Words by: Adam Allen
Proof that Wolfsburg is still capable of churning out eye candy
What have we here?
You will be forgiven if you find yourself riveted to the compelling shape of VW’s sexy Arteon but cannot identify what it is. You likely haven’t seen many plying local roads and absolutely nothing in the VW lineup looks this slinky, so a frame of reference is elusive. Allow us to provide you with one courtesy of the Arteon, and while it will take you a few times to pronounce it properly, one thing is certain: it’s beautiful. Nothing this seek and downright sensual has emerged from Wolfsburg in quite some time save for the Passat CC, which this car can trace its lineage to.
Yay! A cool car that isn’t a crossover!
Right? It’s exceedingly rare these days that a brand launches a new(ish) sedan for their lineup, much less one as striking as the Arteon. While the numbers on the company balance sheet might tell a different story, we think Volkswagen deserves a round of applause for bringing the Arteon to our shores much like it did with other Euro market only oddballs- look no further than the first generation Touareg with the massive V10 turbodiesel and the exquisite Phaeton. The Arteon now finds itself filling the shoes of flagship, and although we think the GTI has the chops to be a worthy torchbearer the Arteon is more appropriate. It is a genuinely premium vehicle in every aspect. Plus, it offers something for those who might shy away from an Audi badge the same (if not better) high-end experience you would expect but with a humbler badge that won’t let the rest of the middle managers know how well you’re actually doing. And while they leave the parking lot in their mid-trim level Audi Q3’s- because, you know, crossovers are sooo practical- you can point out that your Arteon handles better, is quicker, is more efficient, rides better and is actually a hatchback. Which, you know, is an exceptionally practical body style.
Sorry random BMW/Audi/Mercedes Benz owner, but the Arteon is much nicer inside than your car.
Apologies to the Big Three German luxury brands, who do in fact produce some very nicely turned out cars- but the Arteon has got your number where interiors are concerned. The cockpit is the definition of understatement; the flashiest thing your eyes pick up is the aluminum trim accents or perhaps the saddle brown leather of the sport buckets. There are no flourishes, no gimmicks. Everything is just straightforward and lovingly assembled, and you get the sense the someone was walking the assembly line with a micrometer, making sure all the bits are assembled just so. It’s quiet too, and comfortable. Even those who sat in the back seat for a long trip up north thought their surroundings were just fine. The infotainment is familiar VW kit (so, very good but not great) but the configurable digital dash is the piece d’resistance of the dashboard. Normally, we turn our noses up at digital instruments because they just aren’t as good as analog. The Arteon’s is one of the rare exceptions to that rule and looks sharp.
I’ll bet you couldn’t wait to get it on the road to see how it drives.
Yeah, the very sight of the Arteon parked in VW Canada’s parking lot made us want to accelerate the paperwork process and point the gleaming chrome nose towards some interesting tarmac. We were excited to see how a juiced up version of the GTI’s engine coupled with 4Motion all-wheel drive would fare in such a playful environment. The verdict? It’s competent. And while that might sound like damning with faint praise, it is only a mild complaint. The thing is, when your eyes rake over such a beguiling shape, there are parts of your brain where sports car fantasies reside that begin to fire in anticipation. When you begin showing the Arteon some corners, the car establishes boundaries early- you learn that yes, you can have fun, but don’t get too rowdy. This is a car that is happy to be pushed to 7/10ths but not farther. Keep it below that threshold and you are rewarded with competence. That sounds like a underwhelming way to describe the Arteon’s driving experience, but we mean that in a complimentary context. No matter the situation, the weather outside, the number of passengers and amount of gear you have on board, it doesn’t matter- the Arteon is quietly competent in everything it does. Sometimes, you forget about how nice it is to drive a car that does everything you ask of it in comfort and, in the Arteon’s case, style. Our tester reminded us of how nice that can truly be.
What might go wrong?
The biggest flaw we noted with the Arteon? That is just doesn’t feel as special as the styling leads you to believe. Oh, it’s by no means a letdown, but we couldn’t help but wonder if VW has lavished some sportier bits on their new flagship. Like, where’s the cool W8 motor from yesterday, man? The brand has said that the Arteon isn’t going to be a high volume seller anyway, so why not seize the opportunity to make it cooler with a bespoke engine, or at the very least throw the underpinnings of the Golf R at the chassis and call it a day? The other issue is the window sticker- it lists for almost ten thousand more of your dollars than the mega-bus Atlas, the next most expensive in the brand’s lineup. VW has already had a similar issue with this scenario in the wonderfully excellent but misguided Phaeton, and we know how that played out. More concerning is that the BMW 3-series, the most affordable of the Arteon’s German competition, starts at a few hundred dollars less than the handsome VW.
Should I buy a Volkswagen Arteon?
We were chatting with a neighbor who is a huge fan of all things VW, and when we posed this very question to her, the reply was an empathic “Absolutely.” That answer may change depending on your brand loyalty amongst other factors, but the fact is that when you break the Arteon’s virtues down you realize that this is a whole lot of car wrapped up in a seriously good looking package. Those that cringe at the notion of following the heard will love the alternative the Arteon presents them when shopping in this segment.
2020 Volkswagen Arteon Execline — Specifications
- Price as tested: $49,960
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 268 @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 258 @ 1,950 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,658 kg (3,655 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 9.2 L/100km (26 mpg)