more on-center play than we’d care for, we realized this was more a function of the cars we’d been driving lately (Infiniti M56 Sport, VW GTI) than any flaw with the CC’s electro-mechanical power steering. Could it be improved by dialing in a bit more resistance? Sure, but even the current steering isn’t a deal-breaker.
As for content, the CC is a bit of an odd duck. Many luxury or near-luxury amenities (like automatic, bi-xenon headlights; automatic rain-sensing wipers; anti-theft alarm; Bluetooth phone integration and an auto-dimming rearview mirror) are included, but some obvious ones are missing, at least from mid-line Sport Plus models. There’s no backup camera, and not even reverse parking sensors.There’s no heat for rear seat passengers, and to get a seat material other than “V-Tex” requires stepping up to a V-6 model since leather upholstery isn’t available as part of a package. If you want the added safety of blind spot or cross-path detection, it isn’t even an available option on the highest-trim VR6 4Motion Executive model.
At the end of the day, we suspect that none of this will negatively impact CC sales, since there are plenty of blandmobiles that deliver up the latest safety gizmos with no thought of style. The CC, on the other hand, blends style, comfort and even a dash of driving enjoyment, before sprinkling liberally with European flair. If that sounds like what you’ve been looking for, we encourage you to take a CC for a spin.
Volkswagen supplied the 2013 CC Sport Plus sedan for our review. Base price of our Sport Plus model was $33,670, including a destination charge of $820, and no additional options were included. Put another way, the total sticker price on our press fleet tester was $33,670.
For comparison, a similarly-equipped Acura TSX with the Technology Package would sticker for $33,110, a comparable Buick Regal Premium 2 Turbo sedan would list for $33,450 and an as-equipped Audi A4 would price at $36,825.