Seat Time
There's no denying the sex appeal of the four-door coupe. Behind the CC's wheel, we're not having any trouble turning heads. It looks twice the price. And Volkswagen is banking on that-maybe what works to draw the Joneses' in the luxury market will work to sway buyers away from Toyota Camrys and Nissan Maximas. But there are a few compromises that don't matter so much to the $70,000 luxury car buyer that might make the utility-conscious midsize customer waver. Like the fact that you probably won't have enough headroom in the rear seats. Or that there are only two of them. Ah, the price of cool.

If utility is the price of cool, it's a good thing that the upscale appeal continues in the interior, where real bits of aluminum combine with thick textures to create an ambiance like that of Audi cars costing thousands more. The logical gauge arrangement and flowing dashboard-to-center console flow well to create space. The cockpit is a pleasant place to be. Almost. Any manufacturer will be quick to point out that the cars we drive are pre-production, which is a way of saying "allow us some slack here, people." Fine. But ours had a VIN, and the dashboard produced squeaks and rattles that were loud enough to cause worry. Being loud enough wasn't a problem though, because half of the time, our navigation/multimedia system was frozen, allowing no volume control and limited access to seemingly random features. We'll stop complaining now, though, as it'd take a real nitpicker to point out the misspelling of "dependent" in the interface ("dependant"). We're talking about volume, not children!

Like most V6-equipped cars in this segment, the CC has more than ample power reserves (280 hp), offering up a quick downshift when in "sport" mode to take advantage of the 265 lb-ft of peak torque. But where the engine might be a blessing, the electronic throttle and transmission need a little time to think before deciding it's time to go. The transmission seems to constantly hunt for the right gear. We feel as though maybe a little more effort could have been spent in the mapping.

Sizeable tires provide more grip than the typical Camry buyer will ever need for the occasional on-ramp, but once you're on the highway, you might find the shocks a bit under-damped as the front bobs over dips in the pavement. Maybe it's a tradeoff for a cushy ride around town, but it's not the kind of setup that inspires finding the speed limiter on the freeway.

Gripes aside, though, let's be honest-a car's styling is a major factor in any purchase, and this one is way too cool for its class. We know you weren't going to consider the Japanese competition (or the domestic alternatives) in the first place, but even if you did, which would you rather have parked in your driveway? Brad Elsinore

From The Hip
+ Seamless marriage of the engine, gearbox and drive system
-Visually, a little too cutesy for its own good

2009 VW CC VR6 Sport
* Layout
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive* Engine
3.6-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve* Transmission
Six-speed automatic* Performance
Peak Power: 280 hp @ 6200 rpm
Peak Torque: 265 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm
0-60 mph: 6.6 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph (limited)
Fuel Economy: 18 city/27 hwy
Price as Tested: $41,630

BMW 135i
Transformation machine

* BMW would like to consider the 135i the spiritual successor to the 2002tii. I learn this from a mildly irked senior ed Funke who considers it a form of automotive blasphemey.

The truth is he's too young to hold a valid opinion of the analogy. He never owned a 2002. You had to be there man, like Woodstock and Viet-Nam, knee-deep in mud, guts and love.

Well, I was at that party. I had a gorgeous 76' 02 with Alpina wheels and Delorto sidedrafts. It still ranks among my three favorite cars of all time. That BMW chooses to compare the 135 to the 2002 leaves me indifferent, perhaps because I don't see the similarities.

The new 135i lacks the earthy smell of horsehair and pungent gasoline scent of my 2002. Its simple knobs and dials have long since been replaced with silicon-dampened levers, electronically weighted dials and one-touch switches. And the 2002 profile, as distinguished as Jay Leno's chin, simply ain't there.

Is my heart broken? Not really. The 135i is a fine car in its own right. It doesn't need to emulate anything to be a great car.

Fast as hell right out of the box, the 135i and its twin turbo six conspire to make it a genuine factory hot rod. On the local "test loop," the 135i entered freeway speeds at triple digits. It does this effortlessly, barely breaking a sweat, daring you to keep your foot in it. The 135i is something of a "point and shoot" car, a vehicle so quick it was like shooting a crossbow between fellow drivers. Little openings become viable targets.

Yeah, I became quite the dick in the 135i. I never remember having the same problem in the 2002.Les Bidrawn

From The Hip
+ Brilliant engine, exceptional handling, huge fun factor
-Just about 3 Series price for less car

2009 BMW 135i
*Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
*Engine
3.0-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged and intercooled
*Transmission
Six-speed manual
*Performance
Peak Power: 300 hp @ 5800 rpm
Peak Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm 0-60
mph: 5.1 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph (limited)
Fuel Economy: 17 city/25 hwy
Price as Tested: $43,220

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