Sleek is in as auto manufacturers redefine the stodgy four-door by giving it a sloping roofline and a shapely profile that looks almost like a coupe.
Mercedes-Benz popularized the "four-door coupe" look a couple of years ago with the CLS, and now it seems that almost every company is designing something comparable.
The Volkswagen CC has the stunning looks and styling presence usually found in cars costing considerably more. Several of my friends were smitten with it, especially when they heard the price.
VW's fastback sedan is based on the Passat, and it blends sports car dynamics and dimensions with the comfort of a sedan. There are four models: sport, luxury, VR6 sport and VR6 4Motion. Prices begin at $27,100 and top out at $39,800.
I drove a sport with the six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, and its base price was $28,200, including destination charges. A six-speed manual is also offered.
The turbocharged, 2.0-liter engine delivers 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Direct fuel injection, dual overhead cams and variable valve timing improve efficiency, and the turbo's extra boost comes on at low rpm so the CC steps away from a stop with considerable vigor. If you hold the throttle down, the car accelerates to 60 miles per hour in 7.4 seconds. Top track speed is 130 mph.
The Environmental Protection Agency rates the fuel economy at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway.
VW's excellent 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available only on the top model, but it would be a perfect match for the four-cylinder.
The other engine is a 3.6-liter narrow-angle VR6, and it delivers 280 horsepower. Fuel economy is expected to be 18 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway.
In addition to the sweeping roofline and ground-hugging stance, distinguishing exterior cues on the CC include a larger version of VW's signature grille and frameless doors. One other interesting feature that is standard on all but the sport model is a large panoramic sunroof that reaches out to the roof rails and covers the entire forward portion of the roof to the B-pillars.
The instrument panel has a multilevel design that has a dark eyebrow running across the top with a light-colored lower section that makes the cabin feel spacious. The instruments are simple and no longer have blue night lighting.
The CC's interior continues the coupe theme because it seats only four people. Four ergonomically formed sport seats sit low and offer added lateral support for vigorous driving and to enhance the feeling of being connected to the vehicle. The two-tone, pleated seats recall sports cars of the past while looking modern and up to date.
The split-folding rear seat holds only two people. A center console contains a roll-top section that folds down to hold drinks and a medical kit.
The sloping roofline interferes with getting into the back seat, but only slightly.
All CC models are equipped with a sport suspension and electromechanical power steering. The front suspension has McPherson struts, coil springs and self-leveling shock absorbers. The rear suspension is a fully independent, four-link design.
Anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control, traction control, brake assist and an electronic locking differential are standard.
In addition to front and side airbags, the CC has side curtain airbags, power pretensioners for the front seatbelts and front-seat headrests that help prevent whiplash. Side airbags are optional for rear-seat passengers.
The base price of the test car was $28,200. Options included rear side airbags and floor mats. The sticker price was $29,499.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2009 Volkswagen CC Sport
Engine: 2.0-liter, 200-hp 4-cyl.
Wheelbase: 106.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,374 lbs.
Base price: $28,200
As driven: $29,499
MPG: 19 city, 29 hwy.
To reach Tom Strongman, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.