Editor's note: This review was written in September 2013 about the 2013 Volkswagen CC. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2014, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
During my week in the 2013 Volkswagen CC, I woke up each morning anxiously anticipating my normally mundane morning driving tasks.
This sporty, sexy, coupe-styled vehicle with sedanlike functionality was quite practical in both its usage and its budget. It's like getting Brad Pitt for the price of Carrot Top.
The CC has been redesigned for 2013, giving it an even more dramatic, swooping look, and adding a center rear seating position. Check out the differences between the 2012 and 2013 model years here.
If you're in the market for a stylish ride like the CC, you may also be interested in the Acura TSX, Buick Regal or Nissan Maxima. Compare them all side by side here.
The CC comes in six trim levels, including the 2.0T Sport, the 2.0T R-Line, the 2.0T Sport Plus, the 2.0T Lux, the 3.6L VR6 Lux and the 3.6L VR6 4Motion Executive, in which "4Motion" means all-wheel drive. All other CCs have front-wheel drive. I drove a middle-of-the-road R-Line with a manual transmission. The R-Line and 2.0T Sport come with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The others come with the automatic only. Compare the trim levels here.
Exterior & Styling
The 2013 VW CC was restyled for 2013 to look faster and sexier, even when parked. With reworked front and rear ends this year, the CC has long, sweeping, simple lines and a shape that reminds me of the significantly more expensive Mercedes CLS.
The CC R-Line I drove has an even more aggressive look, which VW accomplished by lowering the front air intake and adding larger, 18-inch aluminum alloy rims. The slightly more masculine impression is balanced out with flirty, cat-eye, bi-xenon headlights, which turn up to 15 degrees around corners to keep a keen eye out during nighttime driving. The LED daytime running lights are strategically integrated and add just enough bling without overdoing it.
How It Drives
The CC feels light and fun and easy to drive. The R-Line's 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has enough grunt down low to tool confidently around town. Once the turbo kicks in, it picks up almost instantaneously and wants to fly down the road. On more than one occasion, I found myself getting a little too cozy with the speed limit, just enjoying the surge. The engine feels smooth and silky and seems to supply endless power, even at more than 6,000 feet above sea level, where I live. Anyone who wants more power can opt for a 3.6L version, whose 3.6-liter V-6 produces 280 hp.
The CC felt tight and in control when negotiating twisty mountain roads, yet was very drivable on the highway for regular commuting. The six-speed manual transmission combines plenty of torquey, low-speed options with comfortable long-distance cruising gears. This is a car that could easily be driven every day for extended periods without the driver getting fatigued, but that could also fulfill the task of a fun afternoon drive, exploring the full range of its handling and acceleration.
The CC's cabin was fairly quiet on the road. Tire noise was tolerable, and while I found the turbo's whine slightly irritating, my husband said it sounded "cool." (But, then again, he says "tomahto.") The steering is light and has a tight-feeling 37.4-foot turning circle (which is right on par with both the Regal and Maxima), especially handy when maneuvering around a grocery-store parking lot, yet at speed it feels secure and well connected to the road.
The manual CC R-Line's EPA-estimated 21/32/25 mpg city/highway/combined isn't going to win any tree-hugger awards, but at least you have the power and excitement of the turbo acceleration on demand to show for it. These numbers drop even further in the V-6-powered CC VR6 with all-wheel drive, to 17/25/20 mpg.
The CC's interior was comfortable for almost everyone in our family and felt more upscale than its $32,000 as-tested price tag would lead you to believe. While some interiors in this price range look like they're trying too hard, the CC R-Line, with its contoured black leatherette (imitation leather) seating surfaces with contrast stitching and brushed metal trim, seemed comfortable and balanced.
The front two seats were easily accessible, even for my 6-foot, 2-inch husband. However, our three kids (ages 9, 11 and 13) had a slightly tougher time getting into the backseat, especially our taller 13-year-old. They were inclined to swing the back doors open all the way, often not aware they were inches from dinging a car door next to us. This is one price you pay for a stylized, sweeping, lower roofline with large doors. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather and felt soft in my hands while still offering adequate grip. The power-adjustable front seats allowed for a customized fit for both my 5-foot, 3-inch frame and for my tall husband, who really appreciated the significant range of the height adjustment. Head restraints that adjust not only up and down but also back and forth add to the customized feel.
The sloping roofline felt a little caved in and claustrophobic to me, a situation that would definitely be remedied visually by a moonroof. The lower trim levels don't have a moonroof, but one is included in the 2.0T Lux as well as in the VR6 Executive.
While legroom in back is slightly limited, there was enough space for all three of my kids, though they were definitely packed in. It's nice to have a center rear seat (where in previous model years there had been a console), but the seat is incredibly narrow — so much so that my 13-year-old had to sit perched with one cheek on each of the side seat-belt buckles.
The kids did appreciate the air vents in the back, which allowed them to direct cool air directly at themselves during our unseasonably hot late summer in Colorado.
I wouldn't suggest much more than quick errands and weekend jaunts for a family of five in the CC. Leave longer trips to the true family sedans, like VW's Passat, and instead take the CC out without the kids for date night.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The CC's controls are simple, with a comfortable blend of both touch-screen technology and good old-fashioned knobs for those who prefer a more tactile experience.
The old-school analog clock in the middle of the dashboard meant I always knew what time it was, even when I turned off the main control screen to achieve the zen of less digitization.
The traditional speedometer and tachometer dials in the instrument cluster are large and clear, and key data appears on a display between them.
The CC R-Line's Bluetooth telephone connectivity was easy to pair and worked seamlessly. The stereo system was clear and met with the approval of my teenage daughter. Apparently she thinks she's the gold standard when it comes to judging audio system quality. She did get a pair of Beats by Dre headphones for her birthday, so she must be an expert.
My other kids, however, were a little perturbed that Bluetooth streaming audio was not included in our test car, which meant that I finally got to be the master of the iPhone playlists, with my phone tethered up front to the aux jack just below the touch-screen.
All the buttons on the radio/navigation control in the CC are close at hand for the driver, with the buttons that are used most often, like audio volume or air flow adjustment, within a quick glance or feel and an easy reach. The controls on the steering wheel are well positioned and easy to find by feel, without having to adjust my hand position on the wheel or take my eyes off the road.
Too often, car companies add technology for the sake of seeming cool and trendy, resulting in the driver having to click three or four times to access the simplest of commands. To the contrary, the CC seems to have hit a comfortable balance between just enough technology for those who want it, and not too much for those who don't.
On the flip side, the front-most cupholder inhibited gearshift access. I found my arm inadvertently hitting a medium-sized cup in the cupholder when trying to change gears. My drinks quickly were relegated to the rear of the two cupholders, with small items like lip gloss and my phone taking up the front one.
I was also, on occasion, a little frustrated by the electronic parking brake. I could never remember if I was supposed to push or pull the button to engage the brake, and it was also a little difficult to tell when the brake was engaged. Sometimes I could feel a slight grab of the brake pedal, indicating it was engaged, but depending upon the shoes I was wearing, this wasn't always the case. I couldn't rely upon the indicator lights on the brake button or the instrument cluster because in certain glare conditions they were impossible to see.
Cargo & Storage
Storage and cargo space are definitely an issue with the CC. While the car's sloping teardrop shape is beautiful to look at, it does limit practicality. The trunk is deep but the opening is very limited, making large, bulky containers hard to fit in. For regular suitcases, shopping bags, golf clubs, etc., there's ample space, but with three girls, it seemed like we were forever (unsuccessfully) trying to squeeze an oddly shaped school project or similar item into the trunk.
The cute yet practical and innovative trunk release hidden within the Volkswagen logo is also very well thought-out. It's a functional way to open the cargo area without cluttering up the look of the exterior.
The 2013 VW CC is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the institute's highest rating of Good in the moderate overlap front crash test, the side crash test, the roof strength test, and the head restraint and seat test. In the institute's new small-overlap front test, however, the CC received a rating of Marginal (on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor).
Of the 11 models in the institute's midsize luxury/near-luxury car class subjected to the small-overlap test, only two scored Good. Two scored Acceptable, four scored Marginal and three scored Poor.
I was disappointed not to see a backup camera or blind spot monitoring system on the 2013 CC R-Line (a backup camera with front and rear park assist sensors is available only on the VR6 executive as standard equipment), though VW says the R-Line will offer the camera for 2014. These are two safety features that have become must-haves for me, and invaluable in protecting my family by aiding in accident prevention.
While the lower Latch child-safety seat anchors were open and visible, the stiff leatherette seating surfaces surrounding the anchors made them difficult to use with the rigid Latch system on my daughters' Cleck Olli booster seats. It took me several attempts of pressing my body weight into the seat before I could get the latches to click. The sloping rear roofline of the CC may be a challenge for older and bigger kids in booster seats. While my 11-year-old daughter still needed a booster seat in the CC in order to obtain proper seat belt fit, it raised her up so high she almost hit her head on the ceiling.
To see how child-safety-seats fit in the 2013 CC, view our complete Car Seat Check.
See all the standard safety features listed here.