The 2009 Volkswagen CC is the most visually arresting VW sedan ever, and once it arrives in the U.S. next fall, it might once again give the people's car company the same luster in America that the brand once had.
Introduced at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, the CC is anything but a coupe, though that's what Volkswagen calls it. Nevertheless, as a car with four doors and a trunk out back, the 2009 VW CC is clearly a sedan, albeit a very slinky-looking one. Yet the CC speaks to VW's mission to transform the mundane image of a sedan into something more personal and sporting.
The 2009 Volkswagen CC is based around Volkswagen's existing Passat, sharing its platform, drivelines and much more besides. Not that you'd ever know it. See it in profile and the new CC appears low, sleek and, dare we say, fast. Anything but a Passat sedan, in fact!
Longer, Lower, Wider
The Mercedes-Benz CLS matched a low, coupelike roofline with a sedan platform with notable success, and now there are plenty of carmakers willing to look beyond the traditional value of versatility and instead focus on design as means of attracting buyers. The 2009 Volkswagen CC is venturing into a market that the VW Passat could never hope to reach.
In dimensions, there's surprisingly a lot that actually separates the CC from a Passat sedan. The CC's unique steel bodywork measures 1.2 inches longer than that of the Passat, even though it sits on the same 106.7-inch wheelbase. A 0.6-inch increase in the front and rear overhangs accounts for the overall stretch, although more important to the car's look is a roofline that's 2 inches lower than that of its more practical four-door stablemate.
Inspired in part by chopped-roof Californian custom cars from the early 1950s, so the Volkswagen designers tell us, the CC represents the most dramatic VW model to appear in years. Its heavy creased panels and meticulously executed detailing give it an expensive, luxurious look that the pricey Volkswagen Phaeton never managed to achieve in a convincing fashion.
The intrigue begins up front with a prominent grille ringed in chrome, a deep front bumper cover, heavily tapered headlights and a carefully contoured hood. As a result the CC has a far more aggressive demeanor than the conservatively styled Passat sedan.
The CC gets better as your eyes trail toward the rear, taking in the steeply sloping windshield and back light, shallow side glass, sculptured flanks, sloping trunk and curvy taillamps. Once you place all this on the optional 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels, the 2009 CC can boast a terrifically confident stance, thanks also to its 0.4-inch-wider front track and 0.6-inch-wider rear track.
The Luxury Environment
Step inside the cabin of the 2009 Volkswagen CC and things suddenly become a lot more familiar. Entry is via conventional doors, albeit with frameless glass. Volkswagen considered rear-hinged doors in the back, but ruled them out, as the car's long wheelbase requires a B-pillar to satisfy existing side-impact regulations.
You sit 0.6 inch lower than in the comparable sedan, hemmed in by the high beltline, low roof and that fast-angled windshield. The dashboard, center console, instruments, controls and associated trims are all carried over from the Passat sedan with little or no change. The excellent three-spoke multifunction steering wheel is all-new and, for the time being at least, unique to the CC.
The rear seat is strictly for two and not exactly commodious with headroom reduced by a significant 1.2 inches compared to the Passat sedan. Still, there's a good deal more leg- and shoulder room in the back than you'll find in a two-door coupe in this price class. Finally, the steeply angled trunk reduces capacity by 1.4 cubic feet to 17.4 cubic feet.
Pick Your Power
Volkswagen has lined up a total of five engines for the CC, but only two of them are set to be offered in North America. We'll see the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that develops 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, while the U.S.-specification 3.6-liter V6 puts out 280 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque.
We've just driven the CC near Tegernsee in Bavaria, and the European version of the narrow-angle 3.6-liter V6 has a slightly different state of tune, gaining an extra 20 hp to bolster its reserves to a neat 300 hp. At the same time, it drops 8 lb-ft of torque for a total of 258 lb-ft. The V6 has enough power to give the 3,598-pound VW CC V6 a good turn of speed. A flex of the right foot at a standstill has the new Volkswagen surging forward with real enthusiasm thanks to the prodigious traction offered by its standard all-wheel-drive system and its standard six-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
VW claims the Euro-spec CC V6 will reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 5.6 seconds, making it faster off the line than a BMW 335i coupe with an automatic transmission. Sadly, different gearing for the U.S. version of the CC sees that time blow out to 6.6 seconds. It's the same story with top speed, with the European version limited to 155 mph, while the U.S. version calls an end to proceedings at just 130 mph.
Despite its smooth nature and an eagerness to pull all the way to the redline, Volkswagen's latest narrow-angle V6 is uncharacteristically noisy. At a constant cruise you are confronted with a good deal of chatter and whine back through the bulkhead. This engine has always been thirsty, too. Volkswagen claims an EPA combined fuel-economy figure of 23.3 mpg.
With this in mind, don't buy the V6 without first trying the four-cylinder version of the CC. This is the same engine found in the Golf GTI, and although Volkswagen didn't have an example of a CC so equipped for us to drive, we suspect it may be the better choice, even though it comes as standard with front-wheel drive. For the record, the Euro-spec four-cylinder CC is claimed to reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.6 seconds and reach 148 mph.
Handles Like a Coupe
More convincing than the CC's top-of-the-line V6 engine is its handling. Whereas the Passat sedan feels a little remote and anaesthetized, the CC is a good deal more willing and alert. Much of the credit for this apparent eagerness to engage the driver goes to the electrohydraulic steering, which feels far better resolved. There's more feedback, leading to a greater understanding of what the front wheels are doing. The steering effort also weights up in a more seamless nature as speed rises.
The CC's nose peels more willingly into corners than that of the Passat sedan, and it holds its line with impressive poise through fast, sweeping corners. Roll, pitch and dive are all less pronounced. A lower ride height and less body mass than the Passat sedan help the CC's cause, of course. But, more than this, it is a keen matching of spring and damper rates that account for the change in character.
Indeed, the 2009 Volkswagen CC is almost athletic. Almost but not quite, because as you approach the limits of adhesion (which are quite high thanks to the presence of Volkswagen's four-wheel-drive system), it gets a little ragged. It's still some way from encroaching on the heightened dynamic appeal of the BMW 3 Series coupe, but the CC is nevertheless one of Volkswagen's more engaging drives.
The Luxury Effect
Our test car came equipped with the CC's optional adaptive chassis control, which provides three different levels of damping along with a subsequent altering of the electronic mapping for the steering response (Normal, Sport and Comfort). It's a worthwhile option for those who like the idea of being able to alter the characteristics of their car to suit their mood.
Other impressive options include a lane-departure countersteering program and cruise control that controls the gap between cars, but you'll definitely want to see the Park Assist, which automatically guides the CC into a parking space at the touch of a button.
Volkswagen tried unsuccessfully to drag itself into the luxury market with the Phaeton sedan, but it looks like 2009 Volkswagen CC might finally get it to the promised land of big-ticket prices and well-heeled owners.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.