The Great Used Car Adventure of 2016: Final Chapter
The best shorthand description I can give of my 2009 Volkswagen CC is this: “It wants to be a BMW when it grows up.”
That’s not an insult by any means. Let me explain.
The CC is built on the “B6″ Passat’s platform and shares the same 106.7-inch wheelbase. The overall length (188.9″) and width (73.1″) are very close to its platform mate’s dimensions (187.6″ and 72”, respectively), and to the dimensions of the 3-series Bimmer, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Lexus IS, Toyota Camry, and a dozen others. Official sources claim that “CC” is short for “Compact Coupe,” but as a matter of strict technical definition, the CC, like the Passat, is a sedan–a sedan with a swoopy coupe-like roofline, but still a four-door vehicle with fixed B-pillars, a sedan.
The CC’s styling follows the same pattern as most of its competitors: low arched roofline, high tail, a beltline that rises significantly from front to rear, a prominent character line running parallel to the beltline, door handles either right on the character line or just below it, secondary character lines running from the grille to the A-pillars, and a spoiler (or spoiler-ish lip) on the trunk lid. When I park it next to an Accord or Sonata, they don’t look like twins, exactly, but they sure could be first cousins! While it’s not the most original design ever, give VW credit for executing the formula with good taste and restraint, avoiding the hideous grilles and bizarre mutant headlights used by some other carbuilders I could mention.
One cool feature is the windows. There are no window frames on the doors; to minimize wind noise, the rubber weather strip on the car body overlaps the top of he window. When you unlock the car or open a door, the first thing that happens is that the window drops down a quarter inch or so to disengage from the rubber so the weatherstrip doesn’t get all torn up over time.
The interior decorating is clean and attractive. The dash slopes away from the front seats, giving it a feeling of spaciousness. The basic shape is simple and logical, and the silver horizontal band sets it off without being garish. The defroster vents are cleverly hidden in a sort of trench that runs across the base of the windshield. Everything is lined up properly and torqued down to specification, and the materials at all the touch points have a quality feel to them.
As my brother It Rolls contributor Chris Meirose put it, my CC came with “everything but the butler”–a cornucopia of neat little comfort and convenience features. There’s a rear view mirror that automatically dims when the bozo behind you with the bi-xenon projector high-beams is tickling your back bumper in a fit of impatience. At night, helpful cornering lights on the outboard mirrors come on when you’re signalling for a turn to show you where the curb is. Courtesy lights mounted in the bottom of those same mirrors come on when you unlock the car, allowing you to avoid puddles and find the door handle a little easier. Two little drawers flank the four-way flasher button, sized perfectly for holding a package of breath mints or a garage remote or your parking deck key card. It’s all topped off with my wife’s favorite comfort and convenience feature of all time: heated front seats! They have three settings–“low,” “high,” and “let’s fry us some bacon!”–and they’re really nice to have on cold winter mornings.
Oh, and did I mention that this is the base trim level?
The bucket seats aft, though not heated or adjustable, are almost as good as the ones up front, and there’s legroom enough for NBA players to stretch out. While there’s no place for a third passenger, the center console with the sliding cover over the cupholders and storage cubby is a cool feature. Headroom is adequate for full-sized adults, but the sloped roofline makes it feel more cramped than it actually is when you’re sitting back there.
The control layout in all current-production VWs is almost identical: same easily readable gauges and dashboard display; controls for the wipers and ventilation and headlights in the same places functioning in the same way; the exact same AM/FM/Satillite/CD sound system as the GTI had. There are only two differences from my last VW: the cruise control has been moved from the end of the turn signal stalk to its own little lever at the 7 o’clock position on the steering column, and the parking brake is a pushbutton next to the headlight control instead of the traditional handbrake lever. The latter is the only thing I don’t like about the CC’s user interface: there’s a certain physical satisfaction to pulling up on a handbrake lever that you just don’t get from tapping a button.
One other thing about that parking brake: if you forget to disengage it before putting the car in gear, the computer does it for you as soon as it realizes that you mean to get moving.
Outward visibility to the front and sides is very good, except for the A-pillars being a little too thick–but that’s true of just about everything these days. Rear visibility is a different story. The high tail makes it hard to discern exactly where the back bumper is, and the wide C-pillars become “can’t-see pillars” when you’re trying to back out of a parking space. This is why they invented backup cameras, and that’s the one missing accessory the car really could use.
Under the hood is the same drivetrain I had in my GTI: a turbocharged 2.0L direct-injection straight four, producing 200 HP and 210 pounds of torque, driving the front wheels through a close-ratio six speed transmission. The CC is said, by those who measure such things, to be about a second slower than the GTI in 0-60 time on account of being a significantly heavier car, but it’s more than sprightly enough for my needs. The engine develops maximum torque at around 2000 RPM, and the torque curve stays all but dead flat all the way to the horsepower peak at five grand before it finally tails off. This nice fat powerband allows you to make most freeway merges without getting out of top gear.
One thing I didn’t expect from this powertrain: the gas mileage I’m seeing on my daily commute is 1 or 2 MPG better than what I usually got from the GTI–this on a freeway where everyone else, including the truckers, is practicing for next weekend at Talledaga and driving at the speed limit makes you a rolling roadblock. I can’t attribute the difference to any change in my driving style, so it must be the CC’s better aerodynamics.
The CC’s suspension is fully independent: McPherson struts forward, and a multilink arrangement aft. While not as stiff as the GTI’s, it’s stiff enough to corner well, and there’s compensation in the form of a softer ride over rough pavement. Here in Northeast Ohio, the birthplace of the pothole and world capital of frost heaves, that is no small thing.
The steering is more or less the same electric-assist rack-and-pinion unit as the GTI had. The road feel isn’t quite as strong , but there’s enough there to do the job. Though a heavier car than the GTI, the CC is nimble and responsive enough for anything short of competition autocrossing, and does not fail to amuse on my favorite S-curves. I’m perfectly satisfed with the driving dynamics.
So what we have is a car that’s solidly built, very well thought out, pretty ritzy, and fun to play with, which sounds a lot like a BMW–or, at least, what BMW wants you to think a BMW is like. However, it’s not quite a BMW: the leather seats are actually high-grade leatherette, the silver accent strip on the dash is silver-colored plastic instead of real metal, and it’s powered by what the snobs call “wrong-wheel drive.” In short, it’s a very well-executed BMW wanabee.
So what? On its own merits, the CC is a darned good car. New or used, the wanabee from Wolfsburg is significantly cheaper than the Bavarian status symbol it’s modeling itself on, and does just about everything just about as well. Even though it ended up costing me more than I would have liked due to the prior owner’s abuse of the drivetrain, I’m happy with what I have.
Oh, and the dog likes it too. That’s gotta count for something.
–Mike (Cookie the Dog’s Owner)