2012 Volkswagen CC Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 17, 2012

Value-minded sedan shoppers who are willing to sacrifice a little practicality in the name of style will find a lot to like in the 2012 Volkswagen CC.

The 2012 Volkswagen CC is essentially the alter ego of the VW Passat; while they're both sedans, the CC takes a path that's more daring in design and packaging—albeit at the expense of some practicality. To many, that's just fine, and the CC can be misjudged as a more expensive, more premium car that it is. 

Design-wise, the CC takes after the Mercedes-Benz CLS with its stunning, coupe-like silhouette, frameless windows, and long, flowing design—plus a rear deck that tucks down instead of rising upward. The interior is a little different in layout than most sedans—it's a four-passenger sedan, with two individual seats in back, and the dash and doors are a little more lavishly trimmed than the typical mid-size sedan, with details like contrast stitching, contrast-color themes for the upholstery. New for 2012, CC models get a new analog clock above the radio.

The look implies that the 2012 CC is sportier than the Passat, though that's not altogether true. Straight-line acceleration is good from the 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four that's offered on most of the lineup; it's exceptionally smooth, and makes its peak torque of 207 pound-feet without revving high. What's more, it pairs really well with VW's excellent DSG automatic (the manual is also a good choice). A top VR6 4Motion Executive model steps up to a 3.6-liter VR6 engine and 4Motion all-wheel-drive guise, but altogether this combination gives the CC a noticeably heavier, but not altogether much quicker, personality—so we much prefer the four. Across the lineup, the CC handles well, but with its overly light steering and rather soft suspension calibration, it's clear that comfort is the priority over all-out performance.

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Four-cylinder models—in addition to being relatively responsive and fuel-efficient—ride quite well, and across the model line the lavish interior trims feel luxury-car caliber. VW seems to have done well with the CC's frameless-window design, as the cabin feels tight and serene, with little road or wind noise.

Depending on what you're seeking in a sedan, the CC's odd but stylish seating arrangement could be a deal-breaker, or it could leave you more intrigued. The somewhat cramped backseat is only designed for two, and with limited headroom it's abundantly clear that the 2012 Volkswagen CC is a vehicle that was designed for form over function. In front, the seat position is simply a bit odd, with a scooped-up feeling that can also make headroom quite limited. Occupant safety looks strong for the CC, though, with IIHS Top Safety Pick status.

Six different trims of the CC are offered for 2012, including a sporty 2.0 R Line model that adds thin-spoke Mallory alloys, lower-body skirts, darkened taillights, and reflector-lens fog lights. All the models come very well equipped, with the base Sport including heated power front seats, a touch-screen sound system with HD Radio, Bluetooth hands-free, iPod connectivity, and 17-inch alloy wheels. For 2012, Lux Plus, Lux Limited, and 4Motion Executive models get new walnut inserts. An excellent Dynaudio sound system remains offered only on the top Executive VR6.

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2012 Volkswagen CC

Styling

The Volkswagen CC's sheetmetal is elegant; the interior, inspiring.

Spend a lot of money and you'll find Audi's A7, Mercedes' CLS and the new BMW 6-Series Gran Sport fighting it out for some odd honors: they all have four doors, but deny they're sedans. Instead, we're supposed to think of them as coupes.

The Volkswagen CC is unique: it's the only German four-door sedan at its price point to claim it's a coupe. And like its luxury brothers, it does a fair job convincing us, at least in styling, where its elegant silhouette reminds us of some of the more handsome auto-show concept cars we've seen in the past decade. The design looks timeless, with flowing lines, a low roofline, and frameless windows--not to mention a very succinctly styled rear end. The most serious objection we can find is that the CC has long overhangs--the distance from the wheels to the ends of the car--and even that only helps to elongate its body in a more sensual way.

The Volkswagen CC's interior still stands out several years after introduction; it includes details like contrast stitching, contrast color themes for the upholstery, and pleasing, upscale trims that aren't typical in a car that starts well under the $30k mark.
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2012 Volkswagen CC

Performance

Handling is comfortable and compliant; we'd take the turbo four over the V-6 for its lighter take on torque.

Sporty looks give the CC a distinctive look that distances it from the closely related Passat, but the driving experience is pretty similar. The crisp handling German cars are noted for is muted here in favor of comfort, though all CCs are quick enough.

The base turbocharged 2.0-liter four is, as always, a gem. VW's perfected this powerplant with direct injection, and the latest version pushes out 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It's standard on Sport and Lux models; the former comes with a manual six-speed transmission and VW's usual notchy shift feel, while a DSG dual-clutch automatic--one of our favorite transmissions from the VW Group--is an option on the four-cylinders.

The upgrade comes in the form of VW's "VR6," a narrow-angle V-6 engine that in this application displaces 3.6 liters and makes 280 horsepower. It has a different character entirely—rather gruff and vocal, and needing to be revved to extract its torque. The engine functions pretty well with its six-speed automatic, but upshifts can be lumpy and downshifts hesitant. Overall, because the four makes its torque down low and the six needs to be revved, the four is actually the more drivable of the two—and the VR6 in its mandatory 4Motion guise doesn't seem any perkier (while using a lot more fuel, at just 17 mpg city).

The VW CC handles well, but overall it's unremarkable due to overboosted, feather-light steering that lacks any sense of road feel; we also feel that the four-cylinder model handles a bit better, though. The ride in the CC is generally smooth, but it's better on the lower trims; the upgraded wheels and tires tax the chassis and result in road noise and sharp kicks transmitted to the cabin on less than ideal roads. Brakes are also a disappointment—they're too touchy and tough to modulate, though they are strong and capable.

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2012 Volkswagen CC

Comfort & Quality

The VW CC feels like a luxury car, but the seats are low.

Volkswagen's made some sacrifices in converting the German-market Passat sedan into the global coupe-like CC four-door.

The CC's unusual seating arrangement is a first clue. It's a four-seater, with a pair of buckets in front and another pair in back--the rear center spot given up in the name of fashion and luxury. In front, the buckets themselves are comfortable, but the seating position is low, and headroom is scant, so moving the seats up isn't always a choice. In back, there's a thickly upholstered armrest and two cupholders for the passengers, in the space normally reserved for an unlucky fifth wheel. Here too, head room is tight, but leg room is acceptable. The CC's trunk is very large, and the rear seatbacks flip forward to expand cargo space when needed.

Seating misgivings aside, the CC feels far more lavish and expensive than the base versions' price of well under $30,000 would indicate. Materials and trims feel luxury-car-caliber, there's evidence of a lot of thought put into cubbies and bins, and the interior is serene. The leather upholstery of upper trims is nice, but we also like the somewhat grippy cloth of the base models.
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2012 Volkswagen CC

Safety

The IIHS rates the VW CC highly, but rearward visibility is an issue for us.

The crash-test scores are in, at least halfway, and the VW CC has performed well.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the front-drive versions of the CC earn its "good" ratings for all their performed crash tests, which makes those CCs Top Safety Picks. For unknown reasons, the models equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive have not been tested, and are not included in the honors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't updated its CC ratings since it changed its criteria for the 2011 model year, though prior to that change, the CC earned mostly four-star ratings.

Side and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes are all standard in the CC, and rear side bags, a feature not always offered in this class, are optional.

On the down side, visibility in the CC is downright poor—nearly as much as in some low-slung sports cars—and the steeply raked windshield and backlight provide a rather narrow slit through which to view the world. Front and rear parking aids are optional.

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2012 Volkswagen CC

Features

The standard features on the CC make for a tempting value; expensive packages boost the price quickly into luxury-car territory.

The CC is available in Sport, Lux, and Executive models, with Sport and Lux models getting the four-cylinder engine and the Executive upgrading to the VR6 and 4Motion all-wheel drive.

All versions come with a very full set of features, including power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; power front seats; and heated front seats, which are upholstered in vinyl ("leatherette" is the word, we believe). Bluetooth is standard on all CC sedans, as is a stereo with USB and auxiliary ports.

Four-cylinder CC sedans can also be fitted with Lux and Lux Plus packages that group Executive-grade features into an easy-order option. Dual-zone climate control, brushed aluminum trim, and a navigation system are included in the Lux, and the Lux Plus adds a rearview camera, footwell lighting, and Vavona wood trim, plus a panoramic sunroof. At the top, the Lux Limited package adds bi-xenon headlamps and alloy wheels.

Executive models command a price much, much higher, in part because they bundle in many more features--with all the other equipment, the Executives also get heated mirrors; upgraded wheels; a panoramic sunroof; dual-zone climate control; and a rear sunshade.

Volkswagen's consolidated options into packages that put a dent in wallets, and take away some of the value perception of the base CC. An R-Line package adds fog lamps, silver-painted alloys, special valences, and tinted taillamps to Sport modes.

The navigation system in the CC was new last year, and it's much better than previous efforts. A top-level Dynaudio sound system is offered only on the Executive VR6 model.

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2012 Volkswagen CC

Fuel Economy

The four-cylinder VW CC is a good, green choice--the V-6, not so much.

The Volkswagen CC isn't class-leading, but its gas mileage is about the same as four-cylinder models of other engaging sedans such as the Mazda6 and Nissan Altima.

At an EPA-rated 22 mpg city, 32 highway with the automatic transmission and four-cylinder, the CC has some pretty impressive fuel economy numbers for such a large car. Like many of its competitors, the CC actually does better with the automatic than with its standard manual transmission, which earns an EPA rating of 21/31 mpg.

Opting into the V-6 engine, though, drops the CC's fuel economy to lackluster levels. With the required 4Motion all-wheel drive, the V-6 CC is rated by the EPA at 17/25 mpg.

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December 21, 2015
2012 Volkswagen CC 4-Door Sedan Lux PZEV

My first car was a '56 Beetle and this may be my last car, the CC

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