By on May 24, 2012

I can’t believe every automaker and their dog needs an entry-level luxury car, but some folks pull it off better than others. Case in point, this VW CC versus a Hyundai Azera or the (current) Lincoln MKZ.  Which makes me wonder what designers say in the studio when trying to make such an upscale motor from a rather dowdy platform mate in the corporate stable.

I suspect a fair bit of cursing, especially for the poor souls tasked with the aforementioned Lincoln. And while badge engineering is a vital (yet terrifying) part of the game, me thinks the designers at VW had more leverage, more money and way more fun making this ride. Because the roof proves it.


A good car schnoz needs some sort of thrust.  Perhaps it is the swept back thrust of any car with a long hood and curvy fenders. Or maybe the pointy forward action of many sedans: to visually reduce the extra frontal area of modern machines. The CC goes forward nicely, as the upper grille and lower fog light trim point to vanishing points beyond the bumper. The bumper, fenders and headlights follow suit…quite logically.


Yup, that’s pretty pointy. The CC’s rather toothy grin is sinister from this shot. The headlight design adds more complexity to the curves, so let’s dig deeper.


There’s a dazzling array of LED, HID and conventional lighting presented here. Each element demands a unique look to perform to their engineering specs, and I like how they all blended into an assembly that is cohesive, forward thrusting and very eye-catching.


And from the top, where most of us see them, these lights have a much cleaner look.  It’s very German. Even better, it still conveys the forward thrust of the entire front fascia.


Damn camera phone.  Washed out or no, you see how the forward thrust of the front end (witnessed by the profile of the headlights) turns into sweeping lines. Some go up (beltline and DLO daylight opening) and others go down (roof, decklid). The whole package is fluid. Most importantly, the CC doesn’t look as tall as a CUV: say that three times fast!

Combined with modest chrome trimmings and the requisite large hoops, the CC projects an upscale demeanor, as a downmarket Mercedes CLS.  Well duh, you already knew that!


No black plastic triangles!  Thank goodness for German engineering and design harmony.  My only beef is the massive A-pillar, thanks to the low cutline.  The CC would flow better if that line started at the base of the windshield and gently/naturally landed at the base of the DLO.  Some designers make it work by the pure talent in their hand/wrist muscles…others use a curve template not unlike the plastic thingies in a Spirograph game. Either way works.


This B-pillar is just way too thick.  I’m sure there’s a good reason why, but it takes away from the package…in terms of styling.  Too bad about that.


Another DLO that avoids black plastic triangles!  Some design team obviously had a lot of money and plenty of time to make a unique roofline!  The curves are just about perfect: when you frame any “four door coupé” in this manner, things get downright beautiful.  Which makes me lust for the renaissance of coupes a little less…NOT!


Do you feel the thrusting lines speeding to the CC’s hind quarters? Also note the subtle tension between the hard bends in the sheetmetal…dare I proclaim this as a coke bottle figure? I probably dare not.


My big letdown from the side: these static and dowdy door handles.  I wish they had more up-down or left-right flow, combined with negative area (where your fingers go) that looked less like a cartoonish smile.  A good benchmark for my opinion lies in the Mercedes CLS and the last two generations of E-class. VW obviously spent a ton of cash on the roof, too bad they couldn’t make a business case for complementary portal openers.

Then again, look at that photographer dude’s massive forehead.  WTF does he know about looking cool or anything else?


Combine the coupé roof line with a touch of tumblehome and the hard crease above the door handle and this is most certainly a nice bit of Sedan Porn. At such a reasonable price…compared to an Aston Martin Rapide!  I even like the symmetric integration of the fuel filler door into the equation.


The facelifted taillights really make the CC shine.  I never cared for the static circles/ovoids of the last model, they detracted from the package. The new lenses sport complementary shapes and a linear theme that adds a dash of excitement to the posterior.  Kinda like going to a churrascaria instead of an ordinary steak house when you need a good slab of beef. Kinda sorta.


Not a big fan of the black trim below the rear glass.  While I understand that solid glass is pointless and costly on a roofline this fast, perhaps instead the trunk needs to extend to cover this gap? This just looks…well, cheap.



Note how (most of) the lines inside the light visually extend to a vanishing point somewhere in the middle of the trunk.  It’s a nice extension of the theme created by the headlights.  Again, a wonderful improvement over the original CC.


Much like the hide-away trunk locks of yesteryear, I encourage hiding stuff under an emblem. And this VW door/rear camera holder/whatever else is pretty frickin’ awesome. Some ideas never go out of style! Or at least they never should.


Here’s a cost cutting concession I do admire.  Instead of one hunk of chrome, this three-piece wraparound unit ensures you never replace a large trim item because of accident damage to the bumper’s rounded corners. I’m sure insurance companies also approve.


This is my biggest problem with the CC, as it’s cheap and easy to avoid. Why is the VW emblem so large that it demands a hood relief?  Plus, it’s sticking forward and generally not minding its own business.  Car badges are stalking sheet metal like your ex does all over Facebook.  I long for the day when badge engineering (literally, that is) takes a page from the “Less is More” school of thought.

The CC is quite a lovely and classy machine for the somewhat average car buyer, so why did VW give it a gigantic wart in the shape of their corporate logo?

Thanks for reading, have a great week.



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57 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2013 Volkswagen CC...”

  • avatar

    These cellphone pics are salvagable, try running them through post processing software with the following unsharp mask settings:
    – Wide area (30-40 pixels)
    – Weak strength (3-4%)

    The CC is certainly a nice design. My nit is that the grill seems a tab to big for the nose in pictures, but it doesn’t look that way in real life.

    • 0 avatar

      Though I enjoy this series quite a lot, I must say that the cell phone pictures and (sorry) weak photography detract from the otherwise excellent critique.
      Perhaps treat yourself to a DSLR or even a P&S. For a column about design, quality photographs should be a given.

    • 0 avatar

      I will try my hand at post processing in that manner, I downloaded Gimp recently and found it to be easy to learn and, well, free.

      zamoti: you are 100% right, but unfortunately the demands of my non-TTAC job mean I can’t lug around a camera. And even though I don’t like to admit it, I like the camera phone photos because they don’t oversell my quick and dirty design analysis.

      • 0 avatar

        I would hardly call these columns a “quick and dirty design analysis”. Don’t be so humble!
        It’s a great column that’s unique and offers a layperson such as myself an interesting perspective into design that I hadn’t even considered.

        That said, get a better camera and try not to photograph youself in the reflections!

        Keep up the great work!

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you…but they are quick and dirty! I want to spew out my gut feelings after walking around something: I spend 5-10 minutes examining a car, maybe 1-2 hours getting my thoughts/photos in a publishable(?) format in WordPress.

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure which smartphone you are using, but I have found the iPhone 4S’s 8MP camera to be quite excellent when held steadily enough and paired with the brilliant app camera+. The app adds some great editing features to bring out certain colors, fix glares and white balance, etc. on the fly and quickly. Plus using the iPhone’s volume up button as a shutter release can be a godsend.

      • 0 avatar

        HTC EVO 3D. Maybe I should run all the photos thru Instagram. Kidding! Kidding!!!

    • 0 avatar

      It may be even simpler than that.

      I took the washed out side view and just hit it with autocorrect in MS Picture Manager. It’s still not great, but it does look a lot better. (If you have a copy of Office 2001, it has a superior photo editor.) Simply turning down the gamma will do a lot to fix washed out photos.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you. MS Picture Manager might be my new best friend!

      • 0 avatar

        This was three steps. The If you run your pictures through a post processor like GIMP or PS, you’ll see that the histogram isn’t completely filled out, there’s a big space at the left (black) end. That’s the washed out look that you are seeing. For web viewing, even a modern cell camera can work with some modest tweaks

        1.) Levels – Either use “Auto” or drag the pointers up to the end of the histogram. This will immediately bump the contrast and fill in the colours

        2.) USM – Like I mentioned, wide area, small strength. This creates extra ‘micro-contrast’ which clears up the haze and deepens the colour

        3.) USM – Moderate strength, small area. Sharpens up the edges×314.jpg

  • avatar

    One glaring mistake: In the first two sentences you (1)used the phrase ‘luxury car’ and (2)you mentioned ‘Hyundai Azera’ as if there was some sort of connection. Shame on you…

    Lincoln still has, at least in my little mind, some credulity in the luxury car arena. A Hyundai? NEVER! I’m old, remember?

    This VW is very nice, and what you point out regarding the obnoxiously large badge in front is spot-on – these logos are getting out of hand, and I believe M-B was the first with that HUGE tri-star in the middle of the grille (which I like, BTW), but most recently, Toyota has been the chief offender with their eagle-beak logo in front. At least the VW looks better to me and kind of works with the design.

    At least I don’t have one of those awful windshield decals either spelling out I-M-P-A-L-A across the top or the emblem itself!

    Man, do I love chrome door handles…

    • 0 avatar

      Funny how you don’t remember the VW Fox, Dasher, 411 + 412, Westmoreland Rabbits and the enumerable VWs still on the road with only 1 headlight working.

      • 0 avatar

        Sure I do – I see them almost every day! So true…

        In my post, I wrote “credulity” I think I meant “credibility”.

      • 0 avatar
        schmitt trigger

        I’m also old enough to have owned two beetles and a rabbit. And therefore fully appreciate the substantial improvement that VW has had in the past decade and a half.

        By the same token, Hyundai is also vastly improving. My wife drives a Hyundai Veracruz, and the quality and performance are also a substantial improvement from earlier Hyundais.

        Have to give credit to the Koreans. They work very, very hard. Many korean companies from electronics to shipbuilding to cars, are actually beating the japanese.

    • 0 avatar

      «these logos are getting out of hand»

      Disagree. VW has long been proud of its logo and put it large-scale where it may fit. Remember the pizza-sized one in the VW Microbus, etc?

      Although the heads of design have changed during the intervening decade, this CC contains much of the vocabulary of the Phaeton, including the hidden action trunk logo, large tumblehome above the rear quarters, swept-back thrust of the nose treatment including headlight lines, and rear lights sloping towards the middle of the trunk.

      I must say, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I saw the new CC; I had thought VW had abandoned the early naughts’ Phaeton/Touareg design gestalt… but here it was, born again.

    • 0 avatar

      Genesis. End of story, Zackman.

      • 0 avatar

        Genesis. Okay, I’ll give you that.

        I’m not a luxury-car guy, so I suppose I shouldn’t say anything about cars like this, as I drive a base-model Impala. Thing is, power seat, PS, PB, auto, A/C, tilt, cruise and a nice stereo is what I consider luxury and everything above and beyond that such as nav, leather, a car that drives itself and such other gadgets are simply lost on me and I see no value in paying for, let alone owning a car with all that stuff – at least not yet, as I learned a long, long time ago to never say “never”!

        I consider myself duly chastised and wet-noodle-beaten…

    • 0 avatar


      I half-agree with your first comment, although I’m not sure how to take the tone of it. ;)

      The truth is, the full-sized car market is pretty much all entry level luxury these days, and when comparing the usual contenders for my up-coming full-sized car purchase (the realization that I could get a really well equipped full-sized car for the same price as a less refined mid-sized cross-over made me change my mine on an LTZ Equinox, I was going to replace my 2012 Focus for the leg-room) I literally stumbled across the Azera about a week ago.

      When I say usual contenders, I’m talking Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300 (sort of a mis-fit of the group, I admit) and randomly this new Azera. If you can show me a car with this leg-room that offers heated front and rear leather seats, nav, back-up camera and proximity entry for a tad under $33k on the lot, please, let me know. When I looked at the Taurus, I’d have to jump to I think the SES (maybe it was Limited? I forget) model for $33k and it was missing a back-up camera, nav, heated rear seats and I think proximity entry. A Chrysler 300 Limited started about the same $33k, but finding one with the modestly-priced $800 nav package by itself without winding up with a $40k+ car has proven impossible. The Maxima starts at about where the rest of these top out, and while it’s a gorgeous car it’s admittedly a bit more sporty than what I’m going for (I need comfort, really) and a LaCrosse is just asking too much for the feature-set GM has given it.

      So unless I find a different car that has the features the Azera does between now and Tuesday, I’m buying an Azera. This is coming from the recent owner of a lemon Kia Forte who pretty much threw out Korean as a possibility for the rest of my life, and isn’t the biggest fan of the SOnata’s styling, by the way. ;)

  • avatar

    The big issue I have with this type of design is this: the way the lines sweep up towards the rear implies speed and motion, but it has the negative effect of leaving a lot of body work above the rear wheel – making it look about an inch smaller than the front wheel.

    Flatten out the lines and the car looks less aggressive, but the wheels also look in proper balance. The worst case scenario for this problem is the Lexus IS350C. The rear wheels on that look about 3″ smaller than the fronts, as if the car is meant to be picked up by the nose and dragged like a piece of luggage. It looks AWFUL when compared to sleek looking convertibles like the Audi A5.

    I also just can’t get used to those gunslit windows.

    • 0 avatar

      “negative effect of leaving a lot of body work above the rear wheel – making it look about an inch smaller than the front wheel.”

      1 million percent true. That said, the CC is better about it than cars like the Taurus, CTS coupe, etc.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree. We have a 2009 CC Luxury 2.0T and I sometimes get that notion about wheel size relative to the sheet metal distance between wheel arch and window sill. Aside: 2009 CCs had only a hood badge, and no other trim or drivetrain badges. At least ours didn’t have any, but we bought it as a 6 month old dealer demo with 3.5k miles.

        I believe a worse offender (probably not the worst but glaring nonetheless) is my 2004 BMW 330CiC. It is so oddly dainty from certain angles, esp. in the front where it looks like the 2002 simply melted over it’s front axle. The rear, with perhaps twice the afore-referenced sheetmetal height above the rear wheel arch, makes the rear wheel look like a donut spare. /end rant

  • avatar

    Unlike some, I am fond of the more conservative styling of the newer VW front ends. I was never fond of the giant chrome Baron von Underbite look of the previous generation.

    That being said, I do not like the CC at all. The rear and rear 3/4 visibility, like most of these 4 door ‘coupes’ is abysmal. The back seat headroom is abysmal. Did you stop to open the doors on the car? they are frameless, and when you pull the handle, the windows drop about 1/4″ so they can come out past the seals.

    This is a complex electonic feature.
    It’s needed to even OPEN THE FRONT DOOR.
    and it’s on a volkswagen.
    If this doesn’t send people running, then I don’t know what will.

    I don’t mean to belittle the article. Vellum Venom is my new favorite series on TTAC, but I have to offer that the pure design style can’t exist in a vacuum and has to take a back seat to functionality, or you end up with front seats you can’t get into becuase the damn doors won’t open. I’d like ot see Sajeev offer a few more nods to the funcitonal compromises that the designers had to make.

    • 0 avatar

      “style can’t exist in a vacuum and has to take a back seat to functionality”

      I have a friend who just had his third kid and bought a Honda Odyssey. He was amazed at how practical and functional it is.

      I have another friend who, to celebrate his retirement, bought himself a CL550. Why? To celebrate the fact that after a lifetime of practical functionality he could now go crazy with something fun.

      I many cases the impracticality is the entire point.

    • 0 avatar

      But here’s the thing: pure design lives in a vacuum on a regular basis. Maybe not always in a vacuum, but that’s kinda how it goes. While I understand your concern, I can’t address it because I don’t grab the keys to these cars. If I do, they become a full on review, not part of the VV series.

      One thing: window dropping is everywhere these days, even Ford Mustangs. This shouldn’t send anyone running for the hills, unless you fear the body control module/computer and the power window motor. They are already in many (every?) cars might as well have them control a window motor too.

    • 0 avatar

      “This is a complex electonic feature.
      It’s needed to even OPEN THE FRONT DOOR.
      and it’s on a volkswagen.”

      Well played, good sir – well played.

  • avatar

    Sajeev or B&B, correct me if I am wrong here, but that black plastic panel below the rear windows… isn’t that a pop-up spoiler ala Porsche/VW Beetle/VW Corrado? I thought I saw that deployed on a CC that was on the road over the weekend. For the record, this facelift is OK, but those LED running lights on EVERY car now are already passé in my eyes…

  • avatar

    Sajeev, I’m liking your column. I’ve gone back and read a number of your other postings. I’m happy to apologize for thinking you were only focusing on one manufacturer at a time. I can see that isn’t so.

    And with enough reading I will at least learn a little bit about understanding the outside design of a vehicle.

    2 questions, do you look at interior design of vehicles?

    and do you choose your personal vehicle based on it’s design or more in terms of practicality?

    I like the CC I think the vehicle has a very good presence on the road. Not sure though that I think it’s worth the money to buy one.

    And I also agree that branding emblems that wouldn’t look out of place on the front of a Mack Truck need to go. They are just too big, we get it.. it’s a VW/MB/whatever.. I don’t need to have to be able to read it from the next county do I?

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you very much, I appreciate that.

      Question 1: that’s not a priority, at least for now. Its just easier to walk around something with a cameraphone, and imagine how it was rendered on a sheet of Vellum. That’s all I can offer right now, as I am not a full time writer.

      Question 2: Usually on design, but after buying a Ford Ranger for daily commuting…well, now I fully understand how a practical design can be quite beautiful.

  • avatar

    Does this VW have the spray on texture on most of the interior parts? You know, the kind that scratches off with the lightest touch? Why try to hide hard plastic with such a fragile product? The plastic underneath would hold up fine on it’s own, even though it is not textured.

    • 0 avatar

      From what little I’ve sampled in the past 1-3 years, VW and most automakers are moving away from that, thank goodness.

      Piston Slap moment: that stuff is actually a vinyl coating, and my Mark VIII looks rather shabby these days for the same reason. It holds up pretty well, provided you don’t have lotion on your hands or armor-all in your car care arsenal.

  • avatar

    I like this car a lot. It is one of the few cars that has struck me when I first saw it in person.

    The CC seems to subscribe to the long & low look rather than the dumpy 1930s & ’40s proportions that most sedans and CUVs seem to be converging on. It may just be a clever disguising of those proportions but that’s probably one reason it appeals to me.

    I agree about the giant VW emblem though. A more discreet badge would be more in line with the overall look of the car.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Good looking car no doubt. The roof line does limit head room in the back seat but I’ll always take style at the expense of functionality. Especially in a car like this.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven Jettas since 98 and I got to say that I don’t like the new corporate beak

  • avatar

    beautiful car, great one to cover for this series. To my eye this is the best VW, and one of the best looking cars on the market.

  • avatar

    this is, i believe, the 2013 vw cc.

    love the series even if i dont understand all of the nuances taught at styling schools. still cannot figure out what “DLO” is, although that might not be styling speak but rather me being slow.

    anyway i agree with the earlier post that considering the subject matter you HAVE to get a better camera.

    • 0 avatar

      DLO=DayLight Opening. I believe it stands in for outward visibility from inside the car, but there’s also the cryptic DOT definition (“For openings on the side of the vehicle, other than a door opening, the locus of all points where a horizontal line, perpendicular to the vehicle longitudinal centerline, is tangent to the periphery of the opening.”)

    • 0 avatar

      I am 99% sure this is a 2012, but honestly, its been 2 months since I walked around this car and I didn’t photograph the window sticker.

      After getting chastised for not doing it, I added the hyperlink to explain DLO this time…and you didn’t click on it? You’re killin me! :)

      Like I said in the reply, I’m not getting a better camera. Quick and dirty design analysis from a part time writer is all I can offer right now. Sorry.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    I own a 2010 CC 3.6 with 4motion. For an affordable mass market machine it is very interesting. Looks great, drives great and a tank in the snow to boot. Can’t say I like the nose of the new design – too much grill, but I like the new tailights. Also, I’m not a fan of how low to the ground it drives and with highways congested with crossovers and SUVs, I’m always staring at a wall when commuting. If I had to go down to one car, I’d choose my 2011 4Runner. I do like the higher driving position and the better visibility that goes along with it. The VW is just too low and it’s perplexing how well it handles inches of snow on the ground.

  • avatar

    Fantastic, as usual.

    I CANNOT wait until you get your hands on a new MkZ! MkVIII DNA, son!

  • avatar

    I think this car is absolutely beautiful. What’s it sell for? I’m not in the market right now….just wondering how much of a hit you take on depreciation right off the bat.

    Maybe I’ll buy a 2 year old one in two years.

    Or maybe not….it’s almost like the Germans have reinvented 1950’s British electrical engineering.

  • avatar

    Churrascaria…Now I’m hungry!

    Agree on all points Sajeev. Big emblems, yuck! Rear circular brake light, yikes! I always though thise little red balls horrid.

    CC, well it’s nice enough for a VW. Professional, and as you point out, expensive design. But very conservative. To a fault. To the point of boring, but that’s what the buyers of such things expect, I guess

  • avatar

    “Much like the hide-away trunk locks of yesteryear, I encourage hiding stuff under an emblem. And this VW door/rear camera holder/whatever else is pretty frickin’ awesome. Some ideas never go out of style! Or at least they never should.”

    That, and the gas filler behind the license plate. Don’t sit there like a schmuck behind 40 cars waiting for the left-hand side fill at the pumps, while the right side is none-deep. Don’t be a schmuck, take your pick!

    I know, I know, rear collisions…

    • 0 avatar

      I hated them, the spring closing mechanism is a PITA.

      • 0 avatar

        Some white lithium grease would fix that.

        I trust VW has a better system for hiding their trunk keyhole than some from the Great Brougham Epoch. Many of those were equally a PITA.

      • 0 avatar

        When I had my ’87 Cutlass, I had to deal with that spring-loaded plate holder for the gas cap, drove me nuts!

        One day when I was working at a Chevy dealer we took in on trade a late 80’s Camaro. The trunk lock key is hidden behind the plate on those, and I discovered that the plate holder on those would stay down when you flipped them down. I also noticed that they would fit perfectly on my Cutlass. So…I hurried out and performed a quick swap, problem solved!

  • avatar

    I like the hard crease above the door handles, it reminds me of the one on my Civic (the ’09, devoid of black plastic triangles). The crease looks much more pronounced from my side-view mirror.

    That little hood notch for the badge is common to many VWs. Maybe it’s an effort on the designers’ part to discourage tuners from removing the badge, because even if they do, that curious little notch remains and it’s probably a bitch to patch…unless they make aftermarket VW hoods with no such notches…

  • avatar

    Sajeev, another great design analysis. Even though I scrutinize car design all the time, you always point out design elements I missed. As for the CC, I agree with most of your points, except I find the linearity of the new front incongruous with the rest of the design. (The new taillights, I agree with you, are a great improvement.) The previous nose was about perfect. The headlights had a nice shapeliness, and the grill was wide and appropriately upscale in appearance, similar in shape to the old Phaeton, but sharper. I can only assume they changed it to bring it in line with the rest of their cars, but the CC’s original nose was an outlier anyhow, so why change that now, after all, this is their high-style flagship sedan (in the US anyhow). You seem pretty pleased with the new nose, other than the oversized logo, just wondering how you feel about it compared to the old one.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t much like the old nose because it was a bit like an Audi. And why everyone had to emulate (Ford Edge? Really???) that droopy grille/nose thing is beyond me.

      You do have an excellent point, however…the new grille is a little too hard edged for the rest of the body. If the chrome bits weren’t razor sharp, I think we could have the best of the both worlds.

  • avatar

    Best looking Volkswagen ever. Not bad photography, either.

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