Although we've been talking about the Passat-derived VW CC for several months, it wasn't until we got to drive the new "four-door coupe" that we realized just how good this car really is.
Although it's been built down to an incredible budget, with prices starting from $26790 for a manual 2.0T with Sport package, this isn't some swift but flawed makeover for the Passat. The Comfort Coupe, to use its slightly awkward full name, is a remarkable adaptation of an existing VW platform. And the result has success written all over it.
The most striking aspect of this car is its Mercedes CLS-style exterior, with the pronounced sloping roofline and aggressive front end. During our time with the car it caused a stir wherever we went. Its squat, solid lines drew plenty of admiration. And the questions everybody wanted answered: "what is it and how much is it?" Naturally, they were speechless when we told them the price. Cars that look this good normally cost at least twice that much.
However, the feel-good factor is more than just skin deep. The CC boasts a luxurious interior, with particularly good contoured seats that featured horizontal stitching - and looked especially appealing in the optional two-tone black and tan leather.
While the dash is familiar, it's been dressed up to suit the image. The rear seats share the same quality feel and are separated by a console with stowage. This gives the rear a classy, upmarket feel but could put off those who're looking for more practicality.
Engine choices are simple. There's the ballsy 280hp 3.6 liter VR6 or the trusty 2.0TFSI four cylinder turbo. The 2.0T is available with either an auto or manual transmission, while the VR6 only gets the auto but has the option of 4Motion AWD. That said, the top model costs $39300.
We tried the 3.6 liter VR6 and loved its characteristic growl and surprising power. However, a spell behind the wheel of a manual 2.0T had us questioning why anybody would spend the extra money. In fact, even VW executives only expect 30% of customers to take the VR6 option, especially when the four cylinder manual returns 21/31mpg city/highway.
VW refers to the CC as "an accessible luxury car" and has equipped it as such. So it gets a stack of standard equipment, including an eight-speaker audio system with six-disc changer and auxillary input, six airbags, 12-way powered heated seats, climate control, trip computer, variable power steering, 17" wheels - and that's the base model.
As you move up the range you get park distance control, 18" wheels and 10-speaker audio as standard, many of which are also available as options. Something else you might like to consider is the technology package with VW's new touchscreen navigation, back-up camera concealed under the trunk badge and a 20GB hard-drive. We had the chance to try this and it's far superior to the annoying navigation in our '07 GLI.
Despite all the good stuff, many of us will buy the CC simply because it looks so good. In addition to its dramatically lowered, sloping roofline and wide stance, the CC features frameless doors, flowing lines along the side profile and a powerful face set off by the bold, slatted grille and deep front spoiler.
To our eyes, it simply requires a suspension drop and some 20" wheels to make a very powerful statement - as you'll have seen elsewhere in this issue with the SEMA concept car.
Whether you look at the CC as a European Chrysler 300C or a baby Merc CLS, there's no doubt it offers an astonishing package of performance, appearance and poise at a price that shouldn't break the bank.