2013 Volkswagen CC Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 16, 2012

The 2013 Volkswagen CC sacrifices some practicality in the name of fashion, and feels like a luxury car in many respects.

Volkswagen's "four-door coupe," the CC, has fulfilled its purpose in the automaker's lineup--adding more intrigue, fashion sense, and interest, as well as more luxury, above the more ordinary Passat, while not pushing quite (but almost) into luxury pricing territory.

And for 2013, the CC, which roughly parallels the Passat sedan but is more daring in its design and packaging, gets a mid-cycle refresh, with somewhat redrawn details in front and in back, along with new LED lights, altogether adding some new visual interest. Add a few subtle interior improvements, plus a rejiggered three-person backseat (taking the place of the fashionable two-position one), and you pretty much have the extent of the changes versus 2012.

Volkswagen calls the CC a four-door coupe, and if you stand back and see this model's profile in person, it's easy to understand why. With a roofline that's positioned a bit back compared to most sedans--in a slow arc--plus a rising beltline and sheetmetal that serves to emphasize the rear wheelwells, it has proportions that hint 'rear-wheel-drive sport sedan' to some (and nod to the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7, among others), even though it's a front-driver.

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While the CC might look like a serious sport sedan--or one with serious luxury credentials--it doesn't quite deliver to that impression. On the other hand what it does deliver, performance-wise, is better than what you might expect considering the 2013 CC's $31k base price: It essentially drives just much like the Passat in its more luxurious guises, with refinement clearly taking the priority over edginess or all-out performance.

Our favorites of the CC lineup remain those with the base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (2.0T), which feel lighter and more nimble than their top-of-the-line VR6 and 4Motion counterparts, while feeling about as quick in most driving situations. With direct injection and turbocharging, the four makes 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque, the four churns out plenty of low- and mid-rev torque with only a slight delay if revs are at the low end. It's standard on Sport, Sport Plus, and Lux models.

To achieve such a swoopy roofline and more coupe-like appearance, combined with sport-sedan proportions, Volkswagen ended up reshuffling the interior configuration and losing some practicality in the process. This year VW has substituted the two-passenger backseat for a three-passenger one, although some of the same packaging flaws remain (headroom is a bit tight, the you'll either love or hate the low yet scooped-up feeling in the front seats). But trunk space is abundant, ride quality is luxury-car-like, and interior trims feel a step above those used on more affordable VW models.

In addition to a somewhat refreshed look, the Volkswagen CC gets a few more standard items for 2013; prices have risen accordingly, with the CC range now stretching from $30,250 to $41,410 and including Sport, Sport Plus, Lux, and Executive models. Sport and Sport Plus are only offered in four-cylinder guise, while Lux models come with the VR6 and front-wheel drive while the Executive upgrades to 4Motion all-wheel drive. But some of our familiar complaints about packaging from previous model years persist: Namely, many of the most desirable features, like Dynaudio sound, massage seats, and leather upholstery are only available in models with the (less desirable, in our opinion, and much pricier) VR6 models.

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2013 Volkswagen CC

Styling

The 2013 Volkswagen CC combines the profile of a coupe or sport sedan with a luxury-caliber cabin appearance.

Volkswagen calls the CC a four-door coupe, and if you stand back and see this model's profile in person, it's easy to understand why. With a roofline that's positioned a bit back compared to most sedans--in a slow arc--plus a rising beltline and sheetmetal that serves to emphasize the rear wheelwells, it has proportions that hint 'rear-wheel-drive sport sedan' to some (and nod to the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7, among others), even though it's a front-driver.

Although Volkswagen has this year given the CC a mid-cycle refresh, changes are relatively minor, and unless you're a deep-rooted VW fan you might not notice some of the differences unless you park a 2013 CC up next to a 2012. Headlights are HIDs across the model line, and flanked by thin strips of LED running lamps. With a new grille and more fine detailing, VW has given the space between the headlamps more of a horizontal orientation, while a new lower intake design houses fog lamps within 'winglets.' We like the headlamp design, but we can't say the other changes are a big step forward--although they do fit in better with VW's other fully redesigned models like the Jetta and Passat.

From the side, there are some subtle changes--namely, a resculpted hood, which helps sharpen the look of the front end--while in back the rear lights also gets more of a horizontal look plus LED lamps. Overall, in our opinion 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.

Inside, the CC's design hasn't changed all that much for 2013--you'll still find nice contrast-stitching and contrasting upholstery themes that are far more like what you'll find in a luxury car than those in a base Passat or Jetta. VW has for 2013 replaced the old two-seat rear setup with a three-across bench--although it still has well articulated outboard positions.

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2013 Volkswagen CC

Performance

The 2013 Volkswagen CC performs well, although it's clear refinement takes precedence.

While the CC might look like a serious sport sedan--or one with serious luxury credentials--it doesn't quite deliver to that impression. On the other hand what it does deliver, performance-wise, is better than what you might expect considering the 2013 CC's $31k base price: It essentially drives just much like the Passat in its more luxurious guises, with refinement clearly taking the priority over edginess or all-out performance.

Our favorites of the CC lineup remain those with the base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (2.0T), which feel lighter and more nimble than their top-of-the-line VR6 and 4Motion counterparts, while feeling about as quick in most driving situations. With direct injection and turbocharging, the four makes 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque, the four churns out plenty of low- and mid-rev torque with only a slight delay if revs are at the low end. It's standard on Sport, Sport Plus, and Lux models.

A DSG dual clutch automatic is available on all those models, while a six-speed manual is standard on the Sport. Of those two, we'd actually go with the DSG automatic, as thanks to its clap-quick shifts the turbo four stays nicely on its boost and two fit very well together.

As for how the CC handles, the best way to put it is that if you expect the obsessively tweaked and tuned chassis of a German sport sedan, you're likely to be a little bit disappointed; on the other hand, if you're comparing the CC to mass-market,comfort-oriented mid-size sedans, the CC stands out as quite athletic and graceful. There's plenty of body lean near the limit, but the CC doesn't at all feel out of its element on a curvy road, and the steering loads and unloads nicely. The steering feel itself is a little too light for our tastes in ordinary, around-town driving, although there's just enough weighting on center to give it a relaxed demeanor on the highway. Brakes remain strong and capable—and easier to modulate in our 2013 test car than in previous years tested.

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If you're willing to pay many thousands more, you can upgrade to 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 (not the DSG), but upshifts can be lumpy and downshifts hesitant. Get it with 4Motion all-wheel drive and it really doesn't feel any perkier than the four.
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2013 Volkswagen CC

Comfort & Quality

A quiet, supple ride, excellent trims, and a spacious trunk do enough to offset the CC's seating idiosyncracies.

To achieve such a swoopy roofline and more coupe-like appearance, combined with sport-sedan proportions, you might think that Volkswagen ended up reshuffling the interior configuration and losing some practicality in the process. And if so, you'd be right.

But considering the CC's fashion-forward nature, you really don't sacrifice that much space—and we see the CC working just fine for all but those who plan on frequently carrying taller adults in the backseat.

For 2013, the biggest change for the CC is that it's no longer a fashionable four-seater. VW has changed the layout of the back seat, instead of two individual carved-out spaces, there's now a three-place bench with a fold-down center console. That middle spot in the back certainly won't win friends (it's not as well-cushioned) but it will work in a pinch. Head room is tight in those outboard positions, but leg room is acceptable and the contouring itself is pretty great. The CC's trunk is huge, and the rear seatbacks flip forward to expand cargo space when needed; there's also a well-placed pass-through at the armrest. 

In front, the seating position is just a little odd. The buckets themselves are comfortable, but the seating position is rather low, and headroom is just adequate for taller drivers, who will find themselves up by the windshield header.

Take the somewhat different seating layout in stride, and the CC's cabin feels more lavish and expensive than you might otherwise expect from a car that starts around $30k. 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 only significant disappointment in the 2013, as opposed to the 2012, is that the excellent, grippy base cloth upholstery has been dropped in favor of V-Tex vinyl.

The frameless door system, which uses the power-window system to lock them tight after you close the doors, is effective in really minimizing wind noise. Ride quality in the CC is also excellent—firm but supple enough to soak up minor potholes, and quiet. We tend to recommend the base tire-and-wheel combinations in the CC, as the upgrades bring stiffer sidewalls that increase harshness without enhancing cornering.

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2013 Volkswagen CC

Safety

The CC has a record for good safety ratings, and its feature set is sound.

The 2013 Volkswagen CC is based on the Passat family, yet it's different enough to warrant separate crash tests from the major agencies; and when this review had been posted, those results simply weren't available yet.

That said, the CC has a pretty good record for safety and has performed well in the past according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)—and structurally, it hasn't changed for 2013.

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. For 2013, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps are a standard feature on all CC models.

The only safety-related gripe we've consistently had with the CC is that visibility 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 offered in the CC; unfortunately VW configures the CC so that you have to step all the way up to the top-of-the-line VR6 4Motion Executive model to get them.

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2013 Volkswagen CC

Features

You still have to get the VR6 engine if you want some luxury items--or even leather seats.

In addition to a somewhat refreshed look, the Volkswagen CC gets a few more standard items for 2013; prices have risen accordingly, with the CC range now stretching from $30,250 to $41,410 and including Sport, Sport Plus, Lux, and Executive models. Sport and Sport Plus are only offered in four-cylinder guise, while Lux models come with the VR6 and front-wheel drive while the Executive upgrades to 4Motion all-wheel drive.

Power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; power front seats; and heated front seats are standard on all 2013 VW CC models. Overall, that's a feature set that isn't especially lavish--especially for a vehicle that starts over $30,000. A VW-Tex vinyl ("leatherette" is the word, we believe) is now the base upholstery in the CC, while true leather is reserved for top-of-the-line VR6 Lux and VR6 Executive 4Motion models. Bluetooth is standard on all CC sedans, as is a stereo with USB and auxiliary ports.

Dual-zone climate control is included in the Lux, as is ambient lighting lighting and dark brushed-aluminum trim, plus a panoramic sunroof. VR6 Lux models add navigation, a headlight washer system, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, and memory seat and mirrror settings.

Executive models command a price much, much higher ($42,240), in part because they bundle in many more features and feel up to the part of a luxury car. Ventilated front seats with massage; Park Distance Control; front and rear proximity sensors; Dynaudio premium sound; and a power rear sunshade are among the Executive extras.

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2013 Volkswagen CC

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Volkswagen CC is lean and relatively efficient in 2.0T form, but very thirsty in VR6 form.

A few model years ago, the EPA fuel economy figures of the Volkswagen CC would have been quite impressive; but at 21 or 22 in the city and 31 or 32 on the highway, they're now about par for a car this size.

On the other hand, the VR6 models are thirsty (as low as 17 mpg city, 25 highway with 4Motion), and in our opinion don't offer the added performance to justify their consumption.

Just as the EPA ratings suggest, going for the DSG automatic instead of the manual gearbox likely won't bring any lower real-world mileage; it's an efficient and responsive combination and doesn't suffer from the losses of conventional hydraulic automatic transmissions.

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Styling 9
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