Volkswagen had a bit of genius when they built the CC. Obviously they took the coupe-sedan idea from the Mercedes CLS, but unlike the Mercedes, the CC was generally affordable. It sold like hotcakes because, while underneath it was just a VW Passat, its exterior appearance was nothing short of magnificent. Now many of the early CCs are coming off lease, and are available on the secondhand market for what seems to be a great value. So now the question is, what lies under the CC’s pretty facade, and is it worth spending your money on?
I should disclose that I am considering getting myself a CC like this one, so this drive was as much for me personally, as it was for this article. I love having two sports cars, my Subaru STi and Mazda Miata, but lately I have wanted something a bit more comfortable for daily driving. It would be nice to have a car I could go places in, and not have a little devil on my shoulder, constantly telling me to break the law. That said, I don’t want some gutless econobox either, I want a proper luxury car.
For me, a good luxury car is a complex object. It must be able to do many things, and it needs do all of them well. There must be a sense of style in a good luxury car, a bit of extra effort thrown in to make things “nice”. Comfort is obviously an important aspect, but it must give both peace of body and peace of mind in order to provide a true sense of relaxation. That means, in addition to having comfortable seats and ride quality, the car must also be able to perform competently in both speed and handling. Getting on the highway should be an easy affair, and I need to be able to trust, and use, the car’s dynamic abilities if a deer jumps out in the road. It is hard to fully relax in a car that is easily stressed by real world situations because that jeopardizes your safety. So with this context in mind, how does the CC stack up as a bargain luxury car?
I think it was clear from the outset that the CC’s stunning appearance would pass the “style test”. This is not a car you are going to mistake other cars for in a parking lot, and that puts it far above most cars in terms of visual appeal. My thinking is, why settle for a bland looking car when you could have something that is both beautiful and elegant, a true object of desire? Sure, underneath it is just a Passat, but the CC’s style alone will give many people the reason the need to buy one.
Volkswagen seems to straddle the line between economy cars and luxury cars. My mom’s Jetta Hybrid sits on the nicer end of the economy car realm, but the CC is clearly from the luxury side. The fit and finish just feels nicer, with a wider use of leather and metal trim around the cabin.
The leather seats have a nice pleated design, and are exceptionally nice to sit in. There is substantial side bolstering to hold you in place, but the seat is wide enough that you don’t feel cramped like in most sport seats. There is a good amount of padding as well, so you basically just sink into a nice, secure “bear-hug” sort of embrace. It is wonderful.
Although there is only room for two people in back, they should both be pretty comfortable, providing they aren’t much over 6 feet tall. The CC’s sloped roofline means a little less rear headroom, and the need for care on ingress and egress. That said, once you are situated, the back seats are similar to the front seats, offering a lovely embrace. With the front seat in my driving position (I’m 5’11”), I still had plenty of legroom in the back, as well as space to stretch out width-wise. What the CC may lose by not allowing a fifth person, it makes up for by adding to the comfort of the other four occupants. Lets be honest here, nobody wants to sit in the middle anyway, so why even offer the option of such an unpleasantry.
Taking from its Passat DNA, the CC does have a nice big trunk, and the rear seats fold for even more space if need be. There is also a pass-through in the middle for things like hockey sticks, and a cubby on the side for more fragile things. All in all the CC is quite practical if you can live without having a fifth seat. If you plan on having more than four people frequently, you should probably be looking at a different sort of car in the first place.
On the road
Starting with a relaxed approach, the CC does well just calmly wafting along the road. Its ride is smooth but not too soft, allowing you to feel the road without being jarred by bumps. There is a solidarity to the way the car feels that is unmistakably German. Nothing seems to phase it, and it is so relaxed at higher speeds that I often found myself cruising faster than I thought I was on the highway. The CC is a car you could do a long journey in, and step out from fresh as a daisy when you arrive. It shares the same sort of comfort characteristics with many far more expensive cars in the VW/Audi range.
If you judge a book by its cover, then it comes as no surprise that the CC does the comfort stuff well. What is surprising is how well it can perform when you ask it to. The CC looks like a pretty big car, but its curb weight is only around 3300lbs. It’s cornering ability is actually quite good, and its limits are a lot higher than you’d expect. It feels tight and from behind the wheel, and is easy to place on the road. Its steering is electrically assisted, but VW does a decent job with it regarding road feel. All of this makes the CC quite fun to throw through corners, certainly more sporting than your standard Passat. Its handling capability comes as a very pleasant surprise after experiencing how soothing it can be when you just want to relax. If that deer were to jump out in front of you, the CC can definitely maneuver quickly and safely.
Under the hood
The CC I drove here uses the VW Group’s backbone engine, the 2.0T. I have also driven a CC with the VR6 for this site as well. Having now experienced both of them, I must say that I prefer the 2.0T in this car. It is just a more “do everything” sort of package. The VR6 does have more power, and a truly glorious engine note, but it falls short of the 2.0T when it comes to the big picture. The 2.0T is also nowhere near as down on power as VW says it is. Official claims are that the CC 2.0T makes 200hp and 207ft/lbs of torque, but real world dyno tests show it to be more like 230hp and 240ft/lbs of torque. That’s 50hp, but just 25ft/lbs of torque down on the VR6. Keep in mind that the 2.0T also makes its peak torque from 1700rpm to around 5000rpm, so the 2.0T has a far wider, more accessible powerband than the VR6.
What does that mean in english? It means that the CC 2.0T is actually pretty darn quick on the road, with a very strong feeling engine. It also means that the CC 2.0T doesn’t feel as strained as the CC VR6 when you need to accelerate. The 2.0T’s power is given more willfully, like its no trouble at all, and I find that far more befitting of a luxury car.
Anyone who is concerned with that 50hp and 25ft/lb deficit should know that the issue can be remedied for just a few hundred dollars, simply by reflashing the ECU. No tangible modifications are required, and you will wind up with around 260-270hp and a massive 320ft/lbs of torque. That should make a worthwhile difference on the road for most drivers, but anyone who still wants more can easily do more. The CC does have the same powertrian as the highly tunable VW GTI, after all.
A word to the wise, though. The CC 2.0T does move at quite a good clip in stock form. It certainly will have no issues passing, merging, or commanding itself in traffic, so more power isn’t really necessary. If you gun it from a stop, it will want to spin the front wheels in first gear, but after that I found it put its power down well. With the ECU reflash, and that massive spike in torque, you may wind up having to deal with a lot more wheelspin. So just consider how much power you really need before spending money.
Another big benefit you get from having the 2.0T over the larger VR6 is better fuel economy. The EPA says the CC 2.0T will see 22city/31hwy MPG, but many owners report highway mileage in the mid 30s and averages in the higher 20s. Like any turbocharged car, your results may vary. If you have a heavy foot, you will not see 30mpg, but if you can take it easy, the CC may prove very economical for the type of car that it is.
Range is impressive as well, with 407 city miles and 570 highway miles possible from its 18.5 gallon tank. Incidentally this is a similar range to what a similarly priced Jetta TDI can do, thanks to an extra four gallons in the CC’s tank. Premium fuel is recommended, but you can get away with mid grade if you don’t plan on driving aggressively. I feel like if I wind up getting a CC, I will use premium normally, and use mid grade for longer trips when I will just be cruising at a steady speed.
The transmission is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the CC because people do not understand that it is not an “automatic transmission”. The DSG is mechanically a manual gearbox with two automated clutches. You don’t have to deal with a clutch pedal, but the clutch still has to engage like it does in a manual transmission. This can lead to some “jerkiness” or abrupt engagements at times, and many ignorant owners have reported it as a problem to VW dealerships. Because of this there are many repair records out there relating to the transmission on this car that actually mean absolutely nothing in terms of actual reliability.
As someone who has experienced many automated manual transmissions I can tell you that I like the DSG in the CC. I know what is going on with the clutches, so when there is an abrupt engagement, I realize it is usually something I did with the throttle that made the computer pop the clutch in so hard. That said, I found the DSG operated totally smoothly most of the time. Once you get a feel for how to use the gas pedal (like its a manual), it is quite easy to drive, and the DSG gives it some serious advantages over a traditional automatic. I for one love being able to feel the drivetrain working because it gives the CC a solid, mechanical feel that you just don’t get from an automatic with a torque converter.
In terms of daily function, Drive works well for most situations, with adequate throttle response and reasonably timed downshifts. I found that Sport mode in the CC really means “sport.” It holds gears for a while, and is quick to get to the optimal gear when you get on the gas. Sport mode aims to hold gears longer so it doesn’t upshift annoyingly between corners, but when you’re merging on the highway, it may take a noticeably long time to bring the revs down after you’re up to speed. When shifting manually, the DSG shifts instantaneously. It is wonderful for controlling the car while attacking corners, doing exactly what you want it to do, when you want it done.
I really like the DSG gearbox in the CC because it offers all of the best aspects of an automatic with many of the advantages of a manual. It is available in CCs from the 2010 model year onward, and I know I won’t be looking at one without it.
In the market
Used VW CCs can easily be found for $17-20k with 25-40k miles on them. Many CCs also can be had through certified pre-owned programs, so you can still purchase an extended warranty like you could with brand new car. 2009-2011 CCs are in a market sweet spot right now, and I think they offer a terrific value for money. A really smart buyer may even consider buying a 2010 CC like this one over spending $32k+ on a brand new CC.
The CC looks unique, but is made up of all tried and true VW Group parts underneath. This has made CC’s pretty reliable, a trait many European cars lack. It borrows all of the good things from the Passat, but then adds a some extra zest to the mix. Because of this, the CC is a rather unique option for those seeking a pre-owned luxury car. Sure you can have a comparable Acura or Lexus for a similar price, but they lack the style and flavor of the CC. I also found that insurance rates were a good bit lower for the CC than an Acura TSX or TL because Volkswagen is not a full “luxury brand”.
There are countless cars in the same price range, both new and used, so going through endless comparisons is pointless. What I can tell you is that the VW CC is a very solid car and a phenomenal value for money at this point. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking.
The CC 2.0T hits every mark for a good luxury car. It does style, comfort, performance and economy, and it does each of those quite well. A CC is already a good value brand new, but a pre-owned car like this is one of the best deals around in my mind. There is a lot to love about the CC, and not anything that really stands out as a problem for it. If you want a nice, practical car, but don’t want to be boring, this is the way to go for sure.
WoM Score: VW CC 2.0T (Used)
Primary Function: Luxury: 2
Secondary Functions: Performance(2) MPG(2) Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 10/10
PS: A special thanks to Ken Doebler at Volkswagen of Langhorne.