We recently tested the all new Nissan Altima, and came away impressed and hopeful for the fate of the 4-door sedan.
Yes, the Crossover/SUV is the new King, but there still seems to be plenty of room in the royal family for a sedan. And for a lot of manufacturers – especially luxury brands – there still needs to be a halo sedan. Enter the VW Arteon.
Replacing the VW CC, which was a stylish version of the Passat Sedan, the Arteon, is bigger, more stylish and more expensive.
So our question – Is VW’s new flagship a dreamboat, or a slow boat to nowhere?
You Have Arrived
Well, this certainly makes a killer first impression. First of all, it’s big, with a wheelbase a full 5-inches longer than the CC. It’s also handsome. Our tester also wore a deep but subdued Atlantic Blue Metallic that oozed elegance. The front is low and wide, with a large grille that carries its lines the full-width of the fascia, underlining the hooded LED headlights that look particularly ominous. Without the large VW emblem you could easily mistake it for one of the upscale Euro luxury sedans – which is probably the point.
That point becomes even more clear in profile. With a long swept-back coupe-like lines, there’s a lot of family resemblance to the Audi A5, a gorgeous piece in its own right. And like the A5, this big sedan is actually a big 5-door hatchback. The lines are a little more rounded and less aggressive than the Audi, but they definitely say modern and expensive. The large 19” alloys really fill the wheelwells. We weren’t too crazy about the design of those rims on our tester, but we did fall in love with the available 20” R-Line Wheel Package, which is in a word, stunning.
The rear is tasteful and tasty, with slim LED lights, and ARTEON spelled out in large bold block letters. A bit of chrome and a handsome set of dual exhaust pipes beneath the rear bumper promise an exciting drive.
Overall this is a stunning vehicle, and we’re glad VW didn’t try to do the baby-bear, mama-bear, papa-bear, same car, just different size-design that others do. A giant Jetta we don’t need. The Arteon has to make a singular statement. And it does.
Rolling out the Red Carpet
Getting inside reinforces the message that this is something special. While the design cues are VW sedan – on steroids – that’s not a problem, VW has had some of the highest quality interiors for years. The first thing that strikes you is the space. It’s huge inside, with plenty of room for 6-footers front and back. The driver sits in front of VW’s latest Digital Cockpit, which replaces an analog display with a 12.3” screen, with 5 different information displays – Classic, Consumption & Range, Efficiency, Performance and Driver Assistance and Navigation. As we’ve enjoyed in other VW and Audi products, in “Navigation” the speedo and tach are relocated to the sides, and a large navigation map takes prime position.
There is also a handsome 8-inch info-tainment display in the center console, and with standard Apple CarPlay, it made a happy home for our Waze App. The display itself is pretty cool, using smartphone and tablet technology, allowing gesture controls like swiping and pinch zooming. This is one of the easiest and logical info-tainment systems we’ve used.
Volkswagen keeps the tech up to date, with its Car-net connectivity system, with the aforementioned CarPlay as well as Android Auto and MirrorLink. There is also a suite of extra-cost features to tempt you, like Automatic Crash Notification, Manual Emergency Call, Stolen Vehicle Location, remote door lock/unlock, remote honk and flash of lights, and last parked location information – you can even remote check the status of your doors and windows!
Other goodies include Family Guardian, which offers you speed alert, boundary alert, curfew alert and valet alert. People need to know their boundaries!
Honestly, we don’t know why you’d let anyone else drive your Arteon. Snuggled into the 12-way power seats, in the SEL’s rich Nappa leather, it’s heaven. Hold that, if you go for the SEL Premium trim there’s also a massage function for the driver. That would be heaven!
We didn’t miss Gretchen’s mechanical fists kneading us into oblivion, though. The quality of materials is quite soothing, and with an innovative air vent that extends the entire width of the interior, we were exceptionally comfy. And it gave us time to look around and enjoy the finer touches, like the two-tone black and ivory seating, piano-black accents, and soft-touch materials.
We did eventually get out of the interior, and found that the large hatchback creates an exceptionally large cargo area, with 27 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, and a cavernous 55 cubic feet with the rear seats down – that’s more than a Kia Niro! While we love the space, it does bring a minor gripe. On our SEL, there is no power opener for the hatchback, and that door is large and heavy to lift. And it also takes a good pull to close as well. You’ll get your exercise.
Magic Carpet Ride
We can think of better ways to get your heart pumping – like a nice spirited drive. Under the hood is VW’s familiar 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, which kicks out an impressive 268 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s hooked up to a quick shifting 8-speed automatic, and even though it’s a big vehicle, the Arteon moves out with authority. Pull back the transmission lever into Sport, and the shifting gets aggressive, and you’ve got major grins, and massive passing power.
The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is standardon the SEL, and it helps the big sedan use all the available power, and also hunkers it down in corners, giving you plenty of grip to come rocketing out. The steering also has excellent feel, and is Audi-like – smooth, light, and precise. If it sounds like the Arteon is an Autobahn-burner, it can be, but with the DCC adaptive chassis control, the system has 15(!) settings of suspension firmness to choose from, and it adjusts automatically to suit your needs, which includes setting for Comfort, Normal and Sport.
While we dialed up Sport to enjoy the good times, in normal times we enjoyed, er…Normal, but also would pull up Comfort, and enjoy a serene, limousine like ride. Even with our frequent visits to the Turbo Zone, we turned in 22 mpg. Impressive for a big, AWD sedan.
Big Car, Big Bucks?
Well, that depends on who you think the Arteon competes against. The front wheel drive Arteon SE starts at $35,845. Compare that with the Audi A5 Sportback starting at $44,200, with less power and less standard equipment, and you could be impressing your neighbors for a whole lot less money. An SE with 4Motion still comes in at $37,645. Our SEL 4Motion tester stickered at $41,795, and with no available options, but $995 destination, range the bell at $42,790. It’s a solid step over the SE, with the kind of luxury goods buyers want, like VW’s Digital Cockpit, adaptive cruise and the panoramic sunroof. Probably the best overall value. And if you lust after the R-Line like we did, that starts at $43,560.
Any and all of the above Arties would be a bargain against the premium Europeans like the Audi A5 mentioned above. Fancy a Bavarian? A comparable, but smaller BMW 430i XDrive Gran Coupe comes in at $52,450. The closest non-luxury brand would be the Kia Stinger, also a handsome liftback. Comparably equipped it’s very close at $42,385. It’s a different animal, though, trading off some refinement for a raw edge. And with the Stinger, we’d always be wishing for the available 365 hp turbo V6.
We’re really impressed with the VW Arteon for those who have the itch for a large European sedan (or liftback) – but don’t have the scratch.
With its great looks, loads of space and refined performance, VW’s Arteon is the dreamboat you’ve been waiting for.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.