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  • November 27, 2014

Test Drive: Sporty Sedans - Ladue News: Diversions

Test Drive: Sporty Sedans

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Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:07 pm, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

Just because you have to drive carpool or shlep around a bunch of kids doesn’t mean you can’t have a vehicle that is sporty, attractive and fun to drive.

While many of the most beautiful car designs involve two-door coupes, adding rear doors no longer means driving a boring box. To wit, check out the Volkswagen CC, a very stylish German sedan that clearly drew inspiration from the beautiful Mercedes CLS, but offers similar styling and impressive performance in a package that costs about a third as much as the Mercedes.

The greatly sloped front and rear windows, combined with a high belt line and relatively short side windows create a sleek, stylish, almost ‘chopped’ appearance to the CC, and it works. Add in bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights, and this is one slick, modern-looking vehicle. The only downside is that you have to watch your head when entering or exiting the vehicle, especially the rear seat, due to the low roofline.

Once you enter the CC, however, you are treated to a typically excellent VW interior with all the expected modern amenities, including available leather heated front seats, dual automatic climate control, automatic headlights, a large touch-screen interface for audio and navigation controls and video display for the back-up camera. Ventilation controls are three-rotary-knob simple. The new CC seats five, but the middle rear seat passenger better be skinny; and due to the sloping rear roof line, really tall people should probably sit up front. Rear-seat passengers enjoy their own air vents and a modicum of bolstering. If you don’t have rear-seat passengers, you can fold the seats down 40/60 to expand the already very generous trunk space.

Fortunately, performance matches exterior good looks with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine good for 200 horsepower that go to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual (in the sport model) or 6-speed DSG automatic with manual mode. With the automatic, gas mileage is 22 city, 31 highway. A 3.6-liter, 280 horsepower V-6 with available all-wheel-drive also is offered. Handling is good with a firm Teutonic feel, which combined with brisk acceleration and good brakes, creates a fun-to-drive vehicle.

According to Chuck Thompson, new car Internet manager at Bommarito VW, “The CC is a marvelous driving car, which is designed to be very sporty with a unique, eye-catching design.”

Prices for the CC range from about $30,000 to $40,000.

Another sporty, fun-to-drive sedan is the Nissan Maxima. The Maxima was designed to be a sports car that just happens to have four doors. Its powerful V-6 engine, flared fenders and 19-inch wheels let you know that this car is first and foremost about driving.

That message is further conveyed by the sporty interior, which boasts highly bolstered front seats, roomy, well-bolstered outboard rear seats, paddle shifters, a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 6600 RPM redline tachometer. The interior also offers a number of nice luxury features, such as a heated steering wheel, heated seats, a cooled driver’s seat (that works remarkably well), electrically adjustable tilt and telescoping steering wheel, navigation, a sunroof over the front and back seats, dual automatic climate control, and a large 7-inch display monitor that also functions as a screen for the back-up camera. Hard buttons and knobs for the radio and ventilation controls make comfort and entertainment easy. The trunk is very large, but folding rear seats only are available in the base model.

The 290 horsepower V-6 engine pumps out lots of raw power to the front wheels. A firm sport-tuned but comfortable suspension keeps the Maxima flat in hard-cornering, which combined with good brakes and nice tight responsive steering, makes for very sporty performance. The only miss is the CVT transmission that seems to hesitate before applying power compared to a conventional geared automatic transmission, and thus seems to sap some of the engine’s prodigious power. Unfortunately, no manual transmission is available. Fuel economy is 19 city, 26 highway. Overall, the Maxima has a very premium feel to it. It’s like getting an Infiniti at a Nissan price.

Steve Colesworthy, general sales manager at Bommario Nissan says, “The Maxima has a special feel to it. It’s very solid, like it’s carved out of one piece of material. It offers sports-car handling with a firm, yet comfortable ride.”

Prices for the Maxima range between $32,000 and $40,000.

Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.

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