A Victory & Reseda review of the 2013 Volkswagen CC
Dear Merriam-Webster, forgive me for my curiosity, but I must quote your second definition of a coupe here:
"usually coupe : a 2-door automobile often seating only two persons; also : one with a tight-spaced rear seat — compare 'sedan'"
For as long as humans can remember, this has always been the case for coupes. In 1920, the Society of Automobile Engineers locked down the exact definition to state that a coupe would have seat "two to three" people with a fourth person facing backwards. Gee, how times have changed since then.
The idea of a coupe has stretched over time to include two seat sports cars to big luxury two-door barges. You could actually seat six or more people in one of the latter. In 1999, General Motors introduced a Saturn S-Series coupe with a third door. The trick is that the third door hinged from the rear of the body. Then, both Saturn and Mazda introduced a four-door coupe – again, both hinged at the rear of the body.
Before then, the idea of the coupe was stretched close enough to coincide with the last phrase of Merriam-Webster's definition: "compare 'sedan.'" A true four-door coupe denotes the rear doors to be hinged at the B-pillar – which would appear to be a traditional sedan. The catch is the how the roofline is shaped in comparison with the rest of the body.
Infiniti claimed "four-door coupe" status when it introduced the curvy J30 for 1993. If you examine it closely, it is not really a coupe. I will argue that it was not a coupe, at all. The distinction of being a true four-door coupe goes to the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class.
Volkswagen jumped into the four-door coupe fray in 2008 with its Passat CC. For all intents and purposes, the CC is essentially the last generation global Passat with a sexier body. The CC has been facelifted for 2013 and continues to sit on top of Volkswagen's North American car lineup – next to the Touareg.
On the outside, the CC fits the four-door coupe mold. It is a very low-slung body with all of the current Volkswagen design elements. The giveaway of its Passat's roots can be seen up front – the wide grille angled as a doppelganger for the mid-sized sedan it shares its DNA with.
One would argue that the CC is much more handsome than the Passat – in comparison to today's Tennessee-built cousin. There is something alluring about the CC's low height and coupe-like stance. Even with the seventeen-inch alloys and low-profile Continental tires, the CC is simply a natural beauty worth looking at – even several floors up from the parking lot at work.
The moment you open up the door, the surprises begin. The fear of even considering a four-door coupe would be the perception of coupe-like space for all on board. This is absolutely not true in the CC. The driver and front passenger are treated to power adjustable leatherette seats, which are supported and decently bolstered. Adjustable lumbar support is added for the driver – for both height and level of support. There are plenty of adjustment options for many types of drivers – including this tall and somewhat wide one.
The real surprise is in the back seat. It is made for two adults – up to a certain height. If anyone is 6'2" or taller, you will hit the roof. Legroom was surprisingly good in back. A couple of trips were made with four people in the CC, including people of all sizes and shapes, with no one complaining of any room issues.
The driver has a standard issue Volkswagen dashboard, which is one of the best in the business. Volkswagens are known for being straightforward and logical in terms of driver engagement. Instrumentation was well laid out with an informative center screen for trip and vehicle functions. The screen can be toggled through by one of the redundant switches on the steering wheel.
The center stack housed a touch screen audio interface that also has readouts for the climate control. In this Sport model, the radio featured AM, FM and SiriusXM channels along with Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and playback of music files. Sound is balanced throughout the eight speakers strategically located throughout the cabin.
There is a climate setting that will come in handy in winter – a Max button for the front windshield defroster. When it is not enough to clear the window after an overnight frosting – the Max button will do the trick.
Once you slot the key into the ignition and give it a push, the 2.0litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine comes alive. With 200 horsepower on tap, power comes on immediately and fluidly. You will never find any turbo lag in this engine.
One of the reasons for this fluid power is the six-speed DSG transmission. In Volkswagen-speak, the DSG denotes a dual-clutch gearbox where you will find lightning-quick shifts in both automatic and sport modes. You can select gears through the Tiptronic gate to maximize rev control. However, if you wish to row your own gears and depress a clutch to engage them, the CC Sport with TSI engine comes with a six-speed manual gearbox standard. Either transmission sends power to the front wheels.
To understand the CC a bit more is to feel how it drives. Though it has the look of a sports car and positioned towards the top of VW's heap in North America – there is an elegant balance of these two worlds. The ride is balanced between smooth and firm. Give it a solid highway, and the CC will happily lap it. When presented with bumps and other road imperfections, the CC tries it best to absorb them – though not as smoothly as it could.
There is also some lean on banked curves, but the CC offers up a pretty neutral handling package. The Continental ContiProContact tires did their best to grip on several surfaces, though you could feel the traction control and ABS gather up the CC on snow or caked surfaces. Steering is quite sharp with a great turning radius and action. There is no play in the steering at center. Braking was decent in both normal and panic situations. Pedal feel was fine, but one would need to pre-brake on slicker surfaces to stop the CC.
One of the biggest surprises from the CC came in the form of fuel consumption. Considering this is a German-made four-door coupe with a turbocharged four and a dual clutch automatic gearbox, it may come as a surprise that it turned a mileage figure of 26.5MPG. This came from a perfect mix of city and highway driving.
The CC is priced from $30,610. This Sport model with the Lighting Package arrived at $32,535. The CC range scales upward to include a 3.6litre V6 engine and 4Motion all-wheel drive – topping out at about $42,000.
Because of the perception of four-door coupes, the Volkswagen CC will be a huge surprise to anyone looking for a sporty, low-slung sedan. Rather, it would be a good alternative to plenty of premium mid-sized sedans – such as the Acura TSX and Buick Regal.
Actually, I quite enjoyed the CC. The combination of turbocharged performance and response, along with a level of sports luxury inside and out and sleek looks won me over to the point of utter surprise. The biggest surprise came when the CC presented itself as something completely above its badge. One passerby remarked that he thought it was an Audi. Perhaps it was a compliment? Maybe, it was a defining moment?
So, what is definition of a four-door automobile that defies convention and offers just enough room to compare with its more upright competitors? This Volkswagen will have to change Merriam-Webster’s entry for the sake of the CC.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Volkswagen of America
All photos by Randy Stern