In the automotive world, as in other areas of life, beauty isn't always accompanied by substance. Now and then, though, a magnificent melding of the two rolls along. That's what Volkswagen has done by taking the mechanical elements of its Passat sedan and placing them within a sleek and shapely new skin, dubbing the result CC.
The CC designation correctly suggests the sedan's "coupe-like" profile. Not unlike the CLS-Class sedan issued by Mercedes-Benz, the CC looks low and eager, with space for four occupants beneath a roofline that flows gracefully downward toward the rear, to encompass the sharply-angled back window.
Frameless doors give the CC something resembling the look of a pillarless hardtop sedan - a body style that essentially disappeared in the 1970s. Volkswagen points out the sedan's "muscular shoulder line," noting that the CC aims to "blend sports car dynamics with sedan comfort."
Four versions are offered: Sport, Luxury, VR6 Sport, and VR6 4Motion (with Volkswagen's all-wheel-drive system rather than front-drive). A large panoramic sunroof is standard on all but the Sport model. CC sedans ride on 17- or 18-inch multi-spoke wheels.
Sport and Luxury models hold a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with dual overhead camshafts, producing 200 horsepower at 5100 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque at 1800 to 5000 rpm. Sport models have a standard six-speed manual gearbox; Luxury sedans have a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic gear changes (which is optional on the Sport sedan). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives the four-cylinder CC a fuel-economy estimate of 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway with manual shift, and 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway with automatic.
VR6 Sport and VR6 4Motion models contain a 3.6-liter, 24-valve dual-overhead-cam, narrow-angle V-6 engine, developing 280 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 265 pound-feet of torque at 2750 rpm. Both VR6 models come only with a six-speed automatic transmission, earning an EPA estimate of 18 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway. Volkswagen claims 0-60 mph acceleration in an estimated 6.6 seconds for VR6 models.
Volkswagen accurately advises that the CC's "ergonomically formed sport seats" let the occupants sit low, but comfortably. Split-folding rear seats are separated by a roll-top, fold-down center console. A new optional navigation system includes a Media Device Interface (MDI) and a 32-gigabyte hard disk. Rear parking assistance displays rearview camera images. Brushed aluminum trim highlights Luxury models and both VR6 sedans. Sport sedans include V-tex leatherette seating surfaces, whereas other models feature leather-skinned sport seats.
All CC sedans have a specially-tuned sport suspension, along with an Electronic Stability Program, antilock braking, Anti-Slip Regulation, and Yaw Control. Also standard: Brake Assist and Electronic Differential Locking. Six airbags are standard, and rear-seat side/thorax airbags are a $350 option. Bi-xenon headlamps with an Adaptive Forward Lighting System are standard with V-6 models.
A superlative road car, the CC VR6 deserves high praise for being roomy, substantial, solid, well-balanced, and capable. All-wheel drive is not noticed most of the time, but performs yeoman service on slick roads, adding a welcome dose of confidence to winter driving. Abundant acceleration appears when you need it most: to pass and merge.
While yielding a satisfying ride nearly all the time, the CC does respond to some road obstacles with less-than-perfect reactions. Hard bumps can transmit a fair amount of ruckus to occupants.
Markedly more agile than its size suggests, the CC exhibited expertise when quick maneuvers were called for on icy pavement. With 4Motion, in fact, the CC VR6 breezed through tough stretches of ice and snow.
Though quiet overall, you can hear the all-wheel-drive powertrain more than in most cars. Instead of annoying, though, it's rather reassuring to observe the automatic-transmission shifts. Occasional strong tire sounds occur, on certain pavement surfaces.
In addition to an especially attractive interior, the CC features highly readable gauges - though they can be dim in some lighting conditions. A few controls don't work quite as expected, or are hard to access. No visibility issues are evident. The navigation system's screen is excellent, if mounted a bit low. The deep, square trunk isn't as wide as some, but holds plenty.
Motorists who lean toward long trips and need to carry no more than three passengers can hardly do better than a CC with the VR6 engine, if they value precision handling, confident performance, and a profile that sends the viewer's eye slowly across the full length of the vehicle. Adding VW's 4Motion system is a wise move for buyers in the snowbelt, as the fully-equipped CC behaves with impressive stability and control on snow- and ice-covered pavement. At close to $40,000, that version is hardly bargain-priced; but at least you get a lot of car for the money.
Prices begin at $26,790 (plus a $690 destination charge) for a four-cylinder Sport sedan with the manual transmission. Topping the lineup, the VR6 4Motion sedan stickers for $39,300 (plus the destination charge). A Technology Package that includes the Media Device Interface adds $2,640 to the cost of a VR6 sedan.
Note: Please check again soon for our winter-terror report, as a test Volkswagen CC reacts masterfully to evade assaults from vehices skidding toward it on an icy Interstate.
Attention Editors: The complete 2009 Volkswagen CC review is available now for your publication. Please contact us at JF@tirekick.com for details.