Car reviews - Volkswagen - Arteon
Strong standard specification, sharp handling and AWD grip, active safety features, fetching styling fantastic boot space even with full size spare
Room for improvement
Frustrating DSG transmission, MMI usability has decreased, cabin materials too dark, getting expensive for a VW
Volkswagen’s Arteon successfully plays role of halo passenger model for the brand
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13 Jul 2018
Offered in a single level of specification, VW has crammed the Arteon full of features and bold styling that give it a greater point of difference between its Passat sibling.
On paper, the Arteon looks to be a winner – striking styling, healthy levels of specification, a powertrain borrowed from the Golf R and a pricetag that won’t break the budget like other, more premium European brands.
Does the Arteon have what it takes to justify its position at the top of Vokswagen’s passenger car range?
Price and equipment
Offered in only one model grade, the Arteon 206TSI R-Line checks in at $65,490 plus on-roads, making it the most expensive passenger vehicle in the Volkswagen line-up, $7000 dearer than the mechanically related (and now discontinued) Passat 206TSI R-Line.
Competition comes from the likes of the $56,790 Skoda Superb 206TSI (which also shares its underpinnings with the Passat and Arteon), the Audi A5 2.0 TFSI Sportback ($69,900), the BMW 420i Gran Coupe ($70,900) and top-spec Holden Commodore VXR ($55,990).
The BMW and Audi offer the prestige of a well-heeled German brand, but are powered by engines less potent than the Arteon. The Commodore has the punchiest powertrain of the lot with 235kW coming from its 3.0-litre aspirated V6.
As it is VW’s most expensive passenger vehicle, the Arteon comes chock full of kit, including firsts for the brand such as head-up display, the Proactive Occupant Protection System which closes windows and tenses seatbelts if the car detects an impending crash, and Emergency Assist 2, which kicks in if the driver is using active cruise control and lane keep assist.
Standard equipment includes active info display, power folding door mirrors, 9.2-inch infotainment system with gesture control, app-connect, adaptive chassis control, driving profile selection, tinted rear windows area view, adaptive LED headlights, dynamic indicators, frameless side windows, heated rear outer seats, 360-degree camera, 19-inch Montevideo alloy wheels, and unique 12-way heated and powered front R-Line seats.
As well as the aforementioned kit, active safety technologies include adaptive cruise control, front assist with city emergency braking, side assist, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic jam assist, lane-keep assist and parking assist.
Given its price, Volkswagen has kept the options list relatively short, offering a $2000 panoramic glass sunroof, $900 metallic paint and a Sound and Style package for $2500 which includes a ten-speaker premium audio system and 20-inch graphite alloy wheels.
Our test vehicle included the Sound and Style package and metallic paint in the fetching Turmeric Yellow hue, pushing the asking price out to $68,890 plus on-roads.
Almost $70,000 is a lot to ask for a Volkswagen passenger car, however the sheer amount of specification crammed into the Arteon justifies its price point.
One can usually rely on Volkswagen for presenting a stylish and ergonomic interior, and the Arteon continues the trend with a classy cabin that offers intuitive and simple use.
Digital screens abound in the Arteon with the 9.2-inch multimedia system complimented by the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
VW’s user interface works well, although the brand has deleted two tactile dials on either side of the screen – one which controlled volume and the other zoom. Removing them makes the usability of the system go back a step, and makes certain tasks more fiddly and distracting.
As the most highly-specified offering in the range, the absence of DAB+ digital radio was a notable omission. The addition of a head-up display is a good one, however the folding glass projection screen looks a bit out-of-place in the cabin.
Charging and multimedia options include two USB ports, auxiliary input, a 12V socket and Bluetooth connectivity.
The A/C cluster, gear shift lever and multifunction steering wheel will all be familiar to Volkswagen owners, and while there is nothing wrong with any of these features, it does make the interior feel slightly more pedestrian than its range-topping status would suggest.
Twelve-way adjustable leather seats, gloss-back screen surrounds, brushed metal trim, black headliner and a leather steering wheel combine to lift the interior, however we feel some lighter hues would help lift the largely black cabin.
The seats are a little flat but generally comfortable, and the Arteon’s smart packaging means both head- and legroom are ample. Rear passengers can travel in comfort with spacious dimensions, seat heaters and climate control.
If generous space is beginning to look like a theme, it certainly continues in the Arteon’s massive boot. Official storage capacity is rated at 563 litres, up to 1557L with the rear seats folded.
Storage depth is excellent, with the Arteon capable of comfortably swallowing a pair of golf bags. Furthermore, lifting the boot floor reveals a full-size, 20-inch spare tyre, an impressive feat in the age of space-saver spares and puncture repair kits.
Volkswagen has crafted an interior worthy of its dearest passenger car. Space and comfort is excellent, and specification levels are also generous.
We would like to see some more differentiation in the colours and materials used in the cabin, and the removal of the tactile dials from the multimedia interface has hindered usability rather than helped it.
Engine and transmission
The Arteon shares its powertrain with the top-spec versions of the mechanically related Passat and Skoda Superb, a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 206kW at 6500rpm and 350Nm of torque between 1700-5600rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission.
Now something of a stalwart in the Volkswagen stable, the 206TSI engine offers strong performance in a relatively small package.
It offers ample power without being overly savage, doing its best work high in the rev range, where it likes to stay when engaging in spirited driving.
We would like the exhaust note to have a bit more bark, however a muted exhaust system is understandable for a car pitched as the most luxurious offering in the range.
While many manufacturers are making the switch from traditional automatic transmissions to dual-clutch boxes, we are not a huge fan of the seven-speed unit underpinning the Arteon.
While gear changes are snappy and clean once moving, at low speeds, the gearbox is elastic and sluggish. When applying large throttle input at low speeds, instead of kicking down a gear or two the DSG holds the gear resulting in sluggish acceleration.
Putting the gear selector in sport mode fixes this problem, but results in the gears being held when cruising, making for a jarring driving experience.
Throttle response is also doughy at low speeds, meaning one must keep the tachometer raised to really experience the dynamic abilities of the Arteon. The auto-start stop system also struggles with the DSG transmission – the auto-stop deactivation button is pressed soon after getting in the car.
During our time in the car we achieved a fuel consumption figure of 11.1 litres per 100km, well up on the claimed 7.4L/100km. Granted, there was a decent amount of spirited back-country driving, it is still well off VW’s claimed number.
Overall we are happy with the performance offered by the 206TSI engine, although the hoon in us would love to see VW raid Audi’s parts bin to shoehorn either the S4/S5’s 260kW/500Nm 3.0-litre turbo V6 or even the savage 294kW/480Nm five-pot from the RS3 and TT RS under the Arteon’s bonnet and create a new performance halo for the brand.
Our one complaint is the dual-clutch auto, and we believe a single-clutch automatic would be better suited for everyday driving.
Ride and handling
Given the Arteon rides on 20-inch rims with low-profile performance tyres, one could be forgiven for assuming its ride quality is harsh and jarring; however we are pleasantly surprised to report that it is not the case.
The ride is generally well settled and comfortable, and rides well on most surfaces. Tyre roar can sometimes become intrusive, and the suspension calibration is on the firmer side, but is smooth and settled otherwise.
A highlight of the Arteon driving experience is its handling prowess – the combination of all-wheel drive and standard Pirelli P-Zero rubber means the Arteon stays plated around corners with ample grip available.
The car can sometimes develop a hint of understeer, but is generally well-pointed. Steering response is sharp but a tad light, and would benefit from slightly firmer feedback.
Given that the Arteon’s all-wheel-drive system can handle the engine’s power so well, it reinforces our desire to see a more potent version that could throw down the gauntlet to its German compatriots’ high-performance divisions.
However, its current ride and handling capabilities are perfectly befitting of a luxury four-door vehicle.
Safety and servicing
In December 2017, the Arteon received a five-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), scoring particularly well in adult occupant protection (96 per cent), while also recording 85 per cent for child occupant protection and pedestrian protection, and 74 per cent for safety assist.
As the range flagship, the Arteon comes chock-full of active safety technology, including pedestrian monitoring, manoeuvre braking, front assist with city emergency brake, adaptive cruise control, side assist, lane assist with active lane guidance, fatigue detection, reversing camera, nine airbags and the two new features to Volkswagen models – emergency assist with emergency lane change assist and proactive occupant protection system.
All Volkswagen vehicles come with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with roadside assistance covered for the duration of the warranty.
Scheduled servicing covers five years/75,000km, with service costs ranging between $443 and $759 for an average cost of $529.20 per service.
Volkswagen has gone in a new direction with the Arteon compared to the Passat CC that it replaces, clearly elevating it to the top of its passenger car range with a number of luxurious features and sharp styling that sets it apart from the Passat.
It is a well-rounded package and does most things well – plentiful active safety, all-wheel grip, peppy engine, a roomy interior with a gigantic boot and generous standard equipment.
It is not without its faults – the DSG gearbox is frustrating, MMI usability has gone backwards and the interior could use some lighter colours to lift the sea of black.
We would also love to see a more savage version of the Arteon, however that does not count as a criticism of the current car.
Volkswagen has done a fine job of creating a technological flagship for the brand, showcasing its advancements in active safety, cutting-edge design and mechanics. The Arteon is a capable and attractive all-round package, and will be a good barometer for the German brand in assessing whether Australians still have an appetite for fast four-doors.
Skoda Superb 206TSI 4x4 Sport Line sedan from $56,790 plus on-roads
Skoda’s mechanically related top-spec Superb packs the same engine and transmission as the Arteon, but in a more affordable package. The Czech brand offers a number of option packages to bolster specification that in turn can begin to drive up the price.
Audi A5 2.0 TFSI Sportback from $69,900 plus on-roads
Audi’s entry-level A5 liftback sedan includes a beautifully appointed interior and the luxuries befitting a premium German brand. However at 140kW/320Nm, the A5’s powertrain falls behind the Arteon.
BMW 420i Gran Coupe from $70,900 plus on-roads
The BMW is slightly more expensive than the Arteon, and is differentiated by rear-wheel drive and the choice of a no-cost six-speed manual gearbox option. Like the A5, the 420i can’t match the Arteon’s power outputs, with 135kW/270Nm from its 2.0-litre turbo-petrol donk.
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