2015 Volkswagen CC Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 12, 2015

The 2015 Volkswagen CC sacrifices some usability for style; it's a grown-up's compromise between a true two-door coupe and a stodgier sedan.

The Volkswagen CC originally entered the market wearing the Passat CC badge. Since then, VW has changed the Passat family sedan completely, and the two no longer have enough in common to share a name. The CC is the company's "four-door coupe," the lineup's more style-focused four-door offering. This fashionable sedan also includes a little more luxury content than the workaday Passat, which puts its price tag a little higher than the Passat's as well. You can think of the CC as sitting between the Passat and a true luxury sedan--good looks while staying relatively affordable at most trim levels.

For 2013, Volkswagen gave the CC a mid-cycle refresh that kept its distinct profile but redrew some of the details in front and in back (adding LED lamps, among other upscale touches). Other noteworthy changes then included a three-person back seat to replace the stylish but less practical two-person setup from previous model years, as well as upgraded materials for the dash and cabin.

Even with the demise of the bucket-seat setup in back, VW still calls the CC a four-door coupe, and while up close it might look decidedly like a sedan, if you step back and view this model's side profile, it's easy to see why it gets the coupe name. 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. As an added touch, the door windows are frameless, like on most true coupes.

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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. What it does deliver, however, is better performance than what you might expect considering the 2015 CC's $31k base price: It essentially drives much like the Passat in its more luxurious guises, with refinement clearly taking the priority over edginess or all-out performance.

Although two powertrains are offered, we remain convinced that there's only one way to get the CC: with the 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (2.0T). Models with it feel lighter and more nimble than their top-of-the-line VR6 4Motion counterpart. The four churns out plenty of low- and mid-range torque with only a slight delay if revs are at the low end, while the narrow-angle six-cylinder is spirited but seems to take a moment more to build steam.

It's not all that surprising that you lose a little practicality in moving from a more upright design like that of the Passat to the CC's swoopier package. Front headroom is a bit tight, and you'll either love or hate the somewhat 'scooped up' driving position. The three-passenger back seat is comfortable but short on headroom, and the curvy roofline makes entry and exit difficult even for adults of average height. But the interior trims look and feel luxury-grade, the ride is absorbent and controlled, and the trunk is huge.

The 2015 Volkswagen CC is offered in Sport, Executive, and R-Line trims equipped with the 2.0T, as well as in the VR6 Executive 4Motion model. The sole updates for 2015 are related to optional wheel designs: 18-inch St. Louis wheels will be available at the start of production, while 18-inch Shanghai wheels will come online later in the model year. 

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2015 Volkswagen CC

Styling

A designer cabin and sleek roofline put the Volkswagen CC on a higher plane than our current Passat.

The Volkswagen CC's low, wide stance and fast rear glass make it appear particularly coupe-like for a sedan--much of the reason why Volkswagen called it a four-door coupe when it first introduced the model. While the design continues to hold its own and acts as a more stylish counterpart to Volkswagen's conservative Passat mid-size sedan, it's no longer the daring standout among four-doors that it once was.

The CC's proportions hint 'rear-wheel-drive sport sedan' to some (and nod to more expensive examples of the four-door coupe breed, such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7), even though it's a front-driver. Frameless doors, like those on a true coupe, are among several details that still give this model some visual interest.

Volkswagen gave the CC a mid-cycle refresh for 2013, retaining the distinct profile but revising the look at both ends and adding LED lighting among other upscale touches. Other noteworthy changes then included a three-person back seat  to replace the stylish but less practical two-seat setup from previous model years, and upgraded materials for the dash and cabin.

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2015 Volkswagen CC

Performance

It's athletic enough, but the VW CC puts its best foot forward in refined roadholding.

We favor the CC's base engine, a 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (2.0T). Models equipped with it are lighter and feel it, with better dynamic responses than their top-of-the-line VR6 4Motion counterpart. Even in spirited driving, the four develops plenty of low- and mid-range torque with only a slight delay in turbo boost just off idle, while the narrow-angle six-cylinder is more powerful but seems to take a moment more to build steam.

With the help of direct injection and turbocharging, the four makes 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque. The small, responsive turbo makes it feel like a larger engine, and the optional DSG dual-clutch automatic helps make the most of engine output with clap-quick shifts. The DSG has a manual shift function as well as a sport mode for quicker reactions at the expense of some smoothness. A six-speed manual is standard on the CC Sport for those who prefer a third pedal.

The CC's handling straddles the line between a true German sport sedan and a mid-size family four-door. It strikes a good balance between comfort and poise, much like the Volkswagen Golf does. 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 electric-assist steering loads and unloads nicely. The steering can at times feel 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 are strong and capable.

The top-of-the-line VR6 4Motion model requires a different value calculation entirely. For thousands more than a 2.0-liter CC, the car gets a narrow-angle V-6 that displaces 3.6 liters and produces 280 horsepower and includes VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The combination brings improved wet-weather but also adds weight and dulls the response of the engine, making it perform very similarly to a four-cylinder model on dry pavement. The VR6 model also requires more fuel to do its job. It has a different character, too—rather gruff and vocal, and needing to be revved to extract its torque. The engine functions pretty well with its traditional six-speed automatic, but upshifts are often poorly timed and downshifts can take a moment.

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2015 Volkswagen CC

Comfort & Quality

A spacious trunk and supportive three-across rear seats are better selling points than the CC's low front buckets and the slim headroom in back.

With the CC's coupe-like appearance and dimensions come a few coupe-like compromises. There's less space inside, the rear seat is difficult to get in and out of compared to a more upright four-door, and the driving position is lower than some folks used to sedans might like.

Realistically, though, unless you frequently carry taller adults in the backseat, the CC's fashion-forward nature doesn't become a big problem. We see the CC working best for those who plan to carry a child or two in back, or who generally drive alone, with the back seat adding more flexibility than a two-door would.

There are definitely some things to be critical about with respect to the packaging, though. Headroom is a bit tight, especially in the rear, and you'll either love or hate the driving position—the seat is low to the floor and has large side bolsters that create a scoop. The three-passenger back seat is comfortable, but headroom is tight and the curvy roofline makes for a small door opening.

But there's also a lot to love--again with the caveat that you don't plan to stuff adults in the back seat. The rear seatbacks flip forward to expand cargo space when needed; there's also a well-placed pass-through at the armrest for long items like skis; and there are some useful cubbies and bins scattered around the cabin. Interior trim pieces look and feel like those in a luxury vehicle, the ride is comfortable and controlled, and the trunk is huge.

The frameless door system, a coupe staple, has another advantage: after the door is closed, the window is shut tight up against the seal, which effectively minimizes wind noise.

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2015 Volkswagen CC

Safety

The CC is no longer a Top Safety Pick, due to a score from the IIHS' latest safety test.

The 2015 Volkswagen CC is a reasonably safe pick, although a few issues keep us from declaring it one of the safest larger sedans.

First and foremost, the CC only earns a 'marginal' score in the new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap frontal impact test. It scores the top rating, 'good,' in the rest of the IIHS tests.

The CC hasn't changed structurally in many years; it's based on the previous-generation Passat family. It received four out of five stars in the government's rollover test, and despite the worrisome rating from the IIHS, it does well in the Institute's other crash tests--though it's no longer a Top Safety Pick, due to that "marginal" score.

The other concern is that the CC's outward visibility is compromised by its stylish design, making the view out almost as bad as in a smaller two-door coupe. The steeply raked windshield is small, the fast backlight produces a narrow slit to look out of when backing up, and the short side windows can create a challenge when checking blind spots before changing lanes.

Volkswagen has remedied the rearward visibility issue with a rearview camera system that's included on most trim levels for 2015. And otherwise, the safety-feature set is great--including 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. Front and rear parking aids are offered in the CC, but they're still the exclusive domain of the top VR6 4Motion Executive.

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2015 Volkswagen CC

Features

With more features available at the four-cylinder level, you don't need to spend as much to get VW's best sedan.

The 2015 Volkswagen CC is offered in Sport, R-Line, 2.0T Executive, and VR6 4Motion Executive models. Sport is the well-equipped base model, R-Line adds some design flair, and the Executive trim levels include features like premium sound, massage seats, and leather upholstery.

Power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; power front seats; and heated front seats are standard on all CC models. VW-Tex vinyl (what other companies call "leatherette") is the base upholstery in the CC, while true leather is reserved for top-of-the-line Executive models.

While the lower trim levels are relatively affordable, starting at around $33k, the Executive models command thousands more because they bundle in many more features and items you'd expect from a true luxury car. Ventilated front seats with massage; front and rear parking sensors; premium sound; and a power rear sunshade are among the Executive extras.

The VR6 model remains the only one in the lineup to get 4Motion all-wheel drive. For those who want the features without that expensive powertrain, the Executive 2.0T includes the same content, such as navigation with Sirius XM Traffic, an 'Easy Open' motion-activated trunk opener, Keyless Access with push-button start, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Sport models get LED daytime running lamps, Adaptive Front Lighting that swivels when you steer, navigation, and a rearview camera. VW's Car-Net telematics system is also a new addition. allowing more infotainment options and more menu options to control vehicle settings. Bluetooth hands-free connectivity as well as USB and auxiliary-in audio ports are included as well.

The 2015 model brings two new optional wheel designs: 18-inch St. Louis wheels will be available at the start of production, while 18-inch Shanghai wheels will come online later in the model year. 

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2015 Volkswagen CC

Fuel Economy

The choice for efficient drivers is clearly the turbocharged four-cylinder CC.

The 2015 Volkswagen CC models equipped with the base 2.0T engine offer decent fuel efficiency within their competitive set and compared to vehicles offering similar interior space, and in some cases better than the competition.

The EPA rates the manual-transmission model at 21 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway, while the DSG automatic returns a similar 22 mpg in the city and 31 highway.

If you select the all-wheel-drive VR6 4Motion CC, you'll find it can be just as thirsty as some SUVs, at 17 mpg city, 25 highway. This is the main reason why we don't believe the model's added expense and complication are worth the improved all-weather performance.

We've found the dual-clutch automatic transmission (DSG) that's paired with the 2.0T engine to be very efficient and responsive in real-world driving, and it doesn't cut gas mileage like some conventional automatic transmissions.

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Styling 9
Performance 8
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