Short Take Road Test: 2009 Volkswagen CC 3.6 4MOTION
By Tony Quiroga of Car and Driver
Are Volkswagen's moves upmarket in complete contradiction to the brand's populist roots? The now-defunct, expensive VW Phaeton sedan is often viewed as a radical move aimed away from the masses. But if the Phaeton had worn a more prestigious brand name, it conceivably could have been deemed a value. In fact, the Phaeton forms the basis for the Bentley Continental lineup, which starts at $180,395, a sum that is rarely questioned. If we regard the Phaeton as a Bentley for the masses, then the car makes sense as a Volkswagen.
Like the Phaeton before it, the CC 3.6 4MOTION drew its share of raised eyebrows when our test car's $42,630 price was revealed. But the CC's superficial similarity to another German car had us wondering if Volkswagen had created a Mercedes-Benz CLS for the people. After all, the CLS550 starts at an eye-watering $72,875.
Volkswagen has followed the CLS's five-step formula to the letter. Step one: Start with a conventional sedan. Just as the E-class begot the CLS, the CC is based on the conservative Passat. Step two: Dress up the exterior and interior. This step requires a low-slung roofline, a slippery body, frameless door glass, a dolled-up interior, and a reduction in the seating capacity from five to four. Step three: Insist that despite its four doors, the creation is somehow a coupe. Repeat as necessary until the public is convinced. Step four: To save money, leave the running gear alone. Step five: Try to keep a straight face while charging considerably more money for your new "coupe."
The formula worked for Mercedes. But we must conclude that despite its similarity to the far pricier CLS, the $42,630 CC is too expensive to be considered a value — even against a Benz.
We can't complain about the 280-hp, direct-injection 3.6-liter VR6 that propels the all-wheel-drive CC to 60 mph in a drama-free 6.2 seconds. A 231-pound-lighter front-drive Passat 3.6 we tested took 5.9 seconds [December 2005]. We also can't take issue with the refined controls, the solid structure, and the firm ride of the CC, which stuck to the skidpad with 0.88 g of grip. Aside from some wind noise around those frameless windows, the CC driving experience is nearly indistinguishable from that of the Passat with the 3.6-liter engine, a configuration that is gone for 2009.
Our big problem with the CC 3.6 4MOTION is the existence of the $27,480 CC 2.0T with a six-speed manual. Despite an 80-hp deficit, the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder version retains the look of the 3.6-liter version and, of course, keeps its inescapable resemblance to the CLS. The four-cylinder model removes the CC from the stratosphere of BMW and Audi, back to the place where the Accord, the Camry, and the Malibu play. Set against a family-sedan backdrop, the CC's beautiful bod makes it a standout in a segment stacked with forgettable styling. And in pricing the four-cylinder CC, VW seems to have ignored the step that requires charging more for style, as the CC 2.0T actually costs $410 less than a comparably equipped Passat. So unless you need that fifth seat, you can now take the Passat off your shopping list. And in regard to the CC 3.6-liter's disturbingly high price, we predict low sales. On the other hand, the CC 2.0T may well strike a chord with buyers as it is the base model that is truly the people's CLS.