But that phone button let us down immediately, as the optional cell phone support wasn't installed in our car. Seems like something that should be standard at this level. The navigation system mostly lived up to its promise, providing high-resolution maps, but showed that balkiness during map input mentioned above. The maps include 2D and 3D views, along with a nice 3D compass graphic. The traffic overlay, with information transmitted over Sirius satellite radio, looked particularly good, showing traffic flow on major roads and potentially obstructing incidents. With a route programmed, the system will also dynamically detour around bad traffic. But we didn't always find the onscreen interface clear, as shown by our trouble programming in multiple destinations.
As expected, you can store music on the in-dash hard drive, but not as easily as we've found on other cars, such as the Lincoln MKS. To get music on the hard drive, you have to look at the list of your current sources, from CDs, USB drives, or SD cards, and see if there is a special square icon next to the source. If there is, you can touch that icon and get the choice of playing or copying music from that source. In practice, we couldn't find any rhyme or reason to which tracks the system let us copy. It wouldn't rip a commercial CD, and with an MP3 CD, it only let us copy a few of the album folders over.
The stereo system does have plenty of audio sources, though. We mentioned SD cards, which you plug into a slot in the unit's face plate, and USB drives. Similar to the Audi Music Interface we saw in the Audi A5, the CC has a proprietary port in the glovebox with a set of cables for connecting a USB drive, iPod, or USB mini-jack. The single-disc player reads MP3 CDs, there is an auxiliary jack in the console, and the radio includes Sirius satellite.
Standard on the VR6 Sport trim is a very nice Dynaudio sound system, which pumps 600 watts through 10 speakers. We found that this audio system delivered exceptional clarity, with very distinct sounds coming through from the various tracks we tried. But forget any thumpety-thump; this system is composed of four tweeters, two mids, and four woofers, which means no subwoofer to create deeper bass.
The CC rounds out its cabin tech with an innovative parking system, based on its rearview camera. When you put the car in reverse, the rear-view camera shows up on the LCD, with overlay lines indicating distance to rear obstacles along with the car's path depending on how the wheels are turned. But it also has a parallel parking mode that uses different overlays to show the spaces next to the rear view, making it easier to find your distance from other cars and the curb. Beyond even that, there is an animated display, Volkswagen's Optical Parking System, showing a top-down image of the car. If its ultrasonic sensors detect objects in front or back, an image is shown on the screen indicating how close the object is to the car.
Under the hood
We were impressed by the motive power in the 2009 Volkswagen CC VR6 Sport, a narrow angle 3.6-liter V-6 that uses direct injection and variable valve timing and lift. Volkswagen says that the engine can run the car to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, a time we can believe from our experience with the car. The engine produces 280 horsepower at 6,200rpm and 265 pound-feet of torque at 2,750rpm. It all comes together to move the CC effortlessly, contributing to a luxury car feel. And with all this power we were impressed by our real world mileage. The EPA rates the CC VR6 Sport at 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Our final average, with a mix of freeway, highway, and city driving came in at 23.6 mpg.
Volkswagen also makes a version of the CC available with its direct-injection-turbocharged 2-liter four cylinder engine, at a price more than 10 grand lower than the VR6 model. The base 2-liter CC makes it to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds when equipped with the automatic, and gets a few miles per gallon better fuel economy. The six-speed automatic, with Volkswagen's TipTronic manual gear selection, is used with both engines, although the VR6 gets different gear ratios appropriate to its horsepower and torque. With the 2-liter turbo CC, you can also opt for a six-speed manual transmission, but the navigation system isn't available with the manual (for no particular reason we can see).
The automatic with the V-6 shifts smoothly, and, as we mentioned above, has sport and manual modes; the latter is shiftable with the stick or with the paddles. One thing we like about this transmission is you can take it out of manual mode by holding down the plus paddle shifter, a feature surprisingly rare on these types of automatics. The car's electric power steering is an advanced bit of tech that not only improves the car's mileage, but can be more easily programmed than a hydraulic power-steering unit. In the CC, Volkswagen did a good job of making the steering light at low speeds and improving the road-feel at speed.
The engine impresses further by getting the car a ULEV II rating from the California Air Resources Board, a good achievement considering its number of cylinders and displacement.
Our 2009 Volkswagen CC VR6 Sport had a base price of $38,300, with the navigation package adding $2,640, bringing the total up to $40,940. Bluetooth would have added another $275. By contrast, the CC with a manual transmission and 2-liter turbo goes for a base price of $26,790. There is also an all-wheel-drive version of the CC VR6 with a base price of $39,300. For a similar price as our CC VR6 Sport, you can get the Cadillac CTS, the Infiniti G35, and the Mercedes-Benz C300--all good choices with comparable tech. With these choices, brand prestige overwhelms the Volkswagen.
There was a lot we liked about the Volkswagen CC, most notably its exterior design, which earned it a high rating in that category. Likewise, it performed very well, offering a good combination of power and economy, but we docked it for the suspension, which could deliver a rough ride on poor roads. Cabin tech was mixed; we wanted to like it, but the navigation and audio systems showed some quirks that might make the car tough to use on a daily basis.