A couple of years ago, Volkswagen started remaking itself in the U.S., creating a cohesive design language and trying to capture new segments of the market. The new Jetta and Beetle models are prime examples of this strategy.
One of Volkswagen's challenges has been combating the perception that its cars are expensive. The 2013 CC has a hard time supporting this mission.
Volkswagen offers a lot of variations in the CC, with the base model starting just over $30,000. Don't expect much tech or available options at that level. CNET tested a Lux trim model, which goes for $35,355 and comes standard with navigation, iPod integration, and a Bluetooth phone system. Volkswagen also offers a CC with a V-6 and more tech features, which pushes the price up toward $40,000.
As a front-wheel-drive midsize sedan, the CC immediately invites comparisons with the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and Hyundai Sonata. Looking at the direct injection, turbocharged 2-liter engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission of the Lux model pushes it a little higher in the automotive spectrum, around the level of the Kia Optima Turbo.
So the question becomes, why does the 2013 Volkswagen CC cost more than five grand more than the competition?
Volkswagen insists the CC is the most affordable four-door sport coupe available, putting it in a class with the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Audi A7, and BMW 6-series Gran Coupe. The CC does have a very attractive design, with a gently sloping roof stretching back to the trunk lid. For the 2013 model year, it picks up Volkswagen design language, such as a cross-hatched three-bar grille and LED parking lights arranged in a hook pattern.
But its tonier coupe competition also boasts rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, more power, and much more tech.
Despite the standard tech features in the CC, the cabin feels pretty sparse. The navigation system in the four-cylinder Lux model is Volkswagen's RNS 315 head unit. With maps stored in flash memory, this system works well enough for basic route guidance, but is also the system that can be had in the much less-expensive Jetta.
Volkswagen has a more capable navigation system, the RNS 510 integrating traffic data, and it does include this system in the top trim level, V-6 CC. But given the price tag of the Lux trim CC, the lack of traffic data really hurts it compared with the competition.
This head unit includes a good set of audio sources, such as Bluetooth audio streaming and even an SD card slot. Buried inconveniently in the glove box is what Volkswagen calls its Media Device Interface, a proprietary port that can take adapter cables for iPod, USB port, and auxiliary port.
The system works very well with an iPod, although it quickly becomes tedious to reach all the way into the glove box to plug it in. The onscreen interface for browsing an iPod music library looks good, and gives easy access to lists of artists, albums, and songs. The dial below the LCD works best for scrolling long lists from the library, and the touch screen makes it easy to quickly select music when it appears on the screen.
The car also has voice command, but it controls neither the stereo nor the navigation system. Voice command only covers the CC's Bluetooth phone system, which is the most advanced cabin tech feature in the car. This system makes a paired phone's contact list available on the screen, while the voice command system places calls based on the names on the contact list. It works well, but most other automakers have hit this level of functionality by now.
Particularly disappointing in the CC is the complete lack of driver assistance features. No blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control, or lane-departure warning is included or available. The car does not even have a rearview camera. Cars that cost much less offer at least some of these features.
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.