If the 2009 Volkswagen CC VR6 Sport represents the future of Volkswagen, the company has a bright future indeed, and we get to benefit from some very beautiful cars that strive toward luxury. But the CC's beauty is mostly skin deep, as many attributes of the car reflect its folks' wagon underpinnings. The engine and interior quality are clear stand-outs, but the ride quality removes some of the car's luster.
Electronics also seem impressive at first, but the cabin gadgets are bedeviled by weird quirks and outright faults. The model's broad $13,000 price range between base and upscale models suggests Volkswagen couldn't decide if it wanted to market a midsize or sport-luxury sedan. But we can't deny the car's aesthetic appeal, its nicely curved roofline suggesting the much more expensive Mercedes-Benz CL550.
Test the tech: Touring
In poking around the navigation system for our 2009 Volkswagen CC VR6 Sport, we found a feature called Tour, which allowed us to enter a series of destinations and organize them into a coherent route. We used the system to define a route that would test the car on high-speed freeways and mountain roads where we could see if the word "sport" in the model name had any foundation. Entering destinations along the freeway was easy using the onscreen keyboard, but when we tried using the map to find waypoints on mountain highways, we ran into trouble. In map input mode, you get a disc overlay on the screen, which you have to drag to your destination. But the disc was extremely balky, refusing to easily follow our finger on the touch screen and leading to an epithet-filled one-way shouting match with the car.
Getting the tour programmed was further exacerbated by the fact that, if we hit a wrong button, all of our work would be lost. A couple of times we had multiple waypoints entered, then accidentally hit a button that took us out of Tour mode. Although this navigation system is hard-drive-based, it didn't save our work, forcing us to start from scratch.
Once our route was in place, however, the system did an excellent job of guiding us out, using street names and useful graphics to let us know where to turn. The system also includes traffic reporting, which would have been handy if there were any incidents on the freeways we initially set out on. But we had an unobstructed cruise in light traffic, and the CC offered excellent drive quality. The V-6 engine could barely be held back, putting us well over the speed limits before we realized it. The steering, transmission, and suspension were all silky smooth, while the cabin felt nicely insulated, further leading us to underestimate our speed. Even better, our average fuel economy was closing on 27 mpg over an hour of driving at speeds around 75 mph.
After this bit of freeway driving, the CC lulled us into forgetting our difficulties with the navigation system, and we were thinking it was the perfect car. But that impression faded after a few miles on a country highway, where rougher asphalt transmitted a less pleasant ride to the cabin, reminding us that this was, in fact, a Volkswagen. At lower speeds it became more apparent that the CC uses electric power steering, which produces a whirring sound when you turn the wheel. But Volkswagen did a good job of programming the steering unit for more road-feel and heaviness as the car's speed increased.
Our tour was ended abruptly by a jagged rock in the road that put a big gash in the left front tire. The car helpfully pointed out the problem by putting the message "flat tyre" on the speedometer display. We pulled over, jacked up the car, and put on the spare, a temporary donut, then limped home.
In the cabin
We've been pretty disappointed by past Volkswagen navigation systems, and were looking forward to trying out this new system in the CC. Hard-drive-based navigation systems are cutting edge right now, and usually mean better-looking maps, faster processing, and extra features such as traffic and onboard music storage. Our first look at the interior of the CC gave us a lot of hope, as the steering wheel had smartly-designed buttons set in the spokes for using navigation and audio, plus a dedicated phone button--our first time seeing Bluetooth in a Volkswagen.
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.