When it comes to the VW CC four-door coupe, anyway - which marries practicality with beauty
THE original recipe was simple - take a very worthy car fraught with a frumpy image, give it major cosmetic surgery and see if punters would take to the equivalent of clothing a utilitarian sedan in a slinky black dress.
Four years later, the Passat CC is a success story that has surprised even Volkswagen itself. Now in its second generation and set for a local launch in April, it's pretty much the same story, although VW is claiming this is a new model (it's really more of a heavy facelift). It's changed cosmetically within and without, but mechanically, it's virtually identical to its predecessor. So basically, the CC is nearly identical to the regular Passat sedan - but without that frumpy "Passat" moniker.
However, that's not to say it doesn't pass muster. The CC will hustle more than convincingly, and for the most part, available tarmac and/or driver talent will run out long before it does. Likewise, with its 160bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, it has more than enough grunt for either the daily commute or recreational cruising.
What's lacking is that crucial spark - it's hard to imagine the CC having as much of a blast as you.
But just to prove our earlier point, the CC feels a more special object right off the bat, despite lacking in ultimate liveliness. It's not all sleight of hand (or eye), however. Wider tyres and a marked decrease in overall height over the regular Passat give the CC far more poise when driven hard.
The CC's other tricks are a little more subtle - a low-slung driving position, semi-bucket seats and a lower roofline all contribute to a feeling of being snugly enclosed in its cabin, like all the best sports cars do. Crucially, it represents very little trade-off when it comes to practicality - there's 532 litres' worth of boot space, ample rear bench legroom and an additional heaping of sound-deadening material, so it's even quieter than before.
Drive it thinking it's a sports car and you'll be wildly disappointed, but think of it as a Passat given a charm school makeover and it makes a great deal of sense.
In the CC's case, beauty may only be skin deep, but given it's already got a (Passat) heart of gold underneath it, perhaps that's all the boost it really needs.
Volkswagen CC 1.8
Engine: 1,798cc, 16V turbocharged i4
Power: 160bhp at 4,500rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,500rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch
Performance: 223kmh, 0-100kmh in 8.5 seconds, 7.2L/100km