Auto123 reviews the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon, a quality sedan saddled with the difficult task of succeeding at a time when sedans are losing their feathers
We've been hearing for a few years now from Volkswagen about the arrival of a host of new compact SUVs and a plethora of electric vehicles. The German automaker has even created a all-new division entirely dedicated to the production of EVs, called ID.
While we await those new creations, a new VW car made its debut last year. Yes, a car. A car, as in automobile. A sedan, to be more precise.
Not that we’re complaining about that. Between you and me, SUVs... Still, if you look it coldly, that VW saw fit to introduce a new four-door is amazing, to say the least. Volkswagen debuts a brand-new product in a segment that's in serious decline.
It's as if Apple offered us, on the eve of 2020, a new iPod. Not sure how optimistic it would be about its success.
Stirring the sauce
When it comes to design, Volkswagen has always played it pretty conservatively. It works with some models like the Golf, but with others, like the Jetta or Passat, not so much – but we'll come back to that.
With the Arteon, the CC's spiritual successor, VW’s designers stirred the pot a little, at least on the outside. The fascia is different enough, for one, that it feels like you’ve discovered the hidden side of the Moon. The style is recognizable but different from what we’d seen until now from the brand. We also give good marks for the treatment afforded the headlights, whose upper part is truncated. The grille is fitted with slats by the ton and the wheels offer a design that won’t go unnoticed on the road.
The shape of the Arteon is the result of some beautiful design work at the drawing board, as is the rear section, which get a tailgate. Yes, a tailgate, because despite everything, you have to please the SUV buyers you've set out to seduce.
On the menu are one single version, but with two options packages. The model offered is called Execline and an R-Line package is available. VW obviously felt no need to make things too complicated here, and figured those looking for a sedan will find satisfaction with the product.
Once you slip aboard, however, the feeling of wonder is over. The company didn't knock itself out and were obviously content with dipping into its product toolbox. The result is that if they stuck you blindfolded into the Arteon and took off the blondfold, you could very easily think you were sitting in a Passat.
Fortunately, while simplicity reigns, overall things are well done. The controls fall easily into the user’s hands, who can easily find their way around the multimedia system or onboard computer’s functions without the need for a computer science degree.
Comfort is flawless, the ideal driving position is easily found thanks to the power-adjust functions. As for equipment, the offering is pretty complete. Amid the maze of stuff, you’ll find features like blind spot and rear crosswalk alerts, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, push-button start, compatibility with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto applications and a navigation system, as well as a 700-watt, 10-speaker Dynaudio audio system.
In a rarity these days – and a welcome addition in our view – there’s a full-size spare tire in the trunk.
As a bonus, our model included the R-Line package, which adds 20-inch wheels, an aluminum crankset as well as a few R-Line embellishments here and there. The visuals-only package is available for $2,995, but frankly that's too much for what it brings.
One downside to the interior, however, has to do with the quality of the assembly. There were some odd cracking noises emanating from various parts of the cabin during my test drive, which is cause for concern.
Behind the wheel, there are no surprises as you can immediately recognize the typical Volkswagen temperament and performing style: solid chassis, precise steering, excellent feedback, biting braking, cornering stability, etc.
The Arteon gives the impression of being smaller than it is, which is a credit to the model’s engineers. The 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that powers the Arteon has nothing to feel inadequate about with its 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
As for the 8-speed automatic transmission, it represents another downside. Once the vehicle is launched it's fine, but when a light turns green, or worse, when you stop and start, you always feel a jolt when you once again feed gas to the engine. It is, frankly, annoying.
As far as comfort is concerned, it is impeccable. What's more, the generous rear-seat clearance allows you to breathe, especially in the back, where space is very generous. Taller occupants may find the roof a little low, however, both up front and in the back.
Overall, the Arteon is a very solid sedan. Only, who's going to want it? What's more, at a starting price of $47,995, you can find other interesting cars elsewhere, like Audi's A4 or Genesis' G70 or even the G80. And that's without counting on the BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus 4-doors of this world.
In short, Volkswagen has set itself an almost impossible mission with this vehicle, namely to break into a struggling segment that's already crowded with established players.
What chances would you give a new Apple IPod product, even an excellent one, launching on the market now? Right, we thought so.
Solid and reassuring drive
Highly competent all-wheel drive (4Motion)
We like less
Transmission jolts at first gear
Limited rearward visibility
Nothing out of the ordinary inside
BMW 3 Series