There was a time when “Passat” was German for “budget-Audi.” Even though the A4 and Passat parted ways in 2005, the Passat’s interior and price tag were more premium than mid-market shoppers were looking for. To hit VW’s North American yearly sales goal of 800,o000, the European Passat (B6) was replaced with a model designed specifically for American tastes. This means a lower price tag, less “premium” interior, and larger dimensions. If your heart pines for a “real” Passat, look no further than the 2013 Volkswagen CC. If it looks familiar, it should. The CC is none other than the
artist car formerly known as Prince Passat CC with a nose job. VW advertises the CC as “the most affordable four-door coupé” in the US. All you need to know is: Euro lovers, this is your Passat.
The CC follows the four-door coupé formula pioneered by Mercedes: lower the roof, remove the window sashes and raise the price. Even though “coupé” means two doors and the CC has a pair too many, the silhouette is undeniably elegant. For 2013 the CC’s front was replaced with a more aggressive three-bar chrome schnoz and standard HID headlamps. Out back are new tail lamps that incorporate “CC” shapes into the LED clusters. Unlike many mid-cycle refreshes, the rhinoplasty actually jives with the rest of the car.
Our European cousins see the CC as a styling exercise between the Passat and the Phaeton in both price and size. However, the Phaeton is extinct in America turning the CC into VW flagship sedan on our shores. This presents a problem that doesn’t exist in Europe: our Passat is larger, and being sold to an audience that equates size with status. As a result you wouldn’t automatically assume the CC is $10,000 more expensive, (especially if you equate size with value) until you get inside.
Camcord clientèle value expansive, not expensive cabins. The CC on the other hand plays further up the food chain. In this light, the CC’s “Euro Passat” squishy dash bits are right at home. Our base-model tester had leatherette seats, faux-aluminum trim and a black-on-black-on-black color scheme. A quick trip to the local dealer proved the no-cost ivory/black and ivory/brown combinations look 10 times better in person than the all-black theme. If you’ve been frightened away by the pleather on less expensive VWs, the CC’s faux-cow is a different “animal” and was surprisingly convincing.
Because VW is on a mission to streamline their inventory, your interior “goodie quotient” is tied to your trim level and engine choice. This means there are but five different configurations (excluding interior and exterior color choices): Sport, Sport Plus, Lux, V6 Lux and VR6 Executive. (No, that’s not a typo it is “V6” and “VR6” for some reason.) The $30,610 Sport model starts with dual-zone climate control and standard 12-way power seats. Sport Plus ($32,850) adds a nav system, DSG transmission and some 18-inch wheels, Lux ($35,335) piles on a sunroof, ambient lighting and real aluminum trim. Jumping up to the V6 Lux($37,730) gets the shopper real-cow, a backup cam, memory seats and a bigger nav screen. The top-of-the-line VR6 Executive ($41,420) tacks on AWD, parking sensors, a power rear sunshade and front seats that heat, cool and massage. With the CC there are no options per se, just dealer sold accessories.
The front thrones are comfortable for long trips and were easily adjusted for my average frame but with the sexy roof-line comes limited headroom. If you’re a taller passenger and prefer your seats and tray tables in the upright and locked position, you may need to look elsewhere. The rear seats present more of a headroom challenge coupled with ingress and egress limited by the sloped door openings. While a center rear seat is now standard, (bringing the capacity up to 5) it was apparently designed for Lilliputians as I was unable to sit in it without cocking my head to the side.
VW’s infotainment systems have been behind the curve for the near luxury market and the CC is no exception. The standard five-inch touchscreen system is a basic unit with a CD player, AM/FM/HD/Sirius radio and iDevice integration. Strangely absent from all models is a USB plug for non-Apple devices. Bluetooth audio streaming (and speakerphone) is standard and works very well however. As with most entries in this segment, you cannot voice-command your iDevice, if you want that, look to Lincoln’s SYNC. If you want snazzy graphics, look to BMW.
Sport Plus and Lux models get VW’s low-end navigation system which uses the same 5-inch LCD as the base model. The screen is low resolution and the processor is slow, but it gets the job done. Eventually. How low is the resolution? 400 x 200 pixels, or about the same as a cheap computer from 1981.
Six-cylinder CC models come standard with VW’s snappier (and snazzier) 6.5-inch navigation system. In addition to improved navigation features, this unit adds 25GB of music storage. Stepping up to the “Executive” CC buys you a color LCD between the speedo and tach, and a 600-watt, 10-speaker Dynaudio system. Sound quality on the base speakers is very good for this segment and the Dynaudio system is excellent with well-balanced audio and volume levels loud enough to satisfy most customers.
Not being related to the US Passat has advantages, the 2.5L inline-5 was left in Chattanooga. Instead, the CC uses VW’s 200HP/207lb-ft 2.0L turbo four cylinder, an improvement of 30HP and 30lb-ft over the 2.5L. While a 15% power bump may not sound like much, the 2.0L’s flat torque curve and choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG (instead of the Passat’s slushbox) allow the CC to scoot to 60 a whopping 2.7 seconds faster (6.2 vs 8.9). Over 625 miles with the manual CC, we averaged 28.6 MPG despite the EPA ratings of 21 city / 31 highway. We were unable to test a CC with the DSG for any length of time but the EPA claims it will drop your numbers to 19/29 MPG.
As you would assume, the V6 Lux and VR6 4MOTION Executive CCs get VW’s 3.6L VR6 engine. If you’re not familiar with VW’s VR engines, they are a hybrid crossing a traditional “V” engine with a single head like an inline engine. The result is an engine that’s longer than a V6 but shorter than an I6 and uses only two cams total. This 10.6-degree “V” engine is good for 280HP and 265lb-ft of torque. For reasons only VW can explain, the only transmission is an Aisin 6-speed aut0 with or without a Haldex based all-wheel-drive system.
The extra 80HP and 58lb-ft of twist come at the expense of 261lbs in extra mass, all of which is in the nose. Adding AWD increases the weight penalty by another 226lbs so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the AWD CC is not much faster to 60 than the 2.0T. As you would assume, fuel economy drops to 18/27 MPG for the FWD VR6 and 17/25 MPG for the AWD VR6.
The CC’s electric power steering, VW’s typical rubbery shifter feel and soft springs combine to make the CC feel like a large, comfy highway cruiser. On the other hand, the 235-width rubber, light 3,400lb curb weight and German DNA do an admirable job of making the CC 2.0T stable and surprisingly grippy in the bends. If you care more about feel than outright power, the 2.0T is an excellent package due as much to the lighter front end as the well-matched ratios in the manual transmission. Start sea-sawing the wheel and the soft suspension if obvious, but in normal to moderately aggressive driving, the 2.0T will make you grin more often than the VR6
Compared to the Buick GS, the turbo CC is noticeably down on power but feels far more refined without loosing much in the “balls-out handling” category. The VR6 FWD CC on the other hand feels far more likely to plow into the underbrush when it encounters a corner thanks to that extra weight up front. The experience is the same in a V6 Avalon or MKZ. While you can opt for 4MOTION to tame some of the FWD handling tendencies, it adds even more weight without any increase in the car’s contact patches. Many CC shoppers will be former Passat owners or shoppers brought in by the Passat’s lower starting price and increased showroom traffic. These shoppers will find a car that feels practically glued to the road compared to the Passat sitting next to it, despite the strong family resemblance.
Our Facebook fans wanted to know how the CC stacks up against the Audi A7. Since I can’t imagine too many shoppers actually cross-shopping these two I will keep this short. The CC’s main selling point is the $20,000 lower cost of entry. Yes the A7 has more oomph from a supercharged V6, two extra speeds in its gearbox, a longer warranty and a snazzier interior. The A7’s hatchback design was very handy for carrying large cargo last time we had it, but aside from the trunk the A7 is honestly no more comfortable inside than the CC.
The Passat CC used to make me scratch my head. Why would I want a Passat with less room, fewer seats and a steeper price tag? There just didn’t seem to be a good reason. By taking the America Passat in a different direction, VW seems to have solved both the Passat’s sales problem and give the CC a reason to exist.
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VW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.
Specifications as tested:
0-30: 2.3 Seconds
0-60: 6.2 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.9 Seconds @ 94 MPH
Average fuel economy: 28.6 over 625 miles