Wikipedia astutely defines a dark horse as, “a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort”. There’s a dark horse in every race: Abraham Lincoln in politics, Mark Cuban in everything, and that one Nickelback album in music. The VW CC ($31,795+), we believe, fits that bill in the upscale midsize automobile realm. Although CC stands for Comfort Coupé, you’ll notice that this Deutschland Dream Machine dons four doors, an idea popularized by the Mercedes-Benz CLS and arguably perfected in this current VW iteration. Perhaps that’s why this People’s Car won us over during a week-long driving review.

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The CC is a less popular contender in the midsize market, often overshadowed by the BMW 3-Series, Acura TL or even the kindred Audi A4. Even so, with the R-Line starting at $33,000, the VW carries a serious ratio of driving pleasure to cash blown. We tested the 2.0 four-cylinder turbo, which boasts 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. The car was fun and quick off the bat, immediately leaving daydreams about the optional V6 in the dust. Even with front-wheel drive, acceleration was straight and true with no perceivable torque-steer. The six-speed manual transmission shifted like butter through each gate. Responsive, nimble steering worked in perfect harmony with the suspension, which some claim is tuned too much toward a sporty sedan feel — potentially at the cost of the driver’s lumbar. The rigidity of the ride is stiff, sure, but it’s confident, too. Through S-turns and roundabouts the CC stayed surprisingly level and composed.

The car was fun and quick off the bat, immediately leaving daydreams about the optional V6 in the dust.

The performance of the R-Line remains the same as the Sport version of the CC but, with the added body kit, takes the standard CC aesthetic to a sportier level. Heads turned during our review, not entirely a common occurrence for the oh-so-bland mid-size segment. The interior of the car has all the hallmarks of proper German luxury: V-Tex leatherette seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, brushed Titanium console and dash trim, standard V.A.G. cluster, subtle accent lighting and enough R-Line badging to leave no doubt about what you’re driving. Unlike other German offerings, the interior doesn’t wow owners with luxe touches; instead, VW opted for a driver-centric layout that has a distinctly European sportiness and extremely handsome style. The backseat technically seats three people, but leaves something to be desired; to compete in the upscale midsize class, VW bucked the “larger is better” trend and downsized a little, leaving the backseat passengers with a little less headroom and legroom than the cousin Passat.

The verdict is simple. The CC is a terrific package. It’s a unique choice for an upscale midsize that’s still low on many a radar. This dark horse is a creative choice for the discerning buyer who wants a car that doesn’t scream “look at me!” but still demands an excellent driving and riding experience. In a lot of ways, it’s the smart man’s four-door coupe. Will being cut from Phaeton’s similar bolt cause the CC to follow in its path? Only time will tell. We’re after one either way.