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2013 volkswagen cc 2.0

2013 Volkswagen CC

The split personality of the Volkswagen brand is becoming increasingly apparent, with the latest CC four-door "coupe" highlighting the traditional Euro-centric side of the company, in contrast to the lower-cost, North American-built models that are driving VW's sales growth on this continent.

Sure, VW's CC may have been born as a shapelier version of the Passat, as reflected in its Passat CC name. But for the 2013 model year, Volkswagen the brand took VW Canada's lead in dropping the Passat part of the CC's name, and will soon add a number of features that will push it up in feature content as well as price when the refreshed model arrives in May.

It's still a fine-looking four-door, no matter how the marketing folks would like to misname it a "coupe." Its front- and rear-end have been sharpened, with a chrome grille to differentiate it more from the Chattanooga-built Passat, and to give it more cues shared with the upscale Phaeton, which is still sold in Europe, and obviously not seen as a flop as it was in North America.

Volkswagen says the CC, which will start at about 35 large, may also tempt those looking at practical two-doors such as the Altima and Accord coupes, but the CC's new standard five-seat layout suggests that stylish but practical cars like the Regal and Lexus IS would be more realistic rivals.

From the inside, the CC feels like a polished Volkswagen of years gone by: no cheapened interior materials here, built to a price point to lure in buyers. Rich two-tone colour schemes on the seats combine with new standard features that include LED lights front and rear, automatic climate control, rear-view camera and swivelling headlights, on top of carryover niceties on every CC that includes heated and powered front seats, rain-sensing wipers and an eight-speaker stereo.

The turbocharged 200-hp base model not only comes with the same engine as in the VW GTI, closely related to the Audi A4's 2.0-litre turbo unit, but also features a six-speed manual as standard, which serves to highlight its European genes. A six-speed DSG automated manual is a $1,400 option, and comes with paddle-shifters to give back some of the sporty quotient you sacrifice with the loss of a true shifter and clutch pedal.

A six-speed Tiptronic automatic is also available, but only on the range-topping, 3.6-litre 4Motion, which as its name implies, comes only with a 3.6-litre V-6 and adaptive all-wheel-drive. Starting at $48,475, or about 13 grand higher than the base CC, it includes every option that's available on the entry Sportline model: a navi system, panoramic sunroof, leather, 600-watt DynAudio 10-speaker sound system and satellite radio, and also adds a rear power sunshade. That's a lot of equipment, but it's also a lot of money for any mainstream-brand vehicle.

As with the Phaeton, Volkswagen is once again pushing its price boundaries up into luxury car territory, unlike the strategy it's pursuing with its less costly Jetta and Passat. The latest Chattanooga-built Passat may be priced $7,000 less than a 2008 Passat, but the Germany-built CC goes up in price for 2013 to reflect the greater equipment.

We didn't get a chance to sample any 3.6 CC at the launch event in France, as this all-wheel-drive CC won't be available until the fall. But the fact that the 280-hp V-6 it comes with is rapidly aging compared to more powerful V-6s near its 50-grand price point (Infiniti G37, Lexus IS350), and even appears dowdy compared to turbocharged fours that approach its output (hello Koreans and Buick Regal GS) at a much lower price, the four-cylinder CC is clearly a much better value.

The 2.0-litre manual CC we drove in and around the twisty mountain roads outside Nice breezed confidently up and down the gears, its liquid clear steering feel more sporting than the overly light feel of its luxury-oriented Audi brethren. It wasn't toss-able like a GTI, but its standard sport suspension and solid refinement means that it was comfortable over any pavement, and enjoyable in the curves.

The current CC is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, although interestingly not the 4Motion all-wheel-drive version, so with mostly cosmetic and feature changes for 2013, this latest CC should also be among the safest sedans in its class. Standard ABS and electronic stability control are helpful safety aids, but not worth mentioning any more, since both are mandated by the American government on all 2012 or newer vehicles in the United States, which makes them virtually omnipresent in Canada as well.

Side and side-curtain airbags, a two-second hill assist feature on manual transmissions and a massive trunk that provides plenty of cargo (402 litres) as well as crush space also help its safety cause.

In the end, the value equation with this car depends greatly on how much its come-hither body speaks to you. For about 35 grand to start, this roomy four-door is priced well above many larger sedans, and a few thousand higher than loaded examples of fine-looking sedans like the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata. It's even within a few grand of a base front-wheel-drive Audi A4 that shares the same basic engine, though the Audi will become a lot pricier very quickly once you add comparable equipment.

That Audi and those Koreans will also give you better fuel economy, the latter on regular fuel too. The Kia and Hyundai also both offer either much more performance with turbocharged models, or much less fuel consumption with hybrid versions.

Like VWs of old, the CC will be mildly to wildly overpriced, chosen more by the heart than the penny-counting head.

2013 Volkswagen CC

Type: Compact four-door, five-seat sedan

Base price: $35,125 for four-cylinder; $48,375 for V-6

Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo, direct-injection four-cylinder/3.6-litre DI V-6

Horsepower/torque: 200 hp/207 lb-ft for four; 280 hp/265 lb-ft for V-6

Transmission: Six-speed manual/six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel/all-wheel on 3.6 4Motion

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): (estimated) 11.2 city/6.2 highway for four; premium gas/(estimated) 13.8 city/9.4 highway for V-6; premium gas

Alternatives: Acura TSX, Audi A4, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Lexus IS, Volkswagen Passat