Remember a time when there were well-defined categories in the automotive universe? A customer could stroll into a dealership and order up a compact hatchback or a good ol’ truck-based SUV. Those days, when most folks knew a 4-door as a sedan, seem like ancient history now. Today carmakers are doing everything they can to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the car-buying public by blurring the lines between those otherwise clearly delineated automotive subgroups and slicing off ever-smaller fragments of the pie.
If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that a “coupe” – regardless of it wearing two doors or four – will be better looking than its sedan counterpart and that it will definitely cost more money despite usually having fewer parts.
While generally accepted by most that a coupe is a two-door with a roofline lower than a sedan’s, one can find four-door “coupes” dating back several decades in one form or another. And while cars like the 4-door Saturn Ion Coupe or Mazda RX-8 looked more like a traditional 2-door coupe with some extra little half-doors slapped on, it was Mercedes-Benz who really led the charge with these swoopy-looking premium sedans, err… “4-door coupes” when the CLS was introduced in 2005.
Three years after Benz’s lead, Volkswagen followed suit with the beautifully stylish CC version of its mid-sized Passat sedan, and in recent years both BMW and Audi have jumped on the bandwagon. The CC, however, is a much more affordable offering than its premium branded alternates.
Vanity was the only reason to choose a first generation CC, then known as the Passat CC due to the shared mechanicals with its stodgier cousin. If you wanted a sleek, fashionable German sedan but couldn’t swing the lease payments on the swoopy Mercedes, the Passat CC made for an affordable – if somewhat dynamically inferior – choice.
Then a few years ago Volkswagen’s executives on this side of the Atlantic decided that the Passat Americans really wanted was an enormous, highly-conservative and more affordable sedan (rather like creating a Volkswagen Impala), to the more luxurious and driver-focused previous generation. And with that, the CC was a Passat no more.
Today, if North American buyers want their mid-sized 4-door Volkswagen to be the real European deal, they need to pick up one of these made-in-Deutschland CCs, and what they’ll get is a nice driving, and still very stylish machine.
Two doors, classic styling – Find of the Week: 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Coupe
Our test car, a new 2016 CC in Highline trim finished in Harvard blue (new for 2016), looks like a proper, Euro luxury sedan, just without the premium badge. The CC’s exterior design – largely unchanged since its inception – remains its strongest quality. It’s a timeless look that clearly puts fashion over function.
From a passenger perspective, that fashion can become problematic for the function part, such as when dealing with ingress and egress of the CC. The windshield is so steeply raked into the arcing roofline, that dropping down into the driver’s seat is likely to result in a smacked head if you’re of shorter stature, and a bruised shoulder if you’re of average height or greater – so care is required.