The VW model you've maybe never heard of has big plans - as Volkswagen's flagship passenger car, it's got Audi, BMW and Mercedes in its sights. So can the brand who claims "premium for the people" pivot to just straight-out premium?
Some VW models, like the Golf, are household names. No doubt about it. But this? Well, it's probably not one of them. Or not yet.
This is the Arteon, the German's brand's flagship passenger vehicle. Put it this way, if VW's tag line is premium for the people, then this is the most premium. And the people? Well, they're the ones who might normally be shopping for a BMW, Mercedes or Audi.
The name, by the way, comes from the the Latin word for art, and it's a nod to the design focus that's been employed here. It comes in a shooting brake, or wagon, body shape, as well as this, the Liftback. And a quick spoiler alert, it looks pretty good, right?
But we'll get to all that. As well as the big question - can it mix it with the premium-brand big boys?
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
The Arteon carries an unsurprisingly premium price tag in the VW family, but it can still be cheaper than an entry-level equivalent from some of the German premium brands.
Or, in the words of VW, the Arteon "challenges the luxury car makers without becoming one ourselves."
And you do get a lot of stuff. In fact, a panoramic sunroof, and some metallic paints, are the only cost options here.
The range begins with the 140TSI Elegance ($61,740 Liftback, $63,740 Shooting Brake).
Outside, you get 19-inch alloy wheels.
The Elegance comes with full LED tail-lights.
It also comes with full LED headlights.
The range is offered in 140TSI Elegance ($61,740 Liftback, $63,740 Shooting Brake) and 206TSI R-Line trims ($68,740/$70,740), and the former is offered with VW's Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, along with a head-up display and a central 9.2-inch touchscreen that pairs wirelessly with your mobile phone.
Outside, you get 19-inch alloy wheels and full LED headlights and tail-lights. Inside, you'll find ambient interior lighting, multi-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-start ignition, as well as full leather interior trim with heated and ventilated front seats.
It comes with a central 9.2-inch touchscreen that pairs wirelessly with your mobile phone. (206TSI R-Line pictured)
Also worth calling our here are the digital buttons on the dash or steering that control everything from the stereo to the climate, and work a bit like a mobile might, you can swipe left or right to control the volume or switch tracks, or change the temperature.
The R-Line model is the sportier-feeling option, and adds 'carbon' leather interior trim with bespoke bucket-style sports seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a more aggressive set of R-Line bodywork.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
It's really all about the looks here, and while the Shooting Brake is particularly handsome, the regular Arteon looks premium and polished, too.
VW tells us injecting a bit of sportiness was a key aim here, both inside and outside, and that's particularly true of the R-Line model, which rides on bigger 20-inch alloys, compared to the 19s on the Elegance, with their own bespoke design.
It’s really all about the looks here. (206TSI R-Line pictured)
That’s particularly true of the R-Line model. (206TSI R-Line pictured)
The body styling is more aggressive, too, but both trims get lashings of chrome along the body work, and a sleek, swept-back style that looks more premium than overtly sporty.
In the cabin, though, you can see that this is an important car to VW. The touchpoints are almost all soft to the touch, and it's both understated and tech-saturated at the same time, including the swipe-to-adjust function for the stereo and climate, with new touch-sensitive sections added to the centre console and steering wheel.
It feels, dare we say it, premium. Which is likely exactly what VW was going for...
The 140TSI Elegance comes with 19-inch alloy wheels.
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
Interestingly, both body styles share near identical dimensions, with the Arteon stretching 4866mm in length, 1871 in width, and 1442mm in height (or 1447mm for the Shooting Brake).
Those numbers translate to a seriously spacious and practical cabin space, with an acreage of room for backseat riders. Sitting behind my own 175cm driving position, I had heaps of space between my knees and the seat in front, and even with the sloping roofline, plenty of headroom, too.
The R-Line model is the sportier-feeling option, and adds ‘carbon’ leather interior trim with bespoke bucket-style sports seats.
Sitting behind my own 175cm driving position, I had heaps of space between my knees and the seat in front, and even with the sloping roofline, plenty of headroom, too.
You'll find two cupholders in a pull-down divider that separates the back seat, and a bottle holder in each the four doors. Backseat riders also get their own air vents with temp controls, as well as USB connections, and phone or tablet pockets on the rear of each front seat.
Up front, the theme of space continues, with storage and cubbies sprinkled throughout the cabin, as well as USB-C connections for your phone or devices.
All that space means a sizeable boot area, too, with the Arteon serving up 563L with the rear seats in place, and 1557L with the back pews folded. The Shooting Brake ups those numbers - thought not any as much as you might think - to 565L and 1632L.
The Arteon serves up 563L of boot space with the rear seats in place, and 1557L with the back pews folded. (140TSI Elegance pictured)
Volkswagen says the Arteon Elegance will need 6.2L per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, and will emit 142g/km of C02. The R-Line needs 7.7L/100km on the same cycle, with emissions pegged at 177g/km.
The Arteon is fitted with a 66-litre tank, and a PPF or petrol particulate filter, which strips some of the nasties out of the vehicle's emissions. But, VW says, it's “very important" that you only fill your Arteon with premium feel (95RON for the Elegance, 98RON for the R-Line) or you risk shortening the life of the PPF.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
Essentially, if VW makes it, the Arteon gets it. Think front, side, full-length curtain and driver's knee airbags, as well as VW's complete IQ.Drive safety suite, which includes a Fatigue Detection system, AEB with pedestrian detection, Park Assist, parking sensors, rear traffic assist, lane change assist, adaptive cruise control with lane guidance - which is essentially a level 2 autonomous system for highways - and an around view monitor.
The new model is yet to be crash-tested, but the last model scored a five-star rating in 2017.
The new model is yet to be crash-tested, but the last model scored a five-star rating in 2017. (206TSI R-Line pictured)
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
The Arteon is covered by VW's five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and will require servicing every 12 months or 15,000kms. It will also get VW's capped price servicing offer.
The Arteon is covered by VW’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. (140TSI Elegance pictured)
What's it like to drive? 8/10
Full disclosure: we only spent time behind the wheel off the R-Line variant for this test, but even still, I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that it's the punchy powertrain you want.
Surely the very first hurdle any company hoping to play with the premium-brand big boys must clear is that of easy, effortless momentum? It's difficult to feel like you've made the premium choice when you're engine is straining and striving under acceleration, right?
we only spent time behind the wheel off the R-Line variant for this test, but even still, I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that it’s the punchy powertrain you want.
And on this, the Arteon R-Line shines, with plenty of power underfoot whenever you need it, and a delivery style which means you rarely, if ever, fall into a hole waiting for the power to arrive.
For mine, the suspension might be a touch too firm for those seeking a truly wafting drive experience. For the record, it doesn't bother me — I always prefer to know what's happening underneath the tyres than be entirely removed from the experience — but a result of this sporty-feeling ride is the occasional registering of bigger bumps and road imperfections in the cabin.
The Arteon R-Line shines, with plenty of power underfoot whenever you need it.
The flip side of the firm(ish) ride is the ability for the Arteon - in R-Line guise - to swap personalities when you engage its sportier settings. Suddenly there's a snarl to the exhaust that's absent in its comfortable drive modes, and you're left with a vehicle that tempts you to head for a twisting back road to see what it's about.
But in the interests of science we instead headed for the freeway to put the Arteon's autonomous systems through their paces, with the brand promising Level 2 Autonomy on the highway.
For mine, the suspension might be a touch too firm for those seeking a truly wafting drive experience.
While the technology still isn't perfect — some braking can occur when the vehicle's not entirely sure what's happening ahead of it — it's also pretty impressive, taking care of the steering, accelerating and braking for you, at least until you're reminded its time to put your hands back on the wheel.
It's also bloody big, the Arteon, with more space in the cabin - and especially the backseat - than you might be thinking. If you have kids, they'll be positively lost back there. But if you cart adults on the regular, then you'll hear no complaints.
The value, driving dynamics and appearance are on point for a premium play here. If you can forgo the badge snobbery attached to the German big three, then you'll find lots to like about Volkswagen's Arteon.
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