- Ageless looks
- Luxury fittings
- Smooth, quiet ride
- Entertaining turbo-four, dual-clutch combo
- Updated infotainment, finally
- Seating position car seem low
- Slim rear head room
- Expensive, heavy V-6
- Crash-test scores are just average
The 2016 Volkswagen CC splits the difference between sleek coupe lines and four-door convenience—it's a grown-up compromise.
With more luxury features and a less practical passenger package, the 2016 Volkswagen CC has rivals in vehicles like the Nissan Maxima, the Lincoln MKZ, the Volvo S60, and the Acura TLX—even the Audi A4, another four-door offering from the vast VW empire.
Though it started life as a Passat, the Volkswagen CC has taken a different path as it has pursued more style-conscious shoppers. While the Passat moved to America a got a little bigger and plainer, the CC transformed the last Passat's underpinnings by applying a sleeker, more dramatic shape. VW even called it a "four-door coupe" when it was new, to distinguish it—or disguise it—from its roots.
New in 2009 and updated for 2013, the VW CC hasn't altered its winning shape much over its lifetime. It's a sedan, but if you step back and view this model's side profile, it's easy to see why it gets the coupe-like description. 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.
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 CC's base price of about $30,000. It essentially drives much like the last-generation 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 turbocharged 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4. Models with it feel lighter and more nimble than their top-of-the-line VR6 4Motion, all-wheel-drive 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 V-6 is spirited, but seems to take a moment longer to build steam.
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.
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 head room is a bit tight, and you'll either love or hate the somewhat low driving position. The three-passenger back seat is comfortable but short on head room, 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 Volkswagen CC is offered in Trend, Sport, Executive, and R-Line trims equipped with the 2.0T, as well as in the VR6 Executive 4Motion model. Updates for 2016 include the addition of the Trend model; a new infotainment system with a USB port; and forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control on V-6 models.
With the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission, the CC is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city, 32 highway, 25 combined. The same engine coupled to a dual-clutch transmission is rated at 22/31/25 mpg.
2016 Volkswagen CC
The Passat has nothing on the CC's sleek, low-slung lines.
With only minor changes over its lifetime, the Volkswagen CC has kept a lock on a timeless shape. It's been favorably compared to vehicles like the Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS—though it's not as bawdy and angular as another premium-sedan perennial, the Nissan Maxima.
What makes the CC so attractive is the understated details that play up to, without overwhelming, its handsome roofline. The long arc gives the whole car a lower stance than the mainstream Passat, and the windshield and rear glass lay low, at fast angles, which give it a sleek profile. 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. No, it's not a coupe, despite the marketing speak, but it's a much more stylish alternative to the Passat, more of a rival in style for cars like the Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, and Kia Optima.
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.
2016 Volkswagen CC
The turbo four matches the CC's athletic personality better than the strong, but gruff, V-6.
The VW CC comes with a choice between a turbocharged inline-4 or a naturally aspirated V-6. Though it's less powerful, we recommend the four-cylinder engine, since it's a better match for the CC's athletic handling.
The 2.0-liter inline-4 puts out 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It develops plenty of power throughout its rev range, with just a momentary delay as the turbocharger spools up at low engine speeds. It's lighter than the V-6, and feels it, especially when paired with the dual-clutch automatic. The transmission gets more responsive in either sport or manual shift modes—or if you prefer, there's a 6-speed manual transmission.
The 3.6-liter V-6 develops much more power on paper, at 280 hp, but it's also saddled with a lot more weight from the engine and standard all-wheel-drive system. The narrow-angle V-6 may have the numbers, but it lacks low-end torque for an engine of its size, and takes a moment to build up a strong feeling of acceleration. It's better in wet weather thanks to the added traction, but the straight-line performance is only marginally better than the four-cylinder.
The V-6 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 6-speed automatic, but upshifts are often poorly timed and downshifts can take a moment.
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.
2016 Volkswagen CC
Comfort & Quality
Low-slung front seats and slim rear-seat head room are the penalties for the CC's pretty roofline.
The Volkswagen CC's attractive shape exacts a penalty in rear-seat space, particularly head room. It's meant to do so—the sedan is a more stylish version of the last-generation Passat. However, the CC is more limited and more compromised than other fashion-forward sedans based on more conventional hardware—the Nissan Maxima, for one.
The skimpy rear-seat space isn't a big issue for front passengers. VW fits the CC with smartly bolstered sport seats that sit close to the floor. Head room is good, though the available panoramic sunroof doesn't help matters for taller drivers. The CC's front seats have 12-way power adjustment, with tilt and telescoping steering, all of which make it simple to find a good driving position.
There are definitely some things to be critical about with respect to the packaging, though. Head room is tight in back, though the three-passenger back seat is comfortable. The curvy roofline also makes for a small door opening. For those who plan to carry a child or two in back, or who generally drive alone, the back seat adds more flexibility than a two-door would.
For flexibility, the rear seats 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.
2016 Volkswagen CC
The VW CC's aging body structure no longer earns the top crash-test scores it once enjoyed.
With lower crash-test scores due to an older body structure, the VW CC is no longer the safe pick it once was.
It's been a while since the NHTSA crash-tested the CC; these days it only publishes a four-star rating for rollover resistance, which it determines through a mathematical equation.
The IIHS gives the CC a handful of "Good" scores in its tests—but with a worrisome "Marginal" rating in the new small-overlap test, which mimics a collision with an object similar to a telephone pole.
Some drivers may also have an issue with the CC's outward visibility, which is compromised by its stylish design. It makes 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 standard rearview camera. 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, as are forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control.
2016 Volkswagen CC
VW's added more features to the CC; a new infotainment system plugs in to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The 2016 Volkswagen CC is offered in Trend, Sport, R-Line, 2.0T Executive, and VR6 4Motion Executive models.
With a lower base price, the new Trend edition still offers the features most buyers will expect. It gives the CC standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; heated power front seats with 12-way adjustment; VW-Tex upholstery; a rearview camera; and VW's new infotainment system, with a 6.3-inch touchscreen.
We haven't had the chance to experiment with the new infotainment system, but this year's edition includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Sport models add keyless ignition, as does the R-Line. Executive editions get R-Line equipment, with special 18-inch wheels; black exterior trim; a panoramic sunroof; and leather seats.
Executive sedans also bundles in front and rear parking sensors; ventilated front seats; and premium sound. The same features appear on the VR6 4Motion model, which also adds forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; lane-departure warnings; and adaptive cruise control.
2016 Volkswagen CC
If you're looking for the best fuel economy, the turbocharged four-cylinder is the clear winner.
The Volkswagen CC turns in acceptable fuel economy. It's not as good as some more pedestrian family sedans (like VW's own Passat), but for a premium sedan, it's a decent pick.
With the turbocharged inline-4 and a manual transmission, the CC is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city, 32 highway, 25 combined. The same engine coupled to a dual-clutch transmission is rated at 22/31/25 mpg.
We've found the dual-clutch automatic transmission 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.
If you select the all-wheel-drive VR6 4Motion CC, you'll find it can be just as thirsty as some SUVs, at 17/25/20 mpg. This is the main reason why we don't believe the model's added expense and complication are worth the improved all-weather performance.