First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen CC [Review]

VW's stylish CC gets a modest makeover for 2013. Is it still compelling in the face of stiff competition?

The four-door coupe segment is all about style and pizazz - two commodities that have a short shelf life. Volkswagen's CC four-door coupe has now been on the market for four years, which is an eternity in the world of fashion.

So for 2013, VW has outfitted the CC with some new duds. The CC's familiar coupe-like roofline remains, but the 2013 version of the four-door now sports new front and rear facias, a revised interior and some added content to its standard features list.

Up front, the CC follows the rest of the VW lineup in ditching its organic shapes in favor of the straight lines that adorn the Jetta and Passat. While we don't mind the straight-edge look on VW's mainstream cars, it just seems out of place on a car as sculpted as the CC. A more stylized front end might not have fit in with the rest of the VW lineup, but isn't that kind of the point of the CC?

The look of the CC's rear-end has also been buttoned up for the 2013 model year, but the car retains its sculpted corners and subtle ducktail spoiler. Rear taillights are more handsome than before and now feature LED technology.

Inside the CC not much has changed, but the car does get a new shift knob for its DSG transmission and VW's latest LCD radio. The CC can also carry more people in style for the 2013 model year, thanks to the addition of a rear middle seat, replacing a useless storage tray.

More variety
Like last year's lineup, the first rung of the CC ladder is the Sport model, which features VW's 200 horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder driving the front wheels. A six-speed manual comes standard, but VW's quick-shifting six-speed DSG gearbox is on offer.

VW has added a new mid-level model to the CC lineup for the 2013 dubbed the "V6 Lux." Whereas the previous CC was only available with a V6 if you opted for all-wheel drive, the V6 Lux offers VW's 280 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 with front-wheel drive, allowing for a lower price point ($38,550 to be exact).

The CC range culminates in the VR6 4Motion Executive, which pairs the aforementioned 280 horsepower V6 with the stability of all-wheel drive.

All 2013 CC models gain Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights and LED license plate illumination as standard features.

What's in a name?
VW says that CC stands for Comfort Coupe, but we think that name might need some tweaking. While the CC does offer cushy seats, luxurious appointments and plenty of room, we found the ride of our 2.0T tester to be anything but comfortable on the pot hole-filled roads of the rear world.

In the name of giving the CC a sporty ride to match its sporty silhouette, VW went a little too far. The CC's ride is nearly sports car firm, with every bump and undulation sent directly to your backside. Unless you live in a world of perfectly smooth tarmac, you might tire of CC's stiff ride.

The CC's 2.0T engine didn't disappoint, however, returning good performance despite its advanced age. Two-hundred horsepower may not sound like a lot these days, but the CC still gets down the road just fine. A version of the Golf R's 256 horsepower 2.0T engine would certainly liven things up a bit, but it could also intrude on the VR6's territory.

Although a six-speed manual is on offer, we only sampled the CC with VW's DSG semi-automatic. Dual-clutch transmissions are inherently more clunky than their torque-converter counterparts, but VW's DSG is one of the smoothest on the market. Starting from a standstill is a non-issue and up and down shifts are lightning fast.

Leftlane's bottom line
While VW has improved upon the CC slightly for the 2013 model year, we're not sure if the changes go far enough. The CC was the only affordable four-door coupe when in launch in 2008, but buyers now have plenty of other choices if they want an affordable and stylish four-door (the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and 2013 Ford Fusion, just to name a few).

The CC does hold an advantage when it comes to perceived prestige, but it remains to be seen if that will keep buyers from venturing outside of VW showrooms.

2013 Volkswagen CC base price range, $30,610 to $41,420.