By Alex Taylor III
February 24, 2009

Volkswagen’s product offensive is continuing to pay dividends as it outperforms competitors in the U.S. market.  Its sales were down only 11.6% in January vs. an overall industry that cratered 37.1%. These days, a little down is the new up, or at least the new flat.

Among VW’s star performers was the new CC. VW sold 1,072 CC’s during January, making it the third most popular vehicle in VW 10-model lineup.  The CC outsold both the Golf and New Beetle and for the month trailed only the Passat, from which it is derived, and the Jetta.

A frigid February weekend spent in the CC made me a believer. Styled like a four-door coupe, the CC looked handsome from every angle inside and out.  Unlike most VWs, which have a very functional, almost clunky style, the CC is international in appearance,  combining the bravado of higher-end Europeans with the refinement of the Japanese.

Inside, everything was tucked and tailored.   The instruments were well organized and easy to operate (no BMW-style iDrive for VW) and the seats supported without grabbing.  My only complaints were the keyfob ignition device that had to be pushed in for the engine to start (where was the stop-start button with the hands-free key, a real benefit on cold days?) and the rear doors that locked without being so bidden.

Underway, the CC would never be mistaken for a BMW – this is more luxury sedan than sport tourer – but otherwise ran quietly, smoothly, comfortably, and efficiently behind its 3.6 liter six-cylinder engine.   VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system provided a margin of safety on slippery roads. CC mileage is rated at 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

The CC is the big brother of the workaday Passat, and herein lies the buyer’s dilemma. The two are all but identical dimensionally, the Passat being a smidgen narrower and a skosh higher. But the Passat lacks the slick looks, upscale finish, and two additional cylinders of engine (it gets by with a 2-liter, turbo-charged four cylinder).

That downgrade in equipment and  pizzazz for the Passat is worth a $10,500 discount from the CC’s base sticker price of $39,800 (my test car ran to $42,630 with delivery charges). Of course, there was a bunch of extra equipment with that, including some I like (sunroof, satellite radio) and some I can do without (front and rear view cameras).  But deleting those knocks only $2,640 off the sticker.   In 2007, I might have suggested splurging on the extra bling and choosing the CC.  These days it is harder to make that  call.

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