The name of Volkswagen’s new five-door mid-sizer may not be familiar, but its intent certainly is.
The Arteon, like the Passat CC and CC before it (two versions of the same car), is designed and marketed to attract buyer who might otherwise have considered a more iconic Euro sedan from Mercedes-Benz or BMW.
While the CC twins only made a moderate impact on the prestige market, Volkswagen’s all-new attempt makes a more serious play for the hearts and minds of discerning prestige buyers.
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium hatch
Price: $65,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 206kW/350Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.5 l/100km
Although the name is completely different and the styling has been pushed another step further, the 2018 Volkswagen Arteon owes more to the regular Passat than first impressions might suggest.
For the new-generation car Volkswagen is trying a simpler but more sophisticated strategy, offering a single, high-grade model priced from $65,490 (plus on-road costs), shooting right across the bow of the $64,400 Mercedes C200 and $63,400 BMW 320i.
To help sway buyers away from ‘entry-level’ prestige cars the Arteon is only available with the Passat’s biggest and best engine - the 206kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol.
It’s coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and 4Motion all-wheel drive system to underline its premium and performance character, giving it something of a distinct advantage against the less powerful and two wheel drive cars that predominantly make up the prestige medium sedan market.
- Standard Equipment: Nappa leather upholstery, R-Line sports seats, powered driver's seat with memory, three-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display, adaptive cruise control, powered tailgate, three-colour ambient interior lighting, LED headlights, rear privacy glass, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 9.2-inch touchscreen with gesture control, satellite navigation, AM/FM radio, CD player, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 10gb hard drive storage, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-speaker audio (10 speaker Dynaudio system optional)
- Cargo Volume: 563 litres to rear seats
With value-prestige as one of its most enticing lures the Arteon comes loaded with equipment with an extensive list of standard items including R-Line styling, 19-inch alloy wheels, head-up display, VW’s Active Info Display (digital dashboard), keyless entry and ignition, leather trimmed R-Line sports seats, a huge 9.2-inch infotainment screen with gesture controls, surround view camera, smartphone connectivity and interior ambient lighting.
Safety is also comprehensive with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist and semi-autonomous parking.
All of this gear is wrapped up in a truly striking package. Style is, of course, subjective, but speaking objectively the Arteon certainly cuts a different figure than the Passat.
From the horizontal lines across to front that seamlessly incorporates the headlights into the grille, to the clamshell bonnet and through to the sweeping ‘four-door coupe’ roofline the Arteon certainly stands out as the most premium offering in the people’s car line-up and doesn’t look out-of-place alongside a Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4.
Inside is a different story though. The cabin doesn’t feel dissimilar to the Passat, which means a nice presentation and good quality fit and finish, but ultimately it lacks the wow factor of the exterior.
There are some nice touches, like the high-gloss finished infotainment system and high resolution screen add to the premium feel while the R-Line seats look good and offer comfort and support.
Not surprisingly rear headroom is compromised by the sloping roofline but those in the back do get heated seats. Unlike the original Passat CC the Arteon comes standard with five seats.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, 206kW @5700-6500rpm, 350Nm @1800-5600rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent multi-link rear, adaptive dampers
- Brakes: four-wheel ventilated discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 11.7m turning circle
Style and value only go so far, a true luxury car needs to drive like one. Sharing the same engine as the Golf R (although down on torque by 30Nm) certainly gives the Arteon performance, with plenty of punch when you force the accelerator down.
The dual-clutch transmission still has some hesitation at low speeds and when trying to find the right ratio in a hurry, such as when you plant your foot to call for a sudden burst of acceleration.
On the move, though, the engine and transmission work in harmony and feel quieter and more refined than the calibration in the Golf R.
While the Arteon feels pleasant to drive, with good steering and a responsive chassis, the ride is too firm for Australian roads at times. Even with the adaptive chassis control set to its softest setting you still feel most bumps in the road.
It never feels too harsh or crashy over bumps, it just displays a typical European suspension tune suited to smoother roads that those found down under.
Ultimately though, like the interior, the Arteon doesn’t feel suitably different than the Passat 206TSI from behind the wheel. That’s hardly a criticism because the Passat is a very nice car in its own right.
Of course, the Arteon offers more than just a different look, the safety package is more comprehensive than its sedan sibling, so Volkswagen is hoping customers will upgrade from the Passat, rather than cross-shop it.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Has Volkswagen succeeded in make a true luxury car? The verdict is inconclusive. To those that put a value on the badge on the bonnet a Volkswagen will never be a true equal to Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
Judge the Arteon on its merits though and it’s a very fine luxury car. It has the established players beat for value, can hold its own in terms of style and the driving experience is more than competent.
But even if it doesn’t lure buyers from the big three luxury brands to their local Volkswagen showroom the Arteon proves the people’s car can go premium.
MORE: Volkswagen News and Reviews
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