Car reviews - Volkswagen - CC - sedan
Classy cabin, improved value for money, diesel economy, V6 FSI smoothness, great seats, intriguing design
Room for improvement
Tight back seat, hard ride, gruff diesel, V6’s lack of mid-range oomph, road noise
5 Jul 2012
GIVEN half a chance, Mercedes-Benz will mercilessly bang on about how it invented a new class of car with the original CLS of 2004 – essentially a W211 E-class restyled with more swagger and less space, for a whole lot more cash.
Of course, owners of the 1960s Rover P5 Coupe (including HRH ER II), as well as the millions who purchased one of the dozens of Japanese four-door hardtop varieties subsequently – such as the Mazda 929 Hardtop – will beg to differ.
Back in 2008, Volkswagen decided to get in on the act with the Passat CC, following the successful (and profitable) Daimler example very closely by having the rather pedestrian-looking four-door sedan’s roof chopped and the car dropped, for a more premium effect.
Benz-aside, it was a trick last tried by the Lexus ES300 back in 2002, but (unlike the Lexus), while the CC’s reviews were mostly positive and sales healthy in some markets, others complained about the big step-up in price compared to the Passat, particularly as Wolfsburg offered one less seating position, with only two seats in the back.
All in all, only 2700 found homes in Australia. As one insider quipped, it is Volkswagen’s secret.
Now, however, they are at it again with a new CC, the company having binned the ‘Passat’ prefix to more clearly separate the swoopy four-door coupe from the family car it is based on.
Along with a squared-off grille and subtly altered tail-lights, the new CC is heaving with extra gear such as sat-nav, bi-Xenon lights, a reverse camera, driver fatigue warning and fancier leather-clad front seats without increasing the price.
So the 125TDI – which VW believes will scoop as much as 75 per cent of all CC sales – still undercuts key German ‘luxury’ sedans with fewer bits and pieces, including the best-selling Mercedes C-class and BMW 3 Series, as well as the Audi A4 diesels.
But should prospective buyers of the aforementioned forgo their orders and rush headlong into VW dealerships instead, or is the CC just a Passat in drag?
On the showroom floor, the pro argument is persuasive.
Lashings of leather, thick carpet, metallic-look trim and soft rubberised plastics come together convincingly in a cockpit of understated elegance. Even the beige-on-black combo isn’t too garish.
As long as you don’t mind bending down a bit more than usual when clambering beneath the CC’s low roofline, these and more (namely the faultless driving position, excellent instrumentation and simple yet effective audio/media/GPS interface) make the effort worthwhile.
Sitting spread out in the fab front seats of the CC, it is clear the Passat passed finishing school with flying colours.
While much of the same lush ambience extends to the back seat, taller passengers will obviously need to mind their heads, while the addition of the central seating position is really just a gesture.
It might be wiser to cross-shop the CC against its two-door 3 Series, C-Class and A5 compatriots, but away from the showroom floor they all feel in a higher league.
The 125TDI might be economical, but its relative gruffness and diesel clatter at lower speeds are out of place with the CC’s slick and smooth presentation.
Allied to a six-speed dual-clutch auto that’s tardy at take-off, the diesel really relies on a boot-full of revs before its acceleration can match the promise of the racy styling. Only when on the move does the 125TDI turn into a strong and spirited performer.
While many buyers may not care about steering that, to us, feels overly light and artificial, they might complain about the CC’s choppy ride on anything other than smooth roads, as well as the unrelenting drone on certain types of Aussie bitumen we experienced.
Both models are fitted with adaptive dampers, but even Comfort mode couldn’t alleviate the hardness. That’s the price paid for having good-looking alloys.
At least the petrol-powered and all-wheel-drive V6 FSI provides a far sweeter mechanical soundtrack, as well as usefully more punch off the line.
But its considerable mass makes for slower-than-anticipated mid-range response (at speed the diesel actually pulls away harder), while its steering provided even less feedback than its cheaper stablemate.
And at $65k there is some very talented opposition out there.
Based on a Passat we first drove in March 2005, the CC is no spring chicken, despite this fairly successful facelift, and it shows.
If you drive mainly on smooth roads, want to enjoy the surrounds of a beautifully crafted and fully stocked interior, and don’t often ferry taller people around in the back seat, then this VW might be the sedan for you.
However, there are better choices out there for refinement, comfort, performance and driving pleasure – including the company’s regular and cheaper Passat, for starters, or even VW’s true flagship, the latest Touareg.
This, then, is a flawed concept. Mercedes’ CLS is a more convincing execution. We wouldn’t be surprised if the CC follows history’s other hardtop sedans into oblivion.
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