SINGAPORE (May 28): You would think car giant Volkswagen has enough models to suit every type of driver. From sport utility vehicles to hot hatchbacks, estate cars to sporty coupés, there is something for everyone. But VW does not agree. That’s when it decided to launch the Arteon.
While many think it is a replacement for the popular Passat CC, the German carmaker says it is not. Instead, it describes it as an “avant-garde gran turismo”, which sounds both exotic and ambitious.
When you first set eyes on the Arteon, it is clear to see it does not fit into the typical VW mould of safe and understated. It is indeed a little avant-garde in its looks, although I was slightly distracted by its strikingly unusual colour. It is labelled Kurkuma, but a better description would be metallic turmeric yellow. But this is not just a neat trick to make the Arteon different. The shape is also very distinctive for a four-door gran tourer, with its lovely flowing lines from front to back.
The sweeping roofline turns what could have been a run-of-the-mill family car into a sporty GT that appeals to a far younger driver. There are plenty of other features that improve its attractiveness. The doors have no pillars, which make it easy to get in and out, while the windows are frameless. This helps you enjoy a better field of vision as a driver and front-seat passenger. There is also a panoramic tilting/sliding sunroof that lets you gaze up at the sky when you get the chance.
The range of electronics and gadgets is very impressive for a mid-market brand such as VW. The Arteon features a multifunction leather steering wheel and a 9.2in infotainment screen. Along with the usual functions of radio stations and satnav, it includes a lap timer, G-meter and instantaneous power read-out. Perfect for any boy racer in the driving seat.
The boot has sensors that allow it to open with a swipe of the foot underneath the rear of the car — handy if you are laden with shopping bags. Keeping up with its German luxury-brand origin, the Arteon also has a gesture control for the infotainment screen. It will detect movements of your hand to change the radio station, for example. Add in the head-up display to show your speed on the front windscreen and you have all the gadgets you could ever need for a comfortable and effortless drive.
Every VW I have driven has been designed with ergonomics in mind. Everything is within easy reach, feels familiar and is functional. The Passat is a classic example of this, and the Golf felt as familiar as my own car, even on a test drive. The Arteon continues this tradition and you will feel at home in the cabin as soon as you sit down.
The drive in itself is effortless, owing to great engineering and design. The Arteon comes with advanced dynamic cornering lights that illuminate bends in the road before you start turning the wheel. In practical terms, it means you can see bends much clearer in the dark.
What also impressed me was the wide range of suspension settings. Most cars allow a fixed range of set-ups such as the eco, comfort and sport modes. But the wonderful thing about the Arteon is that it allows you to change the scale of each setting from low to high. This gives you a mind-boggling choice of 43 suspension settings from the Dynamic Chassis Control. This model also comes with all-wheel drive, which makes the car more responsive and the steering smoother than expected.
While comfort and ease of driving are excellent, speed is also ranked highly. The Arteon not only looks sporty, but it comes with a two-litre turbocharged engine that was once the power plant of the Golf R. It produces 280bhp of power and 350Nm of torque, while it can get from 0 to 100kph in an impressive 5.6 seconds. When you consider that the Arteon comes with a price tag of under $220,000, it gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
This new model may take a little time to establish itself in our crowded market, but it has a lot going for it in terms of looks, comfort, speed and stylish interior. The technology inside the Arteon sees it catching up with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but at a much cheaper entry point. If VW sticks with the Arteon, it could become even more successful than the Passat, which is a great car itself.
Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI R-Line
$216,400 including COE
Engine: 1,984cc, in-line 4, turbocharged
Fuel efficiency: 7.3l/100km
0 to 100kph: 5.6 seconds
Top speed: 250kph
Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast