In Volkswagen speak, "R" designates only the most capable version of a given platform. Over the years, we've seen two generations of R32 and, more recently, the revered Golf R. However, VW's large sedans have never been anointed with such R-ness. And while a Passat R might not exactly sound like something we'd spend money on, the CC isn't exactly a Passat...
We were first introduced to the CC when it debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in January '08. It was initially dubbed the Passat CC, but was mercifully shortened to "CC" (which stands for Comfort Coupe).
Although clearly built on a Passat chassis, it's slightly larger and has coupe styling with more dynamic performance. And when looking at the CC you can't help but be reminded of the Mercedes CLS, which isn't a bad thing...
When driving the CC it's a competent but slightly uninspiring experience. So VW's handsome sedan has always begged for more performance.
Enter Peter Zahurak from Denver, Colorado. A long-time VAG enthusiast, whose previous project - a 400whp Mk1 Audi TT - never quite came to fruition. So when the CC was announced, he was determined to have another go, and enlisted the team at 3ZERO3 Motorsports in Wheat Ridge, CO for help with the build.
"I wanted to execute something that was in-line with the original vehicle but that would be a complete makeover," Peter explained. "3ZERO3 have built some great concepts, so we met to discuss the plan. I don't care about stance or AWD, but wanted something that was fast, sexy and drivable. So we fleshed out what we'd call the CC-R concept and I fell in love with the idea. And achieving the 'R' status was what motivated all aspects of the project."
The goal was to create a CC-R with a hardware list the VW engineers would be proud of. It would be fast and agile, without compromising the car's reliability or civility, just as Peter requested.
The first modifications involved an HPA Motorsports K04 turbo kit along with an FMIC, downpipe, ECU and DSG tuning software. This was enhanced with a cat-back exhaust from Milltek that used twin tips and was the first of its kind in the US. The team also sourced a gorgeous stage 2 carbon fiber intake from Carbonio.
With more than 350hp expected, HPA also provided its six-piston front brake kit. Finished in a bright blue and including 355mm slotted two-piece rotors, these almost do as much for the aesthetics as they do for the braking...
Suspension was also carefully selected, with Bilstein PSS10 coilovers getting the nod. These units are remarkable for their ability to retain factory levels of ride comfort while allowing the vehicle to be lowered. It has ten settings for damper adjustment, allowing Peter to dial-in the ride quality he wanted.
The last items selected were the wheels because the owner was struggling with the decision. Initially, he was looking for something that conveyed more luxury than sporting intentions, but ultimately trusted in the advice of the 3ZERO3 team.
"I had my mind set on some nasty 20" dished wheels, but when I was ready to pull the trigger, Max Gerson (service advisor) at 3ZERO3 almost slapped the credit card out of my hand. In the end I was forced to drink the Kool-Aid and order some wheels I wasn't totally convinced of at the time. Actually, we had to order two sets because we weren't happy with the fitment of the first set. But at the end of the day, I love the 20" BBS CH-R we chose. The finish and spoke detail perfectly match the theme of the car," Peter told us.
Inside, it was the owner's decision to wrap the trim in white carbon fiber vinyl from 3M. He also added HPA-inspired blue stripes to the shifter surround and passenger-side trim for a sporting splash of color.
On the driver's side, a digital boost gauge was ordered from P3 Cars to monitor the new turbo set up. This was another great addition because it's neatly integrated and is even able to read fault codes if necessary.
Exterior upgrades were similarly subtle and OEM+. They included a VW trunk spoiler, European-spec turn signals and three R badges, which were painted blue to match the brakes.
The car went from bone stock to fully built in about one month, all while the odometer was reading less than 10,000 miles. Yet Peter was adamant his CC-R would be built early in the car's life so he had all the time to enjoy it.
While HPA doesn't really advertise the gains from its K04 turbo kit, 3ZERO3 Motorsports had built several similarly equipped TSI cars. They were confidently expecting at least 300whp, as they strapped it to the dyno one warm afternoon in June to see what the CC-R had.
Unfortunately, high summer temps inside the facility limited boost, and while the P3 gauge didn't see more than 14.8psi, the car made an impressive 309hp and 317 lb-ft at the wheels.
Using a 15% calculation for drivetrain loss from the DSG transmission, the tuner estimated power at the crank was close to 355hp and 360 lb-ft.
What was most impressive about this K04 kit was that it relied on the stock fueling. That meant, if Peter could behave himself and stay out of the boost, the CC-R could still return 30mpg in mixed driving. You have to admit that 350hp and 30mpg is pretty remarkable!
Driving impressions didn't disappoint, either. Once on the throttle, the Carbonio intake made some great induction sounds on part throttle - hissing and sucking as air was drawn through the carbon fiber pipe.
We took it easy for the first few miles to earn Peter's trust and, operating on part throttle, the car behaved almost as stock. Perhaps there was a whisker more lag from the larger K04 turbocharger, but these units spool so quickly it was never a point of contention.
As we found some open road and transitioned to WOT, the boost came on smoothly but the traction control light was flashing as the front tires clawed for traction.
The exhaust tone was throaty, yet restrained. But our favorite noise was the DSG-induced ignition cut between shifts.
As we came around a slow corner, we manually downshifted into second at 25mph, then stood on the throttle. The CC-R delivered tenacious acceleration and we can attest that its 355hp was present and accounted for.
After a few upshifts and gurgles from the DSG, we looked down and discovered we were going criminally fast. Fortunately, the HPA brakes shed the speed and returned us to legality.
The HPA DSG software seemed to improve the shift logic in auto mode, but the coolest feature of stage 2 tune was the launch control. Following Peter's instructions, we disabled the traction control, left foot on the brakes, then went WOT. Once the throttle was pinned for a second time, we released the brakes and the car rocketed off the line. With the windows down, the cabin was filled with tire smoke and the sound of grown men giggling. Launch control is wildly entertaining.
Of course, the lack of AWD makes this a flawed masterpiece, although the factory Scirocco R is also FWD... And Peter's CC-R represents a daily driver with a reliable 350hp that makes no compromise for reliability or economy, yet can shred tires at every stop sign.
And despite those rubber-band 30-series tires, the VW remained surprisingly compliant. We expected the tires to rub on the fenders, but it never happened. The suspension also coped with city potholes and broken pavement, with the Passat chassis clearly adept at accommodating larger wheel and tire combinations than earlier versions. And with the Bilstein struts adjusted to level six all round, we were expecting a slightly harsh and choppy ride, but it was far from the case.
So we can attest to the flexibility and prowess of this R-themed VW sedan that again makes us question why VW has never created its own performance version of this cool coupe.
2012 Volkswagen CC
Engine 2.0L four-cylinder TSI 16v with HPA Motorsports K04 turbo kit, exhaust downpipe, front-mount intercooler and software, Carbonio stage 2 intake, Milltek cat-back exhaust system with twin tailpipes
Drivetrain six-speed DSG transmission with HPA Motorsports stage 2 DSG software and street density dogbone mount
Brakes HPA Motorsports six-piston calipers, 355mm two-piece slotted rotors f, stock r
Suspension Bilstein PSS10 coilovers
Wheels & Tires 20x9" BBS CH-R wheels in matte anthracite, 225/30 R20 Falken FK-452 tires
Exterior VW trunk spoiler, Euro-spec turn signals, R badges painted blue
Interior P3 Cars boost gauge, 3M white carbon fiber vinyl
Thanks Desiree, Jason and Max at 3ZERO3 Motorsports (3zero3motorsports.com), Keir at HPA Motorsports (hpamotorsports.com), Robert at BBS (bbs-usa.com)