Speed:Sport:Life Quick Test – Volkswagen CC 3.6 FSI Sport

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Story by Carl Modesette Photos courtesy Volkswagen of America The arrival of Volkswagen's new CC created quite a storm here at Speed:Sport:Life. Naturally, we all wanted to drive it... but in the end it was the biggest and toughest S:S:L contributor, our full-sized Associate Editor Carl Modesette, who wrestled the keys away from Zerin and ran off on a long road trip. His thoughts on this boutique coupe-sedan are below. Enjoy! - JB We put 617.3 miles on the CC VR6 Sport over the course of our 3-day trip to the Austin/San Marcos area, averaging 24.1 mpg at an average speed of 47 mph, according to the trip computer. Certainly not bad overall, considering the 18/27 mpg ratings on the sticker, with a 21 mpg combined figure. No matter how you figure it, the cavernous 17+ gallon tank will allow at least 300, if not 400+ miles before refueling is required; meaning that your frequency of pit stops will be driven entirely by the volume of your own bladder. On the highway, the CC cruises smoothly and effortlessly at 80-90 mph; you really do need to be attentive to the speedometer to avoid the speed tax from Johnny Law. Since we at SSL tend to adhere to the “when driving German cars, drive like the Germans do” mentality, we certainly spared no throttle angle on this trip – but we think it wouldn’t be tough to achieve the quoted 27 mpg highway figure with a more lawful pace. The long stretches of interstate were made ever so much more pleasurable by the Dynaudio premium sound system rocking uninterrupted Sirius programming – this is, quite possibly, one of the best factory-installed sound systems I’ve ever experienced. These days, we’ve probably all either owned or experienced name-branded factory “systems” from Bose, Infinity, or Fosgate, but the problem is that they rarely actually deliver a true “premium” level of sound – this time, however, the Dynaudio system actually lived up to its name. If you get a bit overzealous with the “bass” settings, you can make the woofers bog down and clip, but if you dial the settings back to nominal (read: adult) levels, you can get happy with the volume at will.
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Being an ex-Audi owner, as well as a VW-Audi enthusiast, I find that it’s typically easy to differentiate between the two marques: the Vee-Dubs are typically always less-refined and cheaper-feeling than their platform-sharing four-ringed brethren. However, after more than 600 miles in the CC, I was having a tough time remembering that it actually was a mere Volkswagen. In fact, the only real give-away I noticed was the wimpy “hernt” honk sound emitted when pressing the “lock” button on the keyfob remote. In nearly every way, the CC felt like my old Audi A4 – the dash illumination even matches the red-and-white pattern traditionally found in Audi interiors. That left me wondering a bit about the purpose of the CC… is this a second attempt to move VW up-market after the epic fail that was the Phaeton? Sorry Jack! (Apology not accepted - JB) It’s hard not to miss the me-too Mercedes CLS exterior styling as well as the lack of any definitive badging aside from the VW logos on the grille and trunk. Whatever the case, the CC is certainly a great(er) way to accomplish the “mooovin’ on uu-up” strategy, if that is indeed the intent. Now, this is the part where I like to address those things I didn’t like about the car. Take the following for what it’s worth to you, because let’s face it: all cars produced these days (with few exceptions) are good cars, however few, if any, are perfect cars. My wife would just dismiss me as being pessimistic, but I feel it’s my duty to bring these things to light for the benefit of our readership.
  • The low roofline, which looks fantastic in profile, makes ingress and egress a bit cumbersome for people of my 6’2” stature – certainly not nearly as difficult as a Viper GTS Coupe, but definitely more difficult than a typical sedan. The upside is that there aren’t more drawbacks, to be quite honest. I fully expected forward and side visibility to be encumbered, but found that they weren’t at all – I’m rather accustomed to tilting my head sideways to see traffic lights while stopped at intersections in cars like this – but this wasn’t even necessary in the CC. Rear visibility was the only thing lacking, but with the help of the optional rear view camera, it became a non-issue.
  • The lower side bolsters on the quite Ferrari-esque seats tend to get intimate with one’s nether regions on egress – following on my aforementioned comments. Every time I got out of the car, I almost felt like I should turn my head and cough. Perhaps I just needed more time to perfect my exit strategy, but I’d have a hard time giving up those gorgeous (and comfy) seats.
  • The typically German armrest cover has a series of detents built into the hinge mechanism as you raise the lid, in order to provide alternate heights for the center armrest. While brilliant in design, our tester emitted a rather odd creaking/clunking noise under operation, which really detracted from the otherwise solid form/fit/function of the remainder of the interior.
  • Under hard acceleration, such as when passing folks who’ve never even heard of the Autobahn, the CC’s 280 hp / 265 lbs-ft make for a bit of white-knuckling torque steer. Since I’m not going to suggest that the car needs less power, I suppose the take-home message here is to ensure the car is pointed where you want before dropping the hammer, and also to keep both hands on the wheel.
  • The most troubling aspect of the CC was the 6-speed tiptronic transmission. In some situations, the tranny’s brain couldn’t seem to decide on a gear, and in heavy-traffic crawling, there was always a tangible “thunk” when re-applying throttle. I’m almost willing to give VW the benefit of the doubt on this one, because our CC could well have been a pre-production or early-production model, or our particular car may have seen some hard knocks in its short, 3,000 mile lifetime in the hands of would-be journalists.
Given all of those quibbles, the CC was an absolute pleasure. It looks great inside and out, it’s very practically spacious and comfortable, it’s powerful, it handles great for its class, it gets very reasonable mileage for the power it makes, it’s very feature-laden, and with a price as-tested of $41,215, it won’t break the bank like a Merc CLS would. The last comment is the most appropriate, because it speaks to the very segment the CC is aimed toward – those people who want more style and exclusivity than a typical Passat, but without the price tag of a Benz. To that end, the CC is a slam-dunk.
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Carl Modesette

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  • Not unlike the Phaeton, there’s no disputing VW’s made a great car here. Even a great bargain for what’s offered.

    The question remains: will people buy an upscale VW? Will enough people pay “Audi money” for a VW, or will they lease an A4?

  • Mad_Science: totally agreed that both the CC and Phaeton are great cars. when i said that the Phaeton was an “epic fail,” i should have clarified that i meant in terms of bringing VW upmarket, which was the intent. As to your remaining question, the CC does a much better job of easing into it rather than jumping several rungs at once. i didn’t mention that our CC stickered for 41K and change, from a base price of 39K. That’s getting close to “Audi money,” but not quite. Price out a similar A4 and see how high the sticker climbs. The CC really is a value, in terms of what you get.

    And B, i’d agree, i think Jack ought to buy one, and then promptly take it to the track for more Avoidable Contact fodder.

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