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First Drive

First Drive: Volkswagen Arteon R-Line

Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI 240 R-Line DSG
The story: Volkswagen is trying to distance its four-door coupe model from the Passat saloon, and the new Arteon is bigger, bolder and comes only with top-end engines and specification.
Category:D-segment
Key rival:BMW 4-series Gran Coupe
Price:£40,000 (est)
Efficiency:47.9mpg (est)
Emissions:152g/km (est)
On sale:September 2017

Volkswagen is trying to step up its premium offering by taking on the BMW 4-Series and Audi A5 Sportback with the new Arteon.

The company is at pains to point out that this is not a straight replacement for the CC model, although the CC disappeared from VW’s product line-up as the new car appeared. But the Arteon is 60mm longer than the CC and has an extra 130mm in the wheelbase. And at launch at least, it’s has only 240hp 2.0 diesel and 280hp 2.0-litre petrol engines, both with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, which means a likely price of £38,000-£40,000. Two trim levels – Elegance and R-Design – will be offered, with VW focused on the extra standard kit provided versus the premium competition.

MORE ADAPTIVE THAN EVER

The Arteon features VW’s latest adaptive cruise control system.  Don’t be fooled by the lack of an impressive-sounding name, the cruise control system now takes into account speed limits, navigation routes and bends, adjusting the car’s speed accordingly.

It uses a combination of GPS tracking of speed limit zones, including overhead gantries, to keep at the current speed limit.  The system will also bring down the speed accordingly for corners and, if the navigation is set, it knows to slow in order to make a turn off the main road.

It’s very impressive most of the time, but is much too conservative in decelerating in a way that will leave other road users wondering what on earth you are doing.  And on one occasion it decided it had seen a speed sign that wasn’t there, hitting the brakes on the motorway to bring the speed down to a level out of kilter with the rest of traffic.

Its a great aid, and another step on the road to automation, but it isn’t without it’s flaws.First Drive - Volkswagen Arteon - Adaptive Cruise Control Image

That decision instantly limits company car appeal, because the best Volkswagen can offer is 152g/km from the diesel, although European markets are getting a 116g/km 150hp diesel that VW is as-yet reluctant to add to the UK range.

The Volkswagen Arteon’s key strengths are its stylish sweeping looks and its interior space, with excellent legroom and adequate headroom, despite the swooping roofline. The only problem is that taller rear passengers will end up eye-to-eye with the roof lining rather than being able to see out of the window. Boot space is claimed to be class-leading at 563 litres; it’s a big, square space and is accessed via a rear hatch rather than saloon-type boot opening, which boosts practicality. The drawback of those lines is that over-shoulder visibility is compromised by the rear pillars. 

The design is impressive, and the low-slung wide design certainly looks the part. It’s still got strong hints of Passat, but is less-related to the saloon model than previous CCs.

The interior is all high quality materials, making for a premium look and feel, and unlike the current Passat the Arteon gets the latest VW Group infotainment system. 

To drive, the high-power engines make for a relaxed yet potent car, though it’s more of a grand tourer than sports coupe. Ride quality is good, apart from when Sport mode is engaged, at which point it’s uncomfortably harsh. Refinement and long-distance comfort are both good. 

The Volkswagen Arteon is a good-looking and practical four-door coupe, but Volkswagen has to a large extent turned its back on the company car market, in the short-term at least, by not giving its new model the efficient mainstream engines to take on the BMW Gran Coupé 420d and Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI. More will probably come in time, but for now a 240hp entry point means the striking Volkswagen Arteon is consigned to the ranks of niche model. 

 

Paul Barker

The verdict

Good-looking, spacious and elegant tourer is let down by limited engine line-up, at least for now.