CC R-Line: Volkswagen’s Masquerade Car

“That thing’s a Volkswagen?” If we had a nickel for every time we heard this from a random passerby through our week with Volkswagen’s CC R-Line, well, we wouldn’t say we’d be rich, but we’d have quite a few nickels in our pockets. Most swore it was a Jaguar, while the father of a teenager who accidentally backed in to it was worried that his son’s insurance would take a huge hit from the cost it would take to fix our Mercedes. One thing was certain, though, everyone thought the car was much more expensive than it actually is.

With both our main office in Chicago and our East Coast office getting a silver version of the car at the same time, it was shocking to hear the similarities in the public’s perceptions when we compared notes at the end of the week. So we threw our two experiences together to demonstrate exactly how similar they were.

Bill Cho

“I wonder how much this is going to cost me?” That was not me asking about the price of the 2012 Volkswagen CC R-Line but rather the father of the newly licensed teen who just hit me in the Wawa parking lot. We were looking at the mangled rear bumper of the CC and we both had the same look on our faces: misery.

Damn… My first true writing assignment and twelve hours after picking up the car, this happens. What started out as a good week just turned ugly. Or did it?

When I found out a CC R-Line was coming my way, I was frankly a little hesitant. My only experience of driving a CC was a fully loaded VR6 4Motion and it was a joy. My other experience with Volkswagen’s big sedan included a B3 Passat GLX and a B4 Passat GLX. I was less than impressed with driving the 16v four cylinder versions of those. How would the 2.0T four cylinder stack up to the venerable VR6?

It turns out there was no need for fear. The 2.0T in the CC R-Line is a smooth, responsive and quiet motor. From passing a tractor trailer on the turnpike to sprinting away from a stoplight, the CC feels light on its feet. While the roar of the VR6 is sorely missed, the 2.0T emits just enough noise to make a driver feel as if they are driving a more powerful car.

But the main focus of the CC is the exterior. Low, long and sleek spring to mind when asked to describe the CC. The R-Line enhances that look with a bigger front bumper, extended side sills, tinted taillights, and 18-inch five spoke wheels. There were many guesses as to what exactly the car was. Mercedes, Audi, something Italian? My mother in law knew I helped out on a Volkswagen website, so she was puzzled why I was driving a $50,000 Mercedes. She was shocked when she found out it was a Volkswagen whose sticker only read $30,280.

But back to Wawa. It seems the teen’s father had a similar impression to my mother-in-law. “Is that a new Mercedes?” he asked.

“No, it’s a Volkswagen,” I replied.

I cannot describe the look of relief and puzzlement that washed over his face. It made me smile.

Tom Cassady

The perception around Volkswagen’s CC R-Line could be a direct result of the company it keeps. As a four-door coupe, the CC sits long and lean with Mercedes-Benz’s CLS, Audi’s new A7, and even Aston Martin’s Rapide. For once, Volkswagen was an early adopter to a trend, having introduced the CC all the way back in January 2008, before most of the segment’s current heavy-hitters were around. Because of this, the CC has earned a bit of low-key respect as an established player in the niche.

The R-Line derivative we tested only enhances the CC’s upmarket perception. Offered as a separate model rather than merely an option package, the R-Line takes the standard 2.0T model and raises the aesthetic appeal to a new level. Compared to the standard 2.0T model, this car wears a lower front bumper, with deeper sideskirts running down the side. Around back, darkened taillights lend a more aggressive touch than the friendly red standard lamps, while the lower bumper valance sports an integrated diffuser-like panel. All of this sits on top of 18-inch split-spoke alloy wheels.

The effect, while subtle, gives the car a much more sculpted appearance. Visually, it looks as if it should carry a massive, forced-induction V8 like models from loftier marques. Nevertheless, the two-liter turbocharged four does such a decent job launching the CC that some may be convinced there’s more than just 200 horses under there. Backing the engine’s performance is the wonderful DSG transmission, which, in sport mode, bangs out shifts with a pronounced pop from the tailpipe.

As nice as all this looks, the CC R-Line’s real beauty is its dirty little secret. Each time we were asked what kind of car we were driving, we took the opportunity to ask the uninformed what they figured it cost. Seat-of-the-pants data revealed a near-universal average between $50,000 and $60,000. You can imagine, then, the reaction of each person when we revealed the as-tested price of $32,380.

As we’ve said before, this is what we feel Volkswagen should be all about — a genuine European experience at an attainable price. And the CC — particularly in R-Line trim — embodies this spirit perfectly. Just ask anyone on the street.