After trying out the cabin tech, the only place left for the CC to prove its worth was on the road, and it proved a very good driver during my time with the car. It showed a few quirks because of its dual-clutch transmission, which Volkswagen calls a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), and electric power steering, but these were not negative traits.
Unlike a torque converter automatic transmission, the CC is not prone to creep. I had to give it some throttle to get it to move. This clutch-based transmission grabs gears with more assurance, and is more efficient than a traditional automatic transmission.
Volkswagen also fits the CC with an electronic parking brake, enabling a hill-hold feature. Parallel parking on a steep San Francisco hill, rain adding a sheet of water to the asphalt, this feature proved crucial. Rather than the car rolling forward into the bumper of the car ahead, I was able to precisely park, making no contact.
The electrically boosted nature of the power steering is also immediately apparent. With the car stopped, the wheel turns with a very linear feeling. There is also a slight whirring sound, barely audible in the cabin.
Volkswagen pioneered combining direct injection and turbochargers in passenger cars, and the CC benefits from this technology. Its 2-liter four-cylinder is a very efficient engine, but could use further development. Although Volkswagen had a long lead, other companies are catching up. BMW recently came out with its own direct injection, turbocharged 2-liter, making 40 more horsepower than the CC's 200. Likewise, where the CC gets 207 pound-feet of torque, BMW's engine cranks out 255.
And Volkswagen has not traded lower power for better fuel economy. The CC gets an EPA-rated 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. I saw mid-20s on the trip computer during freeway cruising, but the car's average ended up at 22.3 mpg in CNET's hands., with its 2-liter engine, pulled an average of 30 mpg.
The CC's front-wheel drive does not contribute to Volkswagen using the "sport coupe" label, but the DSG and suspension tuning do. Thanks in part to the DSG's ability to make good use of the available torque, the CC takes off reasonably fast, then the turbo piles on more acceleration. It won't chirp the front tires, but the acceleration is enough for comfortable freeway merging.
Curving mountain roads do not feel like the CC's element, but it handles them well enough. In the turns, the CC showed minimal roll, but at higher speeds it tended to understeer.
The DSG offers Sport and Manual shift modes. I am not crazy about how Volkswagen sets up the gate, with the Manual mode a push to the right of Drive, and Sport below the Drive position. Driving in Sport mode, I am more likely to want to move to Manual gear selection. But in the CC that involves going into Drive, then over.
Using Manual gear selection, there is much less lag during gear changes than with a torque converter transmission. It snaps quickly into each gear with a push up or down on the shifter.
Sport mode was good, but not overly aggressive. The DSG seems designed to respond to the throttle rather than the brake. Hitting the brakes does not result in a series of quick downshifts, but keeping pressure on the gas pedal puts the car in an aggressive gear.
In city and freeway cruising, the CC proved comfortable, the suspension doing an excellent job of soaking up the bumps. The DSG had no trouble getting the car in the right gear for each situation, downshifting for a hill climb or finding a comfortably high gear for steady speeds. There was some turbo lag when I hammered the gas, but during normal starts it was not particularly noticeable.
The 2013 Volkswagen CC's main shortcoming is in its cabin tech. The navigation system in particular is very short on features, and Volkswagen includes no connected services, not even traffic data. As for driver assistance features, the car could at least use a backup camera.
More impressive is the engine and transmission. Direct injection and turbocharging have been proven to work well together for improved efficiency, although Volkswagen could get more out of this combination, as other automakers have. The DSG remains an excellent transmission, delivering manual efficiency with automatic convenience.
The CC's design is also quite good. The car has a very pleasing look, and brings in Volkswagen's signature design cues. Likewise, the cabin tech interface looks good, and proves very functional.
|Model||2013 Volkswagen CC|
|Power train||Turbocharged direct injection 2-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||22 mpg city/31 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||22.3 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with phonebook support|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth audio, SD card, USB drive, Mini-USB, auxiliary audio input, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Eight-speaker system|
|Price as tested||$36,175|