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When it first debuted, the Volkswagen CC was known as the "Passat CC," a sporty variant of the large sedan that featured a more coupe-like design. Over the years, the CC and Passat have further diverged, the former dropping the "Passat" moniker back in 2011. For the 2014 model year, the two vehicles' driving characteristics and engine choices are now very different.
I think that it's fitting that so soon after our First Take in the 2014 Passat, that we take a look at the new 2014 Volkswagen CC Executive to see how it compares to the sedan upon which it was based and shares a platform.
RNS 510 cabin tech
Cabin tech is modular within the VW brand, so it's no surprise to see the the same RNS 510 receiver in the 2014 CC that can be found across the automaker's line of vehicles.
The RNS 510 navigation system features rudimentary graphics that aren't visually impressive, but they get the job done. The list of audio sources includes CD playback, MP3 and iPod connectivity, a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, and satellite and terrestrial radio, but digital media is connected to the receiver via VW's proprietary Media Device Interface, rather than a simple USB port. I'd like to see HD Radio join this list and the death of the MDI in the next generation.
Bluetooth hands-free calling is standard, as is voice command. Unfortunately, the voice command only works to control the hands-free calling system. So, while you can press a button and say "call home," you can't press the same button and say "navigate home." For navigation and audio source selection, you'll have to make use of the color touchscreen, which doesn't lock the driver out of address input while the vehicle is in motion, but does show you a disclaimer if you try to make complex inputs while driving.
There are a few differences that I noted between this and the 2014 Passat. Firstly, VW's amazing Fender audio system doesn't seem to be available on the CC, though the standard audio rig that was equipped sounded good enough. I also noted an odd bug with the volume control that wouldn't let me adjust the audio level when the source was set to the auxiliary input. I'd have to change sources, adjust the volume, and then pop back over to the aux input. The other VW vehicles that I tested didn't exhibit this behavior, so it may have been a fluke or odd setting.
Generally speaking, the tech in the CC is fairly dated -- then again all VWs are -- but this 2014 model is available with the automaker's new Car-Net telematics system that brings a number of connected car features into the dashboard. This is the same system that I was able to test on the 2014 Passat the same day, so you'll forgive me if this next part sounds familiar.
Functioning like a sort of OnStar for Volkswagens, Car-Net brings a number of connected features to the 2014 CC, split into four major categories: Safe & Secure, Family Guardian, Remote Access, and Diagnostics & Maintenance. However, unlike other automakers, VW is only offering a single service tier that includes all of these categories.
Safety features include automatic crash response, roadside assistance (provided by VW partner Allstate), and stolen vehicle location. Family featurea include notifications (via e-mail or SMS) for exceeding preset speeds or entering or exiting preset, geofenced zones. Remote services include remote vehicle locking, horn honk, destination download, and a concierge service that lets the driver speak to an operator to search for a destination and have the location downloaded to the navigation system. Finally, Diagnostics tools allow the driver to schedule visits for service and receive vehicle health reports.
Drivers can either interact with the Car-Net features by pressing one of the three buttons located on the ceiling console in the vehicle -- information, roadside assistance, or SOS -- to speak to a call center operator, use an iPhone application (an Android version is coming "soon" according to a VW representative), or access the service through a browser on a Web-connected personal computer.
I was able to try out the system to download an address while driving. Personally, I'm not a fan of using concierge services for destination search -- I find them too time intensive and, frankly, talking to an operator seems like a very old-fashioned way of finding a destination when Siri or Google Now will let you search the web in seconds with simple voice commands -- but there's no denying the safety of letting someone else do the searching while I was able to keep my eyes on the road. The call quality of the concierge call left much to be desired, but that could just as easily be attributed to the limited signal strength in the remote area where testing occurred.
I was also given demonstrations of the roadside assistance and the VW Car-Net app and found them to also be easy and accessible. I particularly liked the ability to send destinations from the app or a computer before getting into the car and have them waiting when I'm ready to go.
A six-month free trial of the Car-Net service is included in the MSRP, after which it'll cost $199 per year to retain access. Going month to month will be more expensive, and committing to multiple years yields discounts. VW states that the system brings its vehicles into parity with telematics systems offered by GM, Hyundai, and Toyota at a competitive price.
2.0 TSI drive train
The CC is powered by the larger of Volkswagen's new turbocharged four-cylinder engines: a 2.0-liter TSI engine that uses direct injection to generate 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Like the 1.8 TSI engine in the Passat, the CC's torque curve peaks low in the the tachometer's swing, generating maximum grunt as low as 1,700rpm.
The extra power is immediately noticeable over the 2014 Passat's smaller engine and the CC feels just that much more confident in its acceleration and pulls just that much quicker away from a light. With such a low torque peak, the power very accessible around town, which means that the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DSG) won't have to hunt around as much looking for power when you need to, for example, pass on the highway or accelerate to merge with traffic on an off-ramp.
The versatility of that six-speed DSG transmission is demonstrated well here in the CC. In a vehicle like the GTI or Beetle Turbo, the DSG feels like a performance upgrade with launch control and lightning fast, whip-cracking shifts. In the CC, you almost can't tell that it's not a conventional automatic under most conditions. The shifts in the gearbox's standard mode are smooth and nearly imperceptible save the slight dips and rises in the engine rpm. Pull the shifter down into the Sport setting or to the right to select gears in the manual mode and a bit of the sporting character begins to surface, but the CC in 2.0T trim simply isn't a performance car. The lack of paddle shifters speaks volumes to that end.
Also like the new 1.8 TSI engine, the CC's 2.0 TSI benefits from an array of improvements that increase its thermal and friction efficiency, including an exhaust manifold that features an integrated water-cooling jacket that both helps the engine to heat up to optimal temperature faster, but also allows better control over that operating temperature. Additionally, the engine has been designed from the ground up to accommodate the turbocharger, so much of the piping that would be required has been integrated into the head, saving valuable pounds.
Thanks to the new 2.0T engine and the more-efficient-than-an-automatic DSG transmission, fuel economy is estimated at 22 city and 31 highway mpg, which is still fairly close to the fuel economy of the Passat and its smaller engine, despite the increase in power.
Drivers who want to go faster than the 2.0 TSI's 8-ish second 0-60 time can step up to the all-wheel drive, 280 horsepower, 285 pound-feet of torque packing VR6 4MOTION model, which hits 60 mph in about 6 seconds, but they'll have to step down to an EPA estimated 17 city and 25 highway mpg. That seems like a fair trade to me, but for most drivers the efficiency of the 2.0T is probably more desirable.
Handling and electronic power steering
Despite weighing 139 pounds more than the Passat, the CC is a slightly smaller vehicle by almost every other measurable dimension. It's slightly shorter nose-to-tail, lower to the ground, slightly narrower, and -- perhaps most important to the character of the CC's handling -- shorter in wheelbase: down from the Passat's 110.4 inches to 106.7 inches from axle to axle.
One advantage of the shorter wheelbase is that the CC feels more responsive to steering inputs than its bigger brother and more willing to be coaxed 'round a bend. While both vehicles featured electronic power steering, the CC's system is tuned to feel lighter and requires less steering effort. Normally, I'm complaining about overly-light, over-boosted power steering, but I rather liked this setup. The CC's steering felt less faux-heavy and more direct that the Passat's. Light steering can be a very good thing when done correctly.
Turning the steering wheel a particular amount was met with an appropriate and expected amount of steering where the rubber meets the road. While neither vehicle offers particularly good road feel, the CC at least didn't compound the issue with that artificial feeling that kept me from enjoying the Passat over the same roads. The CC was easier to place within the narrow lanes of the twisty backroad that Volkswagen chose for my test runs and required fewer corrections midturn to stay on course.
Where I felt tired of driving the Passat midway through the hour-long course set before me, I felt that I could easily drive the more casual CC for an hour more.
The Executive 2.0T is a new trim level for the 2014 model year, bringing all of the "luxury" features that were part of the VR6 4MOTION Executive trim level down-market to drivers who want the efficiency of the front-drive, turbo, four-cylinder model. These features include the navigation system, tinted sunroof with tilt (but not sliding) function, larger 18-inch wheels, leather seats and aluminum interior trim, and keyless entry and push-button start.
New for 2014 is a hands-free easy-open trunk that allows the driver to pop open the trunk by wiggling a foot beneath the rear bumper while the keyless entry transponder stays in their pocket. We've seen this feature on the latest Ford Escape and C-Max vehicles and found it to be very useful for gaining access to the vehicle with full hands. The 2014 CC and Touareg models are available with this feature; the CC being the first time that I've seen the feature on a sedan.
The 2014 CC starts at $31,795 for the Sport model, but the 2014 VW
Passat CC Executive 2.0T's as-tested price of $37,860 included all of the aforementioned features as well as an $865 destination charge.