Volkswagen has a long track record of developing cars for the masses. It goes back as far back as the lovable yet exiguous Beetle. Although that first Beetle wasn’t a spectacular revelation of technology or style, it did withstand the tests of time. It was in production since the 1920s, finally being retired only recently.
Over this marathon of production, minimal changes occurred when it came to styling and concept. However, a few bits of technology were added, like the integration of CD players and airbags. Could the fancy-faced and elegant Arteon be the next manifestation of the Beetle? More importantly, does the Arteon have the chops and gusto to break through the already saturated full-size sedan market?
What’s in a Name?
If you’re wondering what “Arteon” means, you’re not alone. The title bestowed on this new flagship sedan is a hat tip to the curvaceous styling and the misunderstood model it’s replacing. The “Art” heralds the “harmonious lines and emotionality.” It’s a rather chic move, linguistically. The “eon” refers to the Volkswagen Phaeton, which, much like the Passat, has been sent out to pasture. It makes you wonder if VW enjoys picking names that mean nothing to the public, except for being hard to pronounce. Toureg and Tiguan, we’re talking about you! At least the Golf is an easy one to say.
The Arteon At a Glace
No memorial services were held when Volkswagen laid the Passat to rest. Nor did “Pomp and Circumstance” play when the Arteon rolled out. Even the 2019 Arteon introductory video on the Volkswagon website was a bit bland. It featured predictable city cruising shots that lacked any excitement or passion for driving. The reveal of the Arteon was much like a restaurant having a soft opening. You know, just to test the waters and see what needs improvement.
As with any other model, VW fans embraced it as just another introduction into the brand’s family. However, nobody lined up to buy one. That’s primarily because nobody knew about it. The discreet nature of the unveiling was a remarkable shame. Frankly, the lack of marketing is a bit of a mystery. One thing is for sure, though, and that’s that the Arteon demands attention.
If you were to peer upon a line of Arteon (would it be Artei, Arteones, Arteonis?), your mind would wrestle. Are they trying to play a trick on you? Frankly, are they Audis in VW skin? Uniquely, the Arteon shares no part of its skeleton with any of its sister Audi, the A6. The raking A-pillar gives an aerodynamic illusion of sporty and sleek. The roofline slopes back to create a perfectly curved greenhouse. The C-pillar holds a bit of a surprise, though. It converts the sleek lines of the Arteon into a functional, yet unassuming hatchback. With a push of a button, the rear boot springs to life. It offers more functional cargo space than almost every other sedan on the market.
The real moneymaker in the looks department is the beautifully configured face. From the front lip spoiler and up, the Arteon grille is more understated than some of the massive and oversized grilles found on rival German sedans of late. The subtle fins of the grille melt into the gaze of the headlights and become harmoniously in line with the daytime running lights. This integration makes the entire front clip of the Arteon, well, a work of art, much like the name infers.
From the grille, the styling rolls into a sculpted hood line featuring subtle ribbing to enhance its muscular stance. The rear sort of gets cheated on styling, however. It resembles the CC more than any other part. Audi-Esque taillights and exhaust ports could easily confuse the casual observer. If you were to remove the comically oversized Arteon lettering, it could masquerade as an Audi any day.
Volkswagen On The Streets, Audi In The Sheets?
The Volkswagen Arteon definitely gives you that “come hither” look while standing still. But are you going to be satisfied with its performance what the rubber hits the road? It depends on what you’re expecting. The Arteon doesn’t promise you anything it can’t offer. However, some shoppers seem to expect more than it has.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine has no problem pumping out 268 horsepower and getting you where you have to go with relative ease. The disappointment factor, for some, comes from a modest 0-to-60 MPH time of around six seconds. Of course, not everyone needs to have their neck whipped back at every stop light.
The power is more than enough to do what the Arteon was designed for. Namely, get you where you have to go in relative comfort and ease. In a realistic world, overpowered sedans rarely get to see their top 0-to-60 times anyways. That makes what other critics cite as a disappointing figure a real non-issue for most every day drivers.
It’s worth mentioning that the Arteon offers up some decent fuel economy figures for being a large car. On independent testing from several firms, a figure of about 22 miles per gallon could be achieved in typical city driving. It rises 31 MPG while cruising down the highway on the front-wheel-drive model. The all-wheel-drive model didn’t fare quite as well, as expected. It topped off at around 20 MPG in the city and 27 on the highway.
A Summit Of Safety Technology
The Arteon doesn’t give you neck-snapping speed. However, it does offer some real-world technology to keep you safe on the road. Standard on every base SE model is an automatic braking system, to help prevent forward-facing collisions. Also standard on your $37,000 base model Arteon is a blind spot detection system. If you’re shopping for an Arteon, don’t allow yourself to get upsold with this as an extra option. Every Arteon gets one, along with the automatic braking system.
Should you want to add on something of optimum value, 4Motion all-wheel-drive packages are available on the SEL models and up. It’s also standard on the SEL Premium. The extra $1,800 livens up the stability and overall connectivity to the road, a justifiable upgrade.
One of the most exciting features is easily the adaptive headlights with optional automatic dimming feature. While you turn the steering wheel, the lights are eagerly trying to scope out your trajectory and pivot in the direction of turning. Other safety and technology available include adaptive cruise control and lane-departure systems.
If ever an incident occurs and assistance is needed, every Arteon has Volkswagen Car-Net. It’s a service much like GM has with OnStar. With this feature, your car will monitor and report to emergency services should an accident occur. It’s particularly valuable if you are badly hurt and unable to call for help yourself. New Arteon models offer this service free for a few months, but it will cost you an extra $200 a year after that.
Relax In The Arteons Abundance Of Ambiance
Without surprise, the interior of the Arteon offers space for everybody and everything, without feeling cramped. The digital dash cluster gives the driver an exciting outlook on the driving experience without becoming overwhelming, like many digital dashes found on other sedans. This futuristic cockpit vibe is counterbalanced by a modestly sized 8.0″ touchscreen infotainment system. It’s not too big or small, but just right for the size of the cabin. Controls appear in ergonomic locations and act as tools for the driver, not distractions.
Passenger and driver comfort is paramount, with a tri-zone climate control system and heated front seats standard on all models. Should you feel the need for a little more pampering, you can go all out and opt for heated, ventilated, and massaging seats available on the SEL Premium and R-Line models. The interior screams practical German sedan, but lacks any flair seen in the Arteons sister Audi cabin. This aspect can be a let down to some, especially considering the price.
The Arteon And Your Bank Account
Shopping for a sedan isn’t all about money. Then again, nobody wants to get ripped off on a car that doesn’t offer what’s required of it. The Arteon will give you everything a sedan is supposed to be. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. The price tag bestowed upon it, however, is higher than expected. The base model SE sells for just $37,000 loaded with a few neat features, but that’s about it. For an extra bundle of dough, you can upgrade to the SE 4Motion for $38,000. Or go hog wild and splurge on the SEL R-Line Premium. Both the SEL and R-Line Premium offer you upgraded badging and larger wheels, but that’s a questionable overall value.
The Last Word
In the grand sedan scheme, it’s a tough crowd to please. The Arteon has some incredibly alluring features, though. The hatchback design sets it uniquely apart from the typical crunched cargo compartments seen in rivals. That makes it a potential contender to some small crossover SUVs. The sleek sedan also gives a certain curb appeal that garners a sort of pride from the driver and begs you to take a look back at it after parking.
Aside from looks and comfort, the Arteon offers you what you’d expect — a German car with a very German price tag. It’s no jazzed up Jetta, nor is it a phased out Phaeton either. The Arteon is genuinely its own unique piece of the Volkswagen family. However, it probably won’t see a long-term position on an assembly line like the Beetle did. It’s a car for the people, yes, just not every person.