Despite Volkswagen’s origins as a car for the masses, the brand has more recently explored its premium side with cars like the Touareg, Passat CC, and the overseas-only Phaeton muscling in on traditional luxury territory.
In Australia the brand has positioned itself as a kind of top-spec mainstream brand, bringing premium tech and upmarket interiors to cars like the Polo and Golf, but now Volkswagen is unabashedly targeting the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series with its new Arteon four-door coupe.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Engine/trans: 206kW/350Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Although it wears a new name, the Arteon will sit in the Volkswagen range as a successor to the Passat CC (later known just as the CC) and picks up a new Volkswagen naming convention that sees prestige models wear an ‘eon’ suffix, like the Chinese market Phideon limo.
Australia will get a single specification when the car arrives before the end of the year, with the same 206kW turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine as the Passat 206TSI, and with sporty R-Line interior and exterior styling as standard.
For now Volkswagen is keeping a lid on pricing, but expect a starting bid of just over $60,000 - and while that might seem uncomfortably close to something like a Mercedes-Benz C-Class the Arteon will come fully-loaded where its prestige competitors will leave plenty of options boxes to tick.
While the low roof, tightly drawn wheel arches, and angular front end lend the exterior a dramatic presence, the interior of the Arteon is a little less dramatic.
Excellent fit and finish, and a liberal use of premium cabin materials ensure the Arteon feels genuinely premium inside helped along by Volkswagen’s latest interior technology, including a 9.2-inch touchscreen, and a comprehensive and customisable 12.3-inch digital instrument display.
Comfortable front sports seats hold occupants in place without feeling overbearingly sporty, and a huge range of adjustment makes getting set behind the wheel a breeze. In the rear there’s no shortage of legroom thanks to a wheelbase that’s 50mm longer than the Passat, but the sweeping roofline does have an impact on rear headroom.
With prestige buyers in mind Volkswagen has ensured the spacious 500-litre boot is able to hold four sets of golf clubs, with power opening and closing via the powered rear liftgate.
ON THE ROAD
In Australia the Arteon will come equipped with just one engine, Volkswagen’s 206TSI turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder with 206kW of power and 350Nm of torque routed to all four wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
With those stats Volkswagen claims a brisk 0-100 km/h time of 5.6 seconds with official fuel consumption rated at 7.3 l/100km.
The engine and drivetrain is the same as used in the Passat 206TSI R-Line already on sale in Australia, and traces it roots back to the Golf R hot hatch, though with a slightly lower torque output and heavier overall weight compared to the Golf the Arteon feels less manic.
Left to its own devices the Arteon displays high levels of refinement, with a smooth-shifting automatic transmission and plenty of low-rev torque to pull itself around with.
Turn up the pace a little and the Arteon takes a moment to find its feet, there’s a small hint of turbo lag, and the transmission can take its time to find the right gear but once everything synchronises the Arteon becomes a capable sporty drive, with raspy (albeit faint) exhaust note into the deal.
Volkswagen has also fitted its most comprehensive suite of driver aid and autonomous technologies to the Arteon to help make the driver’s job easier.
Features like adaptive cruise control with automatic speed limit recognition and traffic jam assist take some of the strain out of commuting, while the LED headlights are able to take GPS data and turn the headlights around corners before any steering input.
That’s not to say Volkswagen has forgotten keen drivers entirely, with the security of all wheel drive traction enhanced via features including VW’s dynamic steering system and adaptive suspension that can be toggled through Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.
It’s hard to say for certain how this first introduction across Germany’s super smooth roads and autobahns will translate to the Australian experience, with our unique range of rough surfaces and noisy bluechip. On its home turf at least the Arteon feels capable and confident.
With muscular styling and a selection of properly premium equipment as standard the Arteon might speak to the more practical side of buyers looking for a prestige car who may not want to take a full-leap into high end territory.
It’s the on-road similarities to Volkswagen’s own, cheaper Passat that will make the Arteon a hard sell - although its styling is undoubtedly sexier. Is that enough for buyers to make the upgrade? Time will tell, but the basics are in place to challenge conventional thinking about what makes a prestige car.