Volkswagen introduces the Arteon as more than a mere replacement for the Passat-based CC; rather this is a car that can bring the fight to the likes of the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.
In the Metal:
With its low, blunt nose that cleverly integrates the shape of the daytime running lights into the louvres of the grille itself, the Volkswagen Arteon is styled to look very different to the Germanic and efficient appearance of the Passat. In fact, Volkswagen is at pains to point out that the Arteon isn't a stylised version of the Passat as the CC was; rather, this is a whole new model that looks to increase the gap above the company's D-segment competitor.
The Arteon is built on the Volkswagen Group MQB Plus platform and has a wheelbase that is some 50mm longer than the Passat's. That stretch, combined with the 20-inch wheels fitted to our test car, adds to the Arteon's impressive presence. The contrast of its long flowing roofline and sharp creases through the belt line result in a car that more closely resembles what you might expect from a company like Audi. So it's no surprise that Volkswagen lists the A5 Sportback, as well as the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe among the Arteon's rivals.
Considering its sleek proportions, the Arteon feels roomy inside. You sit closer to the windscreen than you might expect, the dashboard is shallow and A-pillars noticeably slender, resulting in excellent forward visibility. The door-mounted mirrors are adequate, as is the view via the rear-view mirror through the raked wiper-less rear hatch. The look and feel of the cabin is quite similar to that of the Passat, though that is likely to change during the next phase of the Arteon's product cycle.
Head- and legroom in the back are helped by a slightly reclined seat back, but as you might expect, it feels better suited to two rather than three adults. The lift back reveals a practical boot that provides 563 litres of space, which can increase to 1,557 litres, or only 212 litres less than a Passat Estate.
From the moment you sit in and pull the frameless doors closed with that reassuring thud and smoothly ease away, the Arteon feels like a very refined and polished car. Volkswagen's engineers have clearly been playing closer attention to the standard of car that their opposites at Audi have been turning out of late. The Arteon cruises around the urban landscape with ease and, despite it being longer and wider than the already generously-sized Passat, it is easy to thread through traffic. But the overriding impression early on it just how smooth it all is.
The impressive ride quality we experienced is largely thanks to Volkswagen's fitment of adaptive dampers to the Arteon, which will be standard on this top-tier 240hp model. Even on the 20-inch wheels we found the ride to be firm in Sport mode, but very much something that you could live with, while the Comfort setting softened things off without the car becoming too 'floaty' in the corners. It is worth mentioning that, while the roads on our test route were not perfect, they were better than what motorists might expect to find back here in Ireland. The large wheels do look good, but we feel the majority of buyers may find the ride comfort better on the 18- or 19-inch items.
One aspect that Volkswagen has worked at is improving the feel of the steering. Overseeing this aspect was former Porsche engineer, Karsten Schebsdat, who was responsible for the ride and handling on GT models and more recently the Volkswagen Golf Clubsport. Even before you get to the Sport mode, there is a more weighted feel to the steering during initial turn into a corner, and this remains constant through the bend. It isn't quite as sweet as the setup you would find in a BMW, but it does feel a touch more involved than the Audi A5 Sportback's.
The diesel engine has no lack of pulling power and combined with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system (standard with this engine), it gives the Arteon the ability to cover ground at an impressive rate. There is a livelier 280hp petrol engine that makes for a more exciting drive, although that version doesn't appear on Volkswagen's Arteon offering for the Irish market at present. And it is that refinement from the diesel engine and chassis setup that in some ways goes against the Arteon. It feels like a very complete and competent package, but one that is lacking a bit of soul.
As part of Volkswagen's desire for buyers to see the Arteon as a more upmarket car, it has added its predictive cruise control technology as part of the standard package. This system links the adaptive cruise control with data from the satellite navigation that can aid the driver during a route. In addition to keeping a safe distance in traffic, it can detect speed limit signs and increase or reduce the car's speed in accordance with these. The system can also slow the vehicle down as it approaches corners as well as helping to keep the car in its lane.
What you get for your Money:
Compared to a similarly-engined Passat R-Line, the Arteon carries around a €5,000 price premium, with that gap widening a little more when you go further down the engine range. Volkswagen will offer three specification grades in the Arteon range, including a mid-level Elegance and range-topping R-Line.
The standard car features 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable driver's seat, heated front and outer rear seats, eight-inch 'Discover Media' infotainment system, three-zone climate control and Volkswagen's predictive cruise control. This equipment level is only available with the base 150hp 2.0-litre TDI engine.
Progressing to mid-level Elegance adds more technology like voice control plus keyless entry and start. Visual differences comprise of chrome door trim, aluminium pedals, different dashboard panel inserts and part-leather upholstery.
It is the R-Line model that gets the most aggressive look with unique bumpers, smoked rear lights and larger 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the cockpit gets the 12.3-inch Active Info Display that replaces the traditional dashboard instruments.
Whereas the outgoing Volkswagen CC looked and felt very much like a Passat in a cocktail dress, the Arteon is much more like the stand-alone model it is being pitched as. It has a more striking image than many of its rivals and comes well-equipped, but if you want a more exciting driving experience, you'll need to look to the more powerful engines.