2013 Volkswagen CC

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2013 Volkswagen CC: Review

By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.8

Bottom Line:

The 2013 Volkswagen CC is a sharp-looking sedan that straddles the line between a high-end but bland 4-door and entry-level luxury cars. This refreshed version of VW’s flagship adds an additional rear seat, which makes it more attractive to more buyers, while a new front fascia and LED lighting all around make it even more visually appealing.
Pros:
  • Sharp styling
  • Now seats five
  • Loads of standard features
Cons:
  • Anemic 4-cylinder turbo engine
  • Cramped rear seating
  • Inconveniently buried iPod cable

The Volkswagen CC is somewhat of an anomaly in the midsize sedan segment. It easily competes with entry-level luxury cars such as the Acura TSX and Lexus IS 250, and also with staid segment stalwarts such as the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon. And among these, the CC strikes a balance between upscale frugality and affordable indulgence, offering loads of standard features on most trims while remaining competitively priced.

So it's not surprising that for the CC's first major redesign since it was introduced in 2009, VW plays it safe with the new 2013 CC, making few significant changes — new LED lighting, front bumper and grille, and adding a much-needed fifth seat. VW preferred to refine its top sedan rather than redefine it, and the result is a balance between the old and new positives and negatives of the CC.

Model lineup
The 2013 CC comes in six trim variations, beginning with the 2.0T Sport with the Lighting Package that starts at $30,965 and comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, LED taillights and bi-xenon adaptive headlights with LED daytime running lights. Standard interior creature comforts include heated 12-way power front seats, leatherette seating surfaces, Titanium Silver interior trim and a touch-screen-based premium sound system with eight speakers, a 6-disc CD changer, iPod connectivity, HD radio and Bluetooth.

The next trim up, the 2.0T Sport Plus that starts at $32,995, is new to the CC lineup and adds 18-inch wheels and a navigation system. The 2.0T R-Line gets 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, lower extended sport bumpers, special R-Line door-sill plates and darkened taillights and is priced at $32,195. The 2.0T Lux, with a base price of $35,635, adds 18-inch 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, brushed-aluminum interior trim, a power-tinted-glass sunroof and ambient lighting.

The VR6 Lux is another new CC trim for 2013, with a base price of $38,110. It adds headlight washers with heated nozzles, a rearview camera, a navigation system with a larger touch screen, leather seating surfaces and memory front seats and mirrors. Finally, the top-of-the-line VR6 4Motion Executive, with a $41,835 base price, adds all-wheel drive, polished 18-inch alloy wheels, Tiptronic paddle shifters, heated and ventilated front seats with a driver's seat massage function, Park Distance Control with front and rear proximity sensors, a Dynaudio premium sound system and a power rear sunshade.

All versions include safety features such as an energy-absorbing front end, front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger and side-curtain airbags for front and rear passengers. Electronic stability control, electronic differential lock and engine braking assist are also all standard. Volkswagen's Intelligent Crash Response System shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and switches on the hazard warning lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions.

Under the hood
A reminder that this is more of a refresh than redesign: The 2013 CC sticks with the tried-and-true 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected TSI 4-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower, and the 3.6-liter VR6 6-cylinder engine that generates 280 horsepower.

The 2.0-liter models are all front-wheel drive and are matched with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission that features two "wet" clutches that are regulated via hydraulic pressure. The DSG setup allows the next-higher gear to be engaged but to remain on standby until it's actually selected. Since the opening and closing actions of the two clutches overlap, VW claims it makes for smoother shifts. Cars with DSG can also be equipped with the Tiptronic feature for manual gear selection.

When matched with the manual transmission, the 2.0T gets Environmental Protection Agency estimated fuel economy ratings of 21 mpg city/32 mpg highway. The VR6 engine is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic shifting, driving either through the front wheels on the VR6 Lux trim or all four wheels on the VR6 Executive with 4Motion, which is also equipped with paddle shifters. Estimated EPA fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive VR6 Lux is 17/27 mpg, and for the VR6 4Motion it's 17/25 mpg.

Inner space
The interior of 2013 model best exemplifies the CC's balance between a sensible midsize sedan and an entry-level luxury sedan. The big news is that a middle seating position has been added in the rear, so the car now accommodates five instead of four. While this makes the CC more competitive with more cars in its class, when the center seat is occupied it constricts the comfort of the two outer passengers. And while the CC's sloping roof adds to the car's stylish exterior, it also detracts from available rear-seat headroom.

Up front, the driver's hands rest on a leather-wrapped, 3-spoke steering wheel with controls for the car's infotainment system. Instrument panel gauges are surrounded by chrome trim throughout the CC Sport range; the CC 2.0T Lux and VR6 iterations get full-brushed aluminum or ebony trim. Overall, the interior feels a cut above many cars at this price.

On the road
Our test drive was in the CC Sport Plus with the 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected TSI 4-cylinder engine and the 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission with Tiptronic. The sticker price was $33,670, including an $820 destination charge. While our drive was short — less than 50 miles over the course of about two hours behind the wheel — we got the chance to drive the CC Sport Plus in a variety of conditions. This included driving up and down coastal hills in Northern California, along city streets, on the freeway and through curvy canyon roads.

One thing that stood out immediately: The engine was somewhat anemic when asked to supply extra power on steep grades. Several times when we ran out of lane as the roadway narrowed, or as we wanted to pass a slow-moving truck while heading uphill, the engine strained to get us where we wanted to go as fast as we wanted to be there. The automatic transmission shifted on cue relative to engine rpm, but it was nice to have the Tiptronic as a backup to downshift on demand in the twisties.

Steering felt a bit numb when we pushed the car hard on the canyon road, and we noticed a slight brake fade when we really put our foot in it. Overall, the ride was smooth and the interior was relatively quiet whether we were humming down the freeway or cruising up a canyon. The front seats felt ample and comfortable for our short ride.

We found the layout of the infotainment system intuitive and easy to use - once you get used to the icon-based menu of the touch screen. But accessing a proprietary iPod cable in the glove box to plug in a portable is a complicated process; most automakers offer a simple dash or center console USB port.

Right for you?
In striking a balance between style and substance, between the sensuous and the sensible, the 2013 Volkswagen CC successfully occupies a sweet spot in this sedan segment. While it may fall slightly short of the performance and finesse of some of its luxury rivals, its price in most instances falls below theirs, too. On the other hand, it beats some of the popular but more sedate sedans in the segment in both price and refinement.

Is the 2013 Volkswagen CC right for you? It depends on your perspective and pocketbook — and whether you want to straddle the midsize and entry-level luxury sedan segments like the 2013 Volkswagen CC.

Doug Newcomb has been writing about automotive-related topics since 1988. His work has appeared in Consumers Digest, Road & Track, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal and many other publications. His book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publishing.

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BB03 - 7/29/2014 12:29:14 AM