Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Volkswagen ARTEON
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
- Great looks
- Superb driving dynamic
- Advanced safety equipment
- Limited headroom in back seats
- More oomph from engine would be good
- Head up display screen can be distracting
Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.
Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.
|Engine Type||1.3L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Never judge a car by its name, unless, say, it’s the Ford Probe or the Suzuki Mighty Boy - in which case, go for it.
But when it comes to Volkswagen’s Arteon with a name that’s derived from ‘Art’ meaning, well, ‘Art’ and ‘Eon’ meaning ‘the highest class’, don’t be put off because this is new King of Volkswagens.
Yes, the Arteon is a new model and it sits at the top of Volkswagen’s entire car line-up (but keep in mind, an Amarok V6 Ultimate is more expensive!)... so it must be good, right? Is this a car worthy of that crown? The expectations were high. Is this just a pretender to the throne? We found out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.
But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.
Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The Arteon deserves its rank as the flagship of Volkswagen cars – it’s luxurious, modern and excellent to drive, but retains Volkswagen's utilitarian feel of being hardy and practical and easy to use. A king for the people.
Is the Volkswagen Arteon worthy of being the King of Volkswagen cars? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.
The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.
A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.
Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.
The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.
Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.
The Volkswagen Arteon may look like an Audi A5, and it absolutely uses the same MQB platform, but the dimensions are quite different. At 4862mm end to end the Arteon is 189mm longer than the Audi, 25mm wider at 1871mm and at 1435 high is 64mm taller. It's a pretty big car.
A low, broad bonnet, that super sharp character line joining the front guard to the rear haunches and that fastback roofline cut a sleek almost muscle car profile. The look is made even tougher with the R-Line body kit made up of beefy air-intakes, the side sills and boot lid spoiler. Those 20-inch optional wheels fill the guards to the brim, and give the car great stance.
Somebody once said the headlights and tail-lights are the windows of the soul of a car. No, they didn’t, but I think they determine a certain attitude, and the Arteon’s segmented LED headlights are stunning, so too are the tail-lights and the strip indicators which flow to the side the car is moving.
The Arteon’s cabin is much like the top of the line Passat’s with its long slab-like dash. It’s a refined super modern cockpit with its giant touch screen, ‘virtual’ instruments and a choice of three different ambient lighting colours. The fit and finish is superb and that aluminium trim running through the door and onto the dash looks beautiful. It’s a luxurious place, but not overly so, more Business Class than First.
Pure White is the only non-optional colour for the Arteon, the other hues include Pyrite Silver, Manganese Grey, Turmeric Yellow, Chilli Red, Atlantic Blue and Deep Black.
At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.
The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.
In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.
But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).
Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.
That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).
At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.
The Arteon’s cabin is spacious up front with good head, leg and shoulder room. Legroom in the back is excellent. I’m 191cm and I can sit behind my driving position with about a 10cm gap between my knees and the seatback. It been a long time since I’ve could say that about a car – and the Arteon’s legroom is verging into limo territory.
That swooping roofline looks amazing but it does reduce headroom in the back row. I could only just slide my hand into the space between my head and the roof-lining – I wouldn’t want it to be any closer than that. I’d advise anybody thinking of optioning the sun roof to make sure they can sit under it first as it’ll surely reduce the ceiling height further.
The Arteon’s boot capacity is 563 litres, that’s more than 100 litres bigger than the A5’s cargo capacity and even more than a BMW 5 Series wagon.
The gesture-control liftback hatch is a massive help if your hands are full, and even a klutz like me can get it to open with a foot-kick first time.
You’ll find five cupholders all up in the Arteon and bottle holders in all doors. There’s a deep centre console storage area under the armrest and a smaller pull out bin under the dash on the driver’s side.
Price and features
The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.
We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.
Okay, $65,490 seems like a lot to pay for a Volkswagen, but don’t forget the Arteon is the King of Volkswagen cars and the Passat on the next rung down costs up to $59,990. Remember too that while other countries have several variants of Arteon from the base spec to the priciest and fanciest in their ranges, Australia only gets this model in one, grade but it’s the fully decked out one – the 206 TSI R-Line – which is also why it’s costs so much.
Standard features include: leather upholstery; a 9.2-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; an eight-speaker stereo; a 12.3-inch virtual instrument display for the speedo, tacho and sat nav; a reversing camera with 360-degree view; a head-up display; auto parking; the two outside back seats in the back are heated and so are the 14-way power adjustable front seats; there’s adaptive LED headlights; kick-open auto tailgate; 19-inch alloy wheels; and some damned impressive advanced safety equipment.
The options list is tiny. This tiny. You can option a sunroof, different 19-inch alloys and a higher-end stereo system with more speakers. For some reason the wheels and stereo are packaged together. Oh, word of warning: if you’re thinking about a sunroof sit in an Arteon with one first – headroom is already tight and the sunroof may make it tighter for you.
So, is the Arteon good value? Yes. The features list is huge, and it and the Audi A5 Sportback are cousins being built on the same platform and using much of the same technology - but the equivalent Audi 2.0 TFSI quattro costs $81,500.
As for the real rivals to the Arteon, there’s the top-of-the-range Kia Stinger GT-Line for $59,990, Infiniti’s Q50 Sport Premium 2.0t is $62,400 and Jaguar’s XE 25t R-Sport costs $66,500.
Engine & trans
Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).
A four-cylinder engine is probably not what you’d expect the King of Volkswagens to be packing, but the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line’s 2.0-litre turbo four makes an impressive 206kW and 350Nm. That’s enough grunt to shift this 1.6 tonne sedan from 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds, and that’s quick. Combine this with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed wet clutch DSG and you have a formidably capable driveline – the same one that’s in the Golf R.
I’d like to have seen a V6-powered Arteon in the line-up in the same way the Kia Stinger is available with both four and six-cylinder engines. For a car that’s supposed to sit at the head of the Volkswagen dinner table there should be a variant that offers more shove.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.
Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.
Volkswagen says the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line will use 7.5L/100km of premium unleaded over a combination of highways, country roads and urban streets. Our test route started in Hobart, Tasmania, and headed north along the coast, and while those were great driving roads, it was hardly going to use as much fuel as a city commute which was reflected in the 8.0L/100km average our trip meter recorded.
It’s a fuel-efficient engine, obviously, but it’ll be good to see what mileage we’ll get after a week of bumper-to-bumper traffic and a weekend fully loaded up with gear.
Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.
The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.
Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.
Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.
Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.
With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.
Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.
Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.
Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).
Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.
The Arteon 206 TSI R-Line is as good as the King of Volkswagen cars should be to drive – it feels beautifully balanced and light, it’s quick off the mark and the traction from the all-wheel drive feels unshakeable.
As I said earlier, a six-cylinder variant would have been even better - the blow a V6 turbo diesel such as the 180kW/550Nm unit in the Touareg delivers would have made the Arteon a beast. Better yet, why not the 4.2-litre V8 diesel with 250kW/800Nm?
But, that said, the driving experience is still rewarding, with excellent handling and a comfortable ride courtesy of the adaptive chassis control system. It allows you to firm or soften the suspension in increments, which is nice.
I did notice more than expected tyre noise filtering into the cabin, but my drive was on coarse-chip roads.
Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a car in this price bracket with such an impressive armoury of advanced safety equipment as the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line. It doesn’t just have AEB, it has AEB which works from 5km/h to 250km/h. For speeds under that there’s a low speed AEB system called Manoeuvre Braking (forward and reverse), which is especially for car-parks. And the Arteon knows the difference between a pedestrian and another vehicle.
There’s also rear cross-traffic and blind-spot warning. A combination of adaptive cruise control and Lane Assist which will keep you in your lane and a safe distance behind the car in front, although if your hands leave the steering wheel for too long the Arteon will alert you. If you don’t take hold of the wheel most impressive safety feature springs into action: in a situation where you have passed out and your hands have fallen off the wheel the Arteon will brake sharply several times in an attempt to get your attention. If you don’t respond it will check its surrounding for cars and then change lanes all the way across to the emergency lane where it will bring itself to a halt. Amazing.
The Arteon has not yet been given a safety rating by ANCAP, but it did score the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP equivalent.
Oh, and it has a full sized spare alloy wheel – which I reckon is a must-have safety item in Australia.
That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.
Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.
The Arteon 206 TSI R-Line is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 15,000km and is capped at $433 for the first, $570 for the second, $637 for the third, $740 for the fourth and then back to $433 for the fifth year of ownership.