The Performance CC could be the most significant car of 2008/09. We certainly felt it was the best car among the thousands unveiled at SEMA '08, nominating it as our choice for Best Euro at Sony's annual Gran Turismo awards.
Why are we heaping so much praise upon it? Because we feel it represents the best of what European tuning has to offer by looking to both our roots and the future. It's the poster-boy for what European tuning has achieved, but mixes in plenty of new ideas to inspire us further.
The traditional values are represented by the elegantly restrained use of monotone color, large diameter wheels, the inclusion of premium European brands, as well as increased performance with economy retained. While a taste of the future was provided by the cutting edge materials, dual-mode engine tuning, discreet graphics and even the CC itself - a car that's destined to be a major player in the European tuning scene.
With so much excitement crammed into one package, we hope you're as excited as we are to witness this machine and imagine what the future holds. The fact this vehicle came from VW's own Design Center in California is the icing on the cake. It confirms once again that VW is being steered by enthusiasts who understand what we want.
To be honest, Volkswagen of America's credentials had been approved long ago. The manufacturer's first SEMA foray in 2005, with its trio of twin-turbo R GT concepts, proved they were firmly on our side. The incredible R GTI followed in '06. And despite a hiccup last year, VW killed again in '08 with this Performance CC. Add the German-built GT1 W12 650 and Scirocco GT24 into the mix, and no manufacturer has such impeccable credentials.
Once again we were granted exclusive access to the design team responsible for the Performance CC, but first let's take a look at the fruit of their labor.
Designed to showcase VW's latest Passat-derived Comfort Coupe, the Performance CC concept was designed in-house by VWoA's design team. The exterior was treated to unique bumpers and side sills, intended to accentuate the car's lines and create a sophisticated GT.
The front bumper was manufactured from epoxy composite (as were the side skirts and rear bumper). It features a black anodized billet aluminum blade inside each duct, incorporating small winglets. These matte black blades contrast not only the Lamborghini-sourced grey paint (officially called Jet grey in this application) but also the gloss piano black paint used on the window trim, mirrors and roof.
The blade theme was used on the rear bumper, where it adds visual width to the car, running between the rectangular tailpipes. A delicate billet spoiler was then fitted to the trunk.
Maintaining the monotone theme, the rubbing strips were finished in black chrome to give a discreet highlight. Thin black graphics also run the length of the car, from hood to trunk, creating a high-tech pattern and further visual stimulus.
In sharp relief to the monotone paint are the 20x9.5" custom wheels. These were machined from billet and continue the designers' blade theme. Wrapped in 245/30-20 Yokahama Advan Sport tires, the front wheels also conceal a set of 14" (355mm) two-piece Brembo rotors with four-piston aluminum calipers finished in pearl white. Thanks to the ideal wheel offset and ride height (courtesy of H&R Street coilovers) the PCC sits absolutely perfect in typical Euro fashion.
Many exterior themes were continued inside. For example, matte black leather was used on the European R32 Recaro seats, as well as the stock rear seats and door cards. Each area also received grey leather center panels and piping for contrast.
The seat centers and dash trim were then decorated in the same graphics that appear on the exterior of the car, while the black chrome finish reappears on the center console.
Under the hood, the design team worked closely with APR, buoyed by the success of their previous R GTI collaboration. They challenged the tuner to create a dual-mode software program for the 2.0TSI turbocharged engine.
The result was an APR stage 3 turbo system with three performance levels. In the Eco mode, the motor makes a claimed 222hp and 236 lb-ft of torque; GT mode offers 252hp and 268 lb-ft; while Full Power mode gives 311hp and 313 lb-ft.
The idea was to offer not only incredible power and performance, but show the versatility of the motor by returning 33mpg highway, 27mpg city in the Eco mode, against 28/19 for a production CC 2.0T automatic. We've not had a chance to verify these claims, but if true they promise a very interesting future. We hope to be driving the car soon and will report on our findings.
In addition, APR also contributed a stainless steel exhaust and cold-air intake. The design team then fabricated a carbon fiber engine bay cover to hide some of the wiring and compliment the Carbonio intake used by APR.
Derek Jenkins, VW's Head of Design in the US, led the project as always. He was responsible for the previous R GT and RGTI concepts, had his own GTI featured in the mag (et 6/07) and is completing a high-tech air-cooled buggy (feature soon). His team comprised Nancy Holman, Abeng Halim and Raul Cenan, with each assigned specific tasks.
Once the CC was selected, the team explored different themes with VW's marketing and product planners. The most popular was a DTM racing theme, until the marketing people pushed for something a little more recognizable.
The choice of base car was a simple one, too. With gas prices going crazy, the lusty 3.6 VR6 was shelved for the more versatile 2.0T. The turbo motor presented an opportunity to expand ideas discussed during work on SEMA '07's diesel concept. The team wanted to investigate dual-mode programming, with software for performance and economy. So they presented APR with the challenge and happily received a tri-mode solution.
Another consideration was whether to go "stealthy or bling", since either style would suit the CC. Fortunately, they walked on the stealthy side and labeled their approach to design and materials as "precise" after devising an aerospace theme that would be both high-tech and lightweight. They also ruled out the use of carbon fiber since it was used extensively on the R GTI and left little room for new expression.
As a result, the majority of the exterior detail on PCC would be machined from billet aluminum. The car would also combine both laser-etching and new graphic themes.
Having discussed the overall approach, Raul was assigned the task of creating the front bumper and grille. Working with 3D CAD renderings and clay modeling, he attempted to flow the sides of the car into the front-end. And if you look at the PCC in profile, you'll see this was achieved.
He then set about creating some new horizontal elements to emphasize the CC's width. He did this by creating new slats in the radiator grille, as well as the three openings in the front spoiler. Similar elements are present in the stock CC, but they become more apparent once the GTI-style face had been removed. The shield-type front-end on the stock car can no longer be seen and while the team didn't mention it, this is clearly indicative of the direction for future Volkswagen front-ends.
The slats in the three ducts were fabricated from nylon. But the larger blades were machined from billet aluminum to incorporate a winglet at each end. It's intended to be indicative of the CC's aerodynamic shape and lend a feeling of power. It also offers an interesting alternative to the current trend for splitters.
The rear bumper was the responsibility of Abeng, who had also worked on the R GTI. He has similarly used an aluminum blade to give the car width. It also acts as a functional diffuser, with a panel extending under the car to channel air through it.
He sought to lower the rear end, since the stock bumper visually sits quite high. The solution was to suspend the tailpipes below the blade and sandwich them into the rear apron.
In order to avoid heat and vibration, the tailpipes have a two-piece construction - a black anodized outer and a silver aluminum inner. The inner piece has been intricately machined to include radiator-style channels that allow cool air to pass through. Furthermore, the rectangular outlets funnel back to a round pipe that sleeves over the APR exhaust system. Isolated from the exhaust, heat and vibration are further eliminated.
While subtle, Abeng's side sills add to the PCC's overall elegance. They elongate the appearance but feature a sporty angle-cut to the rear. There's also a crease that runs along the length of the sills to echo a similar crease in the stock bodywork. When viewed as a whole, they contribute to the overall success of the car, but in isolation they are ingeniously simply. The same can be said of Raul's trunk spoiler...
The team originally considered a more ambitious rear wing. However, the stock CC has a surprisingly prominent lip molded into its trunk. So the designs got progressively smaller until they produced the delicate 8mm-thick blade seen here.
Machined from billet, the underside has been hollowed-out (like all the aluminum parts on the car) so the spoiler is only 3mm thick in places. And with only five fixing points, this high-tech solution was the perfect punctuation point for the PCC.
The blade theme was continued into the wheels - inspired by a jet turbine. Smaller 19" wheels were first considered but 20s were finally chosen to better suit the size of the car.
Much of Raul's design work involved creating spokes that were slim enough to compliment the overall theme, yet didn't appear fragile or flimsy.
Careful measurement maximized the width of the wheels, allowing 9.5" rims all round. And by using different offsets front and rear, the team was able to push the wheels out as far as possible.
The wheel centers were then machined from 4" blocks of aluminum. Modular front lips intended for three-piece wheels were finally welded behind these custom centers, allowing the air valves to be hidden at the back.
During the entire design process, it was Nancy's task to create individual finishes for every part. She spent months researching different materials and techniques to give the desired quality and feel.
For the wheels, her experimentation produced a totally unique appearance. It involved bead-blasting the entire wheel to create a slightly rough, matte finish. The face of the wheel was then machined to give a contrasting shiny finish. Finally, they were clear matte anodized to get the desired look.
When seen in the flesh, the contrast of wet gloss paint in grey and black, combined with semi-matte aluminum pieces and the rough matte wheels with machined faces creates a spellbinding effect. We stared at the car for hours at its unveiling, trying to absorb its textures and contrasts, not quite understanding what had been done but knowing it worked as an incredible package.
For the exterior, Derek envisaged red paint. Previous concepts had been black, white and grey, so red was an interesting departure. However, the team was limited by the supply of early production cars and could only get ones with a dark base-coat. This led them back to darker colors, finally settling on "Jet grey" as the perfect background for their black graphics, tying everything together elegantly but with powerful sporting overtones.
Interestingly, they briefly considered matte paint, but rejected it on the grounds of looking almost "primitive" and unsuitable for such a curvaceous car, where reflected light was considered to add "value" to its appearance. And while the team sees matte paint as having a valuable part to play in certain projects, it wasn't deemed right for this one.
With paint selected, the team focused on the chrome window trim. However, they discovered the trim couldn't be removed without destroying it, so painting became the only option. Therefore, gloss black was selected because the stock CC already has a black sunroof.
In fact, the section in front of the sunroof (where fitted) is also painted black, although mysteriously the rest of the roof remains body color. So it didn't take the team long to decide to paint the entire roof black, along with the mirrors.
The chrome rubbing strip along the side of the car was easier to remove. So Nancy explored various finishes and settled on "black chrome". This darkened the rubbing strip, yet it retained a reflective quality to retain "value" while nicely linking the wheels.
The aluminum blades in the bumpers then received semi-matte anodizing to create yet another texture, drawing your attention to their machined surfaces.
Meanwhile, the custom radiator grille features a traditional chrome VW badge. This picks up light and reinforces the car's parentage. The grille surround has a matte aluminum finish, while the matte black horizontal slats have chrome blades in their leading edge. All this is designed to draw you into the front of the car, giving it focus and depth.
The vinyl graphics on the top surfaces are an evolution of all previous SEMA concepts. Derek wanted to prove graphics could work on a more sophisticated product, so sought a more premium feel to reflect the stature of the CC.
After researching various elements, Nancy began manipulating barcode graphics, eventually evolving it in the more "precise" laser-style graphics you now see adding extra interest.
The graphics are one of the elements that tie the interior to the exterior. They appear on the dash and door trim as well as the back of the Recaro seats - all were painted gloss black to reflect the exterior finishes. The graphics were then bead-blasted onto sections of this painted trim to achieve the desired effect.
The seats themselves (both front and rear) along with the door cards were covered in leather. The outer sections use a heavy-grained black hide that contrasts in texture and color to the light grey leather center panels.
The grey perfectly matches the stock headliner and would serve as the ideal canvas for those laser-style graphics. But in this instance, a genuine laser created them.
Nancy sent leather samples to a laser-etching company, experimenting with the strength of the laser. A stronger beam would cut deeper, creating a darker stripe as it burnt hotter. However, the different depths also created varying levels of precision: "It was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears!" Nancy proclaimed - she tried everything until she found one that was "just so".
Again the result is spectacular, reflecting the level of commitment VW's designers give to these concepts. And don't be surprised if future VW products have some form of laser-etched finishes in the future...
In addition to the graphics and gloss black finishes, black chrome also made an appearance in the car - coating the center console and trim pieces on the dash and doors.
One of the final tasks was to paint the Brembo calipers. The traditional red finish would have been overpowering, so pearl white was selected since it drew attention without overshadowing the stunning wheels.
"We tried to create something in the spirit of real European tuning," explained Derek. "That involves upgrading a car with parts that are either more sophisticated and/or more expensive than a manufacturer could sell its car with.
"Look at companies like Ruf, Alpina, AMG... they produce a premium product yet take a restrained approach to graphics and paint, etc.
"The stock CC has a feeling of 'value' and we didn't want to 'devalue' it with matte black paint or cheap parts. We've tried to increase its value and create a premium product.
"Furthermore, we haven't built a temperamental concept car. Everything is functional on this car. And yet it's also a piece of art, where you need to get close in order to see the detail. We build these concepts with incredible care and attention to detail, and hopefully that reflects in how they are received," Derek concluded.
From our perspective, we continue to be in awe of the thought and effort expended by VW's Design Center to create these concepts. And as the R GTI has proved, with two seasons of hard track use under its belt, they're not trailer queens.
We can't say enough about how Derek and his team are representing both the roots and the future of European tuning, creating cars we can all be proud of.
The only genuine problem we see with the Performance CC, is how will Derek top it? Where can he go from here?
We eagerly look forward to SEMA 2009 to discover the answer.
We also encourage you to check out PCC in person. It will be appearing at a number of shows and track days over the coming 12 months. Hopefully we've given you an idea of what to look for. Now it's up to you to see and feel what we've been talking about.
Gold Coast CC
Showing another side of the versatile CC is the Gold Coast Edition. Created by the same US design team as the CC, this car was built in Wolfsburg.
Unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance last year and first announced on our blog at www.eurotuner.com it was intended to show a softer side of the Comfort Coupe.
The GCE version wore a Votex body kit available off the shelf in Europe. The polished 19" propeller-style Lugano wheels were created by the Design Center for the CC's launch and will possibly be available as an option in the future.
The car was painted in DuPont Pepe Pepper, which complimented the combination of Latte Macchiatto and Cornsilk leather with bronze piping used on the seats, dash and door trim.
Mechanically, the 280hp 3.6 VR6 motor was stock but the front brakes were upgraded with Audi R8 ceramic rotors and KW coilovers were fitted.
Displayed alongside the PCC at SEMA, the Gold Coast Edition offers not only a more luxurious interpretation of the CC, but also another piece of inspiration for potential owners.