Back in January 2008, amidst one of the most severe financial crises this world has ever seen, Volkswagen premiered their alternative to the Mercedes-Benz CLS at the Detroit Motor Show: the Passat CC. Large financial institutions collapsed and Wall Street was fuming out red digits day after day as the financial crisis festered to other industries and regions, including the automotive industry. That didn’t withhold Volkswagen from stating the ambitious goals and plans they had for their brand new four-door ‘coupé’. At the world premiere of the Passat CC, Volkswagen said it wanted to sell 300,000 units over the course of the following seven years.

Whether Volkswagen succeeded is something I cannot tell you. However, a mere three years after the market introduction of the Passat CC, Volkswagen already presented a successor (facelift) and called it the ‘Volkswagen CC’ from then on. Fast-forward six years and we are nearing the 2017 Geneva Motor Show. After a bit of radio silence, Volkswagen presented a successor to the CC somewhat out of the blue: the Volkswagen Arteon (http://gtspirit.com/2017/03/07/official-2018-volkswagen-arteon/) was born.

Now the Volkswagen Phaeton is out of the picture definitively, the German automaker is left with a larger market gap to fill. As such, the new Arteon is positioned slightly more upmarket and also seems to have grown compared to its predecessor. It’s also no longer named a four-door coupé, but a five-door ‘fastback’. The difference you can see at a glance, the roofline of the Arteon does not extend downwards as steeply as that of the CC. Above all, this should make the Arteon more spacious and practical compared to its predecessor. In order to find out, I was given the Volkswagen Arteon for a thorough test of 10 days over the course of this summer.

Design

My first thoughts upon seeing the first images of the Volkswagen Arteon earlier this year were exactly something along the lines of: “wow, is that a Volkswagen?”. I am not too familiar with its predecessor, which probably explained my reaction. In hindsight, the Arteon does share many of its design traits with the CC, especially from the rear. However, the Arteon looks sharper, wider and has significantly more presence at the front.

The dramatic-looking front is dominated by a radiator grille that encompasses the full width of the car and extends into the large LED daytime running lights. The muscularly-lined hood also extends further down, drawing eyes to the intriguing chrome grille. The designers at Volkswagen wanted to give the Arteon a new and more expressive face, and at that, they definitely succeeded.

A hard shoulder line that runs just above the door handles extends all the way into the car’s full-LED taillights and visually gives the Arteon a lower silhouette. It also gives the car a pair of firm shoulders, making it appear more muscular from the rear. The Arteon’s rear end is clean and modern, with features like a rear-view camera hidden away behind the Volkswagen plaque. Shiny large tailpipes further underline the Arteon’s competence.

The design lines come out even better if you were to go for a more popping color, like the optional ‘Curcuma Yellow’ for instance. This also makes the flared wheel arches more noticeable, which provide space for wheels up to 20-ich in size. The 20-inch ‘Dark Graphite’ matt black wheels contrast beautifully with the yellow paintwork, both of which are available as an option when you spec one of the Volkswagen premium design lines, in our case the ‘R-Line’.

Interior

The Volkswagen Arteon is built on the automaker’s MQB platform and features short overhangs at both the front and rear end, as well as a royal 2,841 mm wheelbase. In theory this means good news for the interior space and practicality of the car. Let’s start with the boot space, which offers an impressive 563 liters, all the way up to 1557 liters with the rear seats folded down. In comparison, a regular Passat sedan offers 586 liters of luggage space, and 1152 liters with the seats folded down.

Rear seat passengers also benefit from the long wheelbase. Sitting behind myself (1.88m) I am left with an abundance of leg and knee space. Headspace leaves room for improvement, but if you were to lean back a little and use the space ahead of you to its full extent, it’s a problem solved.

In general the interior of the Arteon looks clean and well-built. Customers that want more premium could opt for the Nappa leather package, fully electric 14-way seats with memory function, ambient lighting and premium inserts. The R-Line design already adds the Volkswagen clock to the center of the dashboard.

The 8-inch touchscreen is neatly integrated into the dashboard and is very responsive. In fact, it is one of the best and most responsive touch screens I have worked with so far. It forms a nice bond with the digital instruments behind the steering wheel, which are also configurable to one’s taste. Only the speedometer was unclear and tough to read from time to time, due to the amount of information projected on the screen. Changing the middle part of the digital instruments to a digital speedometer is a possible solution, a more pricy one would be opting for the optional head-up display.

Power and Transmission

Although Volkswagen wants to place the Arteon more upmarket, it does away with the 3.6-liter six-cylinder in their CC successor. Instead power comes from a range of turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. The engine offering is almost symmetrical, with both entry-level petrol (TSI) and diesel (TDI) engines producing 150 horsepower. A step up are the 2.0 TSI and 2.0 TDI both delivering 190 hp. The range topping models put out 280 hp (TSI) and 240 hp (TDI) respectively.

Both Arteon top models come with a 7-speed DSG automatic transmission and 4MOTION all-wheel drive as standard. The top TSI model produces 350 Nm of torque, available from 1,700 to 5,600 rpm, and sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds. The top TDI model comes with two turbochargers and develops a firm 500 Nm of torque, available from 1,750 to 2,500 rpm. The 280 hp TSI has an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h, and the 240 hp TDI model can reach a top speed of 245 km/h.

Assistance Systems

Volkswagen knows how to reap the benefits from modular architecture and shared technology and turn it into an attractive and affordable package like no other brand. The Volkswagen Arteon comes with several new driver assistance systems that boast semi-autonomous capabilities. An example is the new ACC with integrated speed limit recognition and standard lane departure warning. It works like a charm and makes your drive that much more comfortable if you are worried about speeding. The optional traffic jam assist makes your daily commute much more relaxed as well, with the ability to drive semi-autonomous up to speeds of 60 km/h.

Parking was never easier with the Arteon, which is not the easiest to maneuver around given its long wheelbase and width. The Arteon is able to parallel park itself fully automatically using its many sensors, the rear view camera and Area View surround view camera. Especially the latter is a much welcomed feature, making parking almost anywhere a piece of cake.

The Arteon is also equipped with the latest safety systems. The Active Lighting System for example, illuminates upcoming bends before the vehicle steers into them. It relies on both LED headlights that are fed information about the upcoming stretch of road via the front view camera and navigation system. The Emergency Assist has also been improved, which now not only slows down when it recognizes that the driver has become incapacitated, but is also able to steer it into the emergency lane and bring the car to a standstill in a potentially safe location.

Additionally the proactive PreCrash system is now also able to detect incoming trouble from the rear and automatically prepares the car for impact, thereby trying to minimize the harm done to passengers.

Driving Experience

I’m just going to put it out there: there have been few occasions that I was this excited to get behind the wheel of a Volkswagen. Its exciting and elegant appearance had definitely something to do with it, but maybe also the fact that this felt much more like something completely new. Turning onto the Autobahn and leaving the impressive sight of Volkswagen’s immense Wolfsburg plant to slowly perish in the rear view mirror, the Arteon’s driver assistance systems immediately came in handy.

We were stuck in traffic just moments after entering the infamous Autobahn and spent the first hour being piloted forward by the Arteon’s technology. As traffic cleared later on, there were plenty of opportunities to see what the 240 horsepower strong four-cylinder engine is made of. The potent powertrain swiftly reached higher speeds and especially has lots to give in the lower rpm. Impressive was the lack of wind noise in the cabin at higher speeds, with the engine being relatively silent for a four-cylinder.

Due to more traffic up ahead, we were forced to continue our trip off the highway and through the backcountry of Northern Germany. Although you would expect the Arteon to transcend on the highway, it certainly impressed more on those curvy country roads. I often find steering in Volkswagens a bit clinical and overcompensated, but the Arteon positively surprised me. This is partly the result of its high body rigidity, which is characteristic for the MQB platform it stands on, allowing for more precise steering.

I also really noticed the work that Volkswagen put into the Arteon’s progressive steering module, being able to drive quite dynamically without making any aggressive steering maneuvers. Thanks to the large 20-inch wheels and the steering feedback I was really able to place the Arteon right where I wanted it.

After a long drive I arrived back in the Netherlands and stayed the night in a small town up North. I’ve driven plenty of cars around the area where I grew up years ago, from Mercedes-AMG’s to fully equipped Tesla’s back when they were brand new, but never have I received this much attention when driving around town. One evening a kid showed up at the door asking if he could photograph the Arteon, as a friend of his ‘spotted’ the car in town earlier that day.

I think that about says it all when it comes to the design. I have only heard positive reactions to the Arteon’s looks and although I was kind of sold from the start, it started to grow on me even more. The ‘Curcuma Yellow’ and matt-black wheels are such an amazing match for this car that I wouldn’t hesitate to tick off those boxes on the option list.

A few days and many overwhelmed looks and reactions later, we found ourselves on our way to pick up a rather sportive companion to the Arteon. We picked up the special edition Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport and took both cars to the abandoned town of Doel in the harbor of Antwerp, Belgium to shoot some unique photos. Although both cars couldn’t be anymore different, they both shared this unorthodox vibe hanging around them as we made our way to a modern day ghost town.

However, one thing was comparable between both cars: Jaguar and Volkswagen both put their money on a touch-based infotainment system and switching cars was like the difference between day and night. The Jag may cost more than twice as much as the Arteon, its infotainment system does not even come close to the performance of Volkswagen’s Discover Pro system with integrated gesture control. For a touch-based system it works almost seamless, featuring a logical interface, plenty of functionalities and solid responsiveness.

Price

The Volkswagen Arteon is attractively priced, especially in Germany. With a starting price of €34,775 it is in the top of the brand’s range but still miles away from the full-size Touareg SUV and similarly positioned competition. The R-Line design, in our eyes a must, starts from €41,000 depending on the engine choice. The 2.0 TDI with 240 PS and R-Line starts at €52,175. Our spec, including the Curcuma Yellow lacquer (€760), 20-inch wheels (€1,020), Business Premium Package (€2000+), Driver Assistance Package, Discover Pro infotainment, head-up display, premium electric seats, high-end Dynaudio system and much more comes to an approximate retail price in Germany of €67,660. That being said, it is totally possible to spend €20k on options in the Arteon.

Conclusion

I am genuinely intrigued by the new Volkswagen Arteon, and the positive impression it left me with. It’s everything you have come to expect from a modern day Volkswagen plus a little extra. It looks attractive, is definitely more practical than it looks and features the latest tech available. The Arteon is truly Volkswagen’s version of a Gran Turismo and makes for an excellent and very capable travel companion: it is comfortable for the longer distances and very vigilant when you need it to be.

The only thing that makes me wonder, is why I still haven’t seen a single one on the roads here in Germany. Could it be that the buyers Volkswagen is trying to snatch away from the premium segment are looking for a bigger engine and more power? Time will tell..

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Performance
8.3
Handling
8.7
Design
9.3
Interior
8.3
Infotainment
8.5
Fun
8
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