The craze with so-called “four-door coupes” has not been around forever. The whole idea behind such a term doesn’t really make sense (and still doesn’t), but when people got to see what it meant in practice, some eyebrows were raised. It is generally accepted that the Mercedes-Benz CLS brought the style into the recent mainstream. What defined it is: four-doors, and a fast roofline that suggested a coupe-like silhouette. For the first few years, the design was fresh and quite successful. Practicality took a hit with the loss of rear headroom, but if you’re riding in style – who cares?
The original Volkswagen Passat CC was launched to get Volkswagen into the four-door premium coupe lineup. Based on the previous-generation B6 Passat, the Passat CC, abbreviated from Comfort Coupe, was positioned as a more stylish choice compared to its very-utilitarian cousin. At the time, it offered seating for four with a large fully-featured centre console between the rear occupants. Styling was a big hit and the main selling point, with its wide and low-slung stance that looks great from all angles. Powertrains were largely carried over from the Passat, with the 2.0T implanted into the volume models, with the VR6 available with 4MOTION all-wheel-drive. VW’s excellent DSG double-clutch automatic gearbox is also carried over from the standard Passat. 2012 saw a minor facelift, and a change in name. The “Passat” nameplate was dropped and the car became simply known as the “CC”. I always thought the CC looked pretty cool, so I picked up the keys to a Urano Grey CC 2.0T. Would the rest of the car match up to the sleek exterior styling?
Part of the reason why VW split up the Passat and CC nameplate is due to the former’s recent Americanization. The Passat is now a much larger vehicle more in tune with North American tastes for getting the most amount of car for the money. Similarly to the Jetta I recently reviewed, its objectives are now quite different of previous Passats. Whatever VW is doing, the sales numbers show that this isn’t the wrong strategy. Thankfully, the CC retains the traditional premium VW charm and feel, with high quality finishes inside and out. Soft-touch plastics are generously used, and the frameless windows are a nice premium touch.
The standard heated leather seats are par for the course in this class, but the additional fifth seat in the centre rear position is new for the refreshed model. Outside, the CC features standard HID low-beam headlamps and LED daytime running lights – neither of which are available on the standard Passat. While this car comes decently equipped, it’s important to keep in mind that the base model CC is lacking a sunroof and navigation system. One slightly curious decision by VW is to have the Bluetooth management interface entirely within the little screen between the speedometer and tachometer, rather than the large touchscreen that houses the entertainment system.
Providing the motivation is VW’s 2.0T direct-injected, turbocharged, and intercooled four-cylinder engine. Widely used across the VW and Audi lineup, it produces 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. The flat torque curve makes for confident city driving and easy highway passing. Lighting up one wheel with wheelspin is not a difficult task when the traction control is deactivated. It is paired up to the widely-used DSG automatic transmission. The double clutches in this transmission carefully manage and improve shift quality, as well as increase fuel efficiency. I’ve always liked the way VW’s DSG performed – shifts are lightning quick and very smooth. The actual output felt from the seat of your pants feels more than the modest horsepower rating would suggest. This over-achieving powertrain punches above its weight class.
Volkswagen rates the CC 2.0T at 9.7L/100km in the city, and 6.6L/100km on the highway. Despite another frigid week here in Toronto, I managed a respectable 9.0L/100km in a combined cycle. On a long highway stint, I was able to get the average readout down to 7.7L/100km – and still falling. While city fuel economy is exactly average in this class, what the CC has going for it is overall range. With a 70L fuel tank, each stop will let you go farther before having to stop again. I was able to run to almost 600km before having to fill up again on Premium fuel.
The CC competes with several large premium front-drive sedans from various automakers around the world: the Toyota Avalon, Kia Cadenza, Buick Lacrosse are three that come to mind that fit a similar mold in terms of pricing and intended audience. This is where I start to see the shortfalls associated with the CC. Firstly, other than the refresh in 2012, the CC has lived on largely unchanged since 2008. Many of its competitors have undergone complete replacements in that same six year timespan. Secondly, the value quotient of the CC is really its strong suit. All of its competitors offer more horsepower, sunroofs and navigation. $37,450 is a lot to swallow to be missing those two items – the decked-out Jetta that costs over $10,000 less manages to offer both items.
At the end of the day, it seems to me that people interested in the CC would be those who place an emphasis on style above many other things. Underneath that sleek exterior is a solid offering from Volkswagen. The four-door coupe body style is here to stay, so if VW can update the styling to take more risks (now that the standard Passat is its own separate car), they may be able to put more customers behind the wheel. I know of some people who refer to the CC as the “working man’s CLS”, and they’d be partly right, as that is also a car that sold largely on its style points. One just needs to set the right expectations, because the 2014 CC does a decent job acquitting itself against the notion of something purely of style, without substance.
2014 Volkswagen CC 2.0T Gallery