When the 2015 Volkswagen CC arrived in the CNET garage, I mentally prepped myself for yet another midsize sedan review, admittedly not my favorite type of car but a major segment of the market. In the driver's seat of the CC, which is actually rated as a compact, I was surprised to see a six-speed manual stick on the center console. An odd choice for a segment where automatics dominate in greater number than first time novel writers at a Starbucks.
However, the reason for the manual transmission became clear when I noticed the car's R-Line badges, the trim level promising amped-up performance. You can also opt for an automatic, which for the CC means Volkswagen's quick-shifting DSG, a dual-clutch automated manual.
Regardless of trim, the CC outshines its siblings in the Volkswagen lineup for looks, showing off a curvaceous roofline flowing back toward the trunk lid. The R-Line gets a more aggressive lower fascia complete with big air ducts that are likely overkill for the 2-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood. The grille shows more height than Volkswagen's most recent corporate styling, as seen on the Golf, and still retains the hook-shaped LED parking light rings the company seems to be phasing out.
With a base price of $32,995 in the US, Volkswagen attempts to put the CC up against models such as theand the . The CC R-Line model I got into hit $35,140 with destination. UK buyers are looking at £25,005 for a base CC, while Australian buyers can look to pay about $63,100 for a base model with a diesel engine, but no R-Line availability.
One thing confused me when looking over Volkswagen's model line-up: The CC specs out smaller than theall around, both cars are four-door sedans, and the CC costs substantially more, with a $10,000 difference in base prices. What did the CC have, beyond superior styling, to justify the price jump?
Comfortable power, ride
Under the hood, the CC boasts a 2-liter four-cylinder engine using direct injection and turbocharging, technologies that Volkswagen has been refining for about 15 years. Output comes to 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, while the latest Passat gets by with a 1.8-liter engine only making 170 horsepower. That puts the CC up on power, even when taking into account the CC's 172 pounds of extra weight.
OK, more power is good, but 200 horses hardly puts the CC inrange. Dropping the clutch off the line, I could make the traction control light flash while the front tires squealed. And I was impressed that second gear let the CC hit 40 mph before redline. But I wasn't having the kind of fun that a hot hatch would afford. This engine felt like a typical compromise between reasonable power and good fuel efficiency.
Likewise, the steering and suspension didn't feel sports-car-sharp. The wheel turned very easily, its electric steering actuator minimizing effort and feedback. Volkswagen's specs describe a "sport suspension" with stabilizer bars for the CC, but the first fast corner I put it through made the body roll hard to the outside. The only saving grace came from the vehicle stability program, which made the car rotate a little through the turns, counteracting the roll.
Far from what I might assume an R-Line would be, I was instead being treated to a car tuned for comfortable suburban driving. Dampers neatly absorbed vibration caused by rough sections of road and the light steering made it easy to one-hand a hard right turn into a parking lot.
Although I usually enjoy the engagement offered by a manual transmission, this six speed felt sloppy. The linkage didn't offer the precision I felt from the six-speed manual in theI tested recently. Vagueness in the pattern left me trying to figure out if I had it in 3rd or 5th. Worse, the lack of a hill-hold feature in the CC, coupled with a switch-activated electronic parking brake, added a little old-school roll-back to hill-starts.