Santa Barbara, CA - We waited a long time for the Arteon. The concept was first unveiled three years ago at the Geneva Motor Show, you might (or might not) recall. It replaces the CC, but if you ask the car’s designers they’ll say that’s not so, because the Arteon is based on the same MQB platform as the Atlas.
That said, and even if it’s longer, wider and more spacious than the CC, it still plays the same role of being the sexy sibling of the Passat, also known as the fridge on wheels. The Arteon is infused with enough passion to incite those car shoppers looking for a midsize sedan with some character to add the name Volkswagen to their shortlist.
Only one version
It's no secret that midsize car sales are losing momentum. Volkswagen has appropriately set its sales objectives to modest in the case of the Arteon; in Canada for example the automaker hopes to sell 1,000 units per year. Wisely, perhaps, the product offering is being kept nice and simple. The number of trims available totals… one. And it’s well-equipped, and will come with just two available options packages.
In a nutshell, the Arteon is a reshaped Passat. The new model retains what made the CC a success (i.e. sleek styling, a sloping roofline and, à-la Audi A7, a big rear hatch that translates into 563 litres of cargo space, or 1,557 litres once the rear seats are folded down).
With a wheelbase five inches longer than the old CC’s, the Arteon is more spacious inside. Those who want some more assertive styling touches can opt for the R-Line package ($2,995) that replaces the 18-inch wheels with 20-inchers and adds some logos here and there.
As we said, VW is going with one well-equipped version priced out of the box at $47,995, and for that you’re entitled to a luxurious interior. Standard stuff includes tri-zone climate control, 12-way power heated seats with Nappa leather and driver settings memory, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a massage function for the driver. A heated leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel is also standard on all models.
The R-Line package brings with it contrasting stitching on the steering wheel and shift knob and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, in addition to stainless-steel sport pedal covers and stainless-steel door sills with the R-Line logo. VW also borrows Audi's 12.3-inch digital cockpit and adds it as standard equipment; same with the 700-watt Dynaudio system with 13 channels and 12 speakers.
The 8-inch touchscreen works like a tablet, by pinch-and-zoom. There’s navigation there, but not, unfortunately, Apple Carplay or Android Auto integration. Volkswagen explains that it offers users the App-Connect system that allows for running some of your smartphone’s applications directly on the vehicle display via services such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, but only some.
To qualify for the full package of additional driving aids to the basic offering, there’s the Driver Assistance package ($2,095) that will provide maximum security.
A 4-cylinder and nothing else
On our test drive on a rainy day in California, Volkswagen USA product manager Mark Gillies explained the reason why buyers will find only the single engine in the product offering:
"It's always in the theme of keeping things simple. We at Volkswagen looked at the market and evaluated the available engines. The 4-cylinder entry-level is about 210 horses and those who still have a V6 have about 300 horses. We chose to be halfway in the offer with only one engine.”
- Mark Gillies, Volkswagen
The Arteon thus comes with a 4-cylinder 2.0L turbo engine making 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This power goes through an automatic 8-speed transmission. In Canada all 2019 Arteons come standard with the 4Motion AWD system.
More dynamic than the Passat
It and the Passat may share the same platform, but the Arteon delivers a more lively experience behind the wheel. Without torturing you with the long and boring technical details, the Arteon benefits from increased rigidity of the chassis, firmer suspensions and front and rear lock differentials.
For the first time, in the different drive mode configurations, the driver will find more than the usual Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. By moving the control slider to the left you get Comfort+, while a sportier setting beyond Sport setting awaits when you move the slider to the right and land on Sport+.
Bingo. Behind the wheel, there’s a notable difference in the steering, the suspension and the engine revs. Volkswagen has also tightened the steering so that you need less rotation to go from one end to the other.
Let’s be clear, you’re still not at the wheel of a sports car, but on the mountain roads we traversed in the area around Santa Barbara, the Arteon showed great rigidity, its 20-inch Continental tires were in biting mood and the Sport mode allowed the engine to express itself and make the best of the available 268 hp. For those who like Volkswagen products for their driving dynamics, you will like what you experience behind the wheel of the new Arteon.
The Arteon, like other VW products, demonstrates the brand’s exceptional technological chops. The car benefits from years of earned expertise, though that could be even more the case if it was given just a bit more panache; for instance we would have liked to see a V6 included in the mix. The 4-cylinder does a fine job, but you have to take it to its limits to get the most out of it, while a V6 would deliver a superior ride quality.
Generous space inside
We liked less
No V6 optional
A bit too anonymous inside
At this price you can have an Audi A4