2013 Volkswagen CC: First Drive

April 17, 2012
Four years ago, when Volkswagen first introduced its CC, this “four-door coupe” was a design standout, unlike anything else on the road—and for that matter, a surprisingly daring look for normally conservative VW.

Now, for the 2013 model year, after the introduction of curvaceous mass-market models like the Hyundai Sonata—or even the new 2013 Ford Fusion—the CC's design fits in much more closely with the mid-size sedan mainstream.

So it doesn't come as a big surprise that VW has positioned the CC more as a luxuriously equipped Passat alternative and less of a edgy niche vehicle than it was originally. Most notably for 2013, the two individual seats in back are gone, replaced by a three-across bench seat with a fold-down armrest.

Along with those changes, the CC gets a mild facelift for 2013, to help keep it in line with the rest of the VW lineup, as well as add a little more fine detail. The grille gets a more horizontal look with slats running all the way across, the lower airdam has a new design, and in front and in back, LED running lamps give it a more finely detailed look.

As for how the CC drives, it's almost exactly the same as before, and there's nothing bad about that. Our choice is still definitely the 2.0T models, which are lower-priced, much more fuel-efficient, and actually more nimble and responsive in more ways. We spent nearly equal time in two well-equipped CC Sport models—one with the six-speed manual gearbox, and the other with the six-speed automatic—and found them agreeable. But this is one case where we'd probably pick the automatic; the six-speed dual-clutch unit, which blips almost instantly between gears just seems to better match the character of the turbocharged four—as well as the greater heft of the CC, compared to some of the other VW products that have the 2.0T. With the manual gearbox, you're instead alternating on and off boost.

As in former model years, on the road the CC feels part mainstream sedan, part luxury sedan—although it never quite plays the part of a sport sedan. The steering is very precise and confident, albeit a little too light and damped in feel, and the suspension allows a fair amount of body motion yet keeps it all nice and controllable. In the past we've found that the suspension feels more shuddery and out of sorts when it's on more pothole-ridden roads, however it was all good behavior on the only somewhat rough-surfaced roads around Half Moon Bay, California.

There's much to soothe and very little to disappoint inside. The look is clean, switchgear is neat, and and the cabin is really well damped from road and wind noise (the CC's window shuffles up just a fraction of an inch after the doors are closed). And the engine isn't coarse or unduly vocal. About the only disappointment—other than the seating layout, which definitely sacrifices some backseat space in the name of a stylish roofline—is that the base cloth upholstery that we liked in the former CC is now gone, while the now-standard VW-Tex leatherette (vinyl) upholstery is the only seating material for much of the lineup.

Unfortunately, there are all sorts of odd configuration choices in the CC. If you want 4Motion all-wheel drive, you have to get the VR6. If you want leather upholstery, you have to get the VR6. If you want premium audio, you have to get the VR6. Sense a pattern? It stings a little more dearly when you find that the VR6 CC starts at $38,550 (with front-wheel drive), and loaded 4Motion Executive versions cost $42,240.

And that's really where the CC leaves us. Those high-end versions feel like luxury models, but with the VW badge, at essentially the same price as an Audi A6 (and really, who wouldn't rather have the A6's cachet?). If you're like us and can't quite get over that, we think the four-cylinder CC Sport still very much has a place—as a much more stylish alternative to an optioned-up Passat, Camry, or Accord, at a $31k price tag that's not much different.

For our comprehensive take, see our full review pages on the 2013 Volkswagen CC.

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