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First UK drive: Volkswagen Arteon. Image by Volkswagen.

First UK drive: Volkswagen Arteon
We drive the daring Volkswagen Arteon flagship in full-on 280hp, R-Line guise. Is it just a posh Passat?


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Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI 280 R-Line

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Volkswagen has long had ambitions to be seen in the same light as the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and stablemate Audi. But somehow its products - good though they are - have never quite hit the requisite premium heights. The company's new flagship, called the Arteon, looks stunning, though, and it might just have enough chutzpah to match the company's lofty ambitions.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI 4Motion 280 DSG R-Line
Pricing: Arteon launch range from 33,505; TSI 280 from 39,540 OTR, car as tested 44,465
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, seven-speed DSG auto
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 164g/km (VED 500 first 12 months, then 450 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 38.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
Power: 280hp at 5,100- to 6,500rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,700- to 5,600rpm

What's this?

The Volkswagen Arteon, an artist formerly known as the Volkswagen CC and, before that, the Passat CC. Volkswagen, though, wants no misunderstanding on this point: the Arteon is a completely different car to the Passat. It is designed to sit above the company's sturdy, sensible family car and instead compete with the sort of luxury four-door coupes of the ilk of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, and - perhaps more obviously, and not a bit weirdly - the Audi A5 Sportback.

If it can achieve this or not depends on whether it does just feel like a Passat in disguise, or whether there's a bit more substance to go with its undoubted style. The Arteon is boldly distinctive and therefore highly likely to be divisive - some people are just not going to gel with its idiosyncratic looks. But we do; in this R-Line guise with signature Turmeric Yellow metallic paint, it looks absolutely sensational. Only from the dead-on rear is there any hint of Passat about the Arteon, because from any other angle it looks like its own machine - and one which is undoubtedly better-looking than the 4 Series GC or A5 Sportback rivals. Yep, we said it.

The muscular shoulders that are visible in the door mirrors when you're driving, the two defining design lines (one sweeping off the windows through the bonnet and down into the grille/bumper, the other running laterally around the car just above the light clusters and door handles) that preview future Volkswagen styling, the long wheelbase and imposing presence of the thing, and then that aggressive grille - complete with LED daytime running lights segueing neatly into its bars - simply complete one of the best-looking modern cars on sale right now. In the battle between the Arteon and its premium four-door rivals, it's round one to Volkswagen.

And then it pulls off another trick. Like another magnificent giant of the Volkswagen Group, the Skoda Superb, the Arteon looks like a sleek saloon or even a four-door coupe (even though that very phrase is categorically paradoxical), but it's actually a hatchback. The boot hinges above the rear screen and flips up to reveal a yawning cargo bay of 563 litres, rising to 1,557 litres if you fold the rear seats. OK, a Passat offers more capacity, but then a Passat doesn't look anything like as nice as the Arteon.

Nor can we remember the Passat having as cavernous a space for rear legroom as the Arteon. Even with a six-foot driver installed, there's masses of clearance behind the front seat's backrest. The very tallest passengers might not want to sit in the rear due to headroom constraints, and it's possibly not going to be brilliant with five adults on board, but for a quarter of average to above-average-height people, the Arteon is plenty big enough.

It also has gorgeous visuals, top-rate controls and plenty of toys. Just two trim lines will be offered in the UK, which are Elegance and R-Line, and all cars get some desirable luxuries as standard - for instance, that beautiful 12.3-inch Active Info Display TFT instrument cluster is not a cost option; brilliant! Leather seats, LED lights, three-zone climate control, at least an eight-inch infotainment display with Discover Navigation, adaptive and predictive headlights, adaptive and predictive cruise control (we'll come back to the predictive bit of both of those technologies in the driving section below)... the list goes on. Case in point: our test car had the 9.2-inch upgraded navigation (895), a 360-degree Area View camera system (765), Emergency Assist with emergency lane-change assist (525), Park Assist (645), acoustic pack (535), heated outer rear seats (335), tyre-pressure monitors (135) and the head-up display (495). That little lot, plus the strident yellow paint (595), added less than 5,000 to the list price and resulted in an Arteon that felt fully loaded and deeply special.

Which means we must come to prices. At launch, Volkswagen is offering four engines in the Arteon - all 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged lumps. There's the 150hp TDI (going to be the big seller), the 240hp BiTDI twin-turbo, the 190hp TSI petrol and then the 280hp TSI, this being the top engine in the aforementioned Superb and formerly the motive power for cars like the SEAT Leon Cupra 280. More engines will come on stream in the near future, including the 1.5-litre Evo petrol with 150hp, and a 190hp TDI. Some Arteons are front-wheel drive and have a six-speed manual, but 4Motion and a seven-speed DSG are options on a variety of cars, and standard-fit for the 240hp BiTDI and the 280hp TSI. If you have 4Motion, you get Dynamic Chassis Control adjustable dampers, too.

For now, the 150hp TDI begins Arteon proceedings at 33,505. Thus, this car - an absolutely all-singing, all-dancing 280hp TSI in R-Line trim - is top of the range. It retails at less than 40,000 basic, our test vehicle being a more realistic 44,465. To be honest, we think that's good value, as similar versions of the BMW and Audi will cost you more again. But with a 5,000 premium over an equivalent Passat, and a list price knocking on the door of 45 grand, there are bound to be some who think the Arteon is rather pricey.

How does it drive?

Markedly better than a Passat, for a start. We managed to sample both a front-wheel drive 150hp TDI and a 240hp BiTDI before we got into the 280hp TSI, and even the base drivetrain managed to offer crisp dynamics. However, the Arteon is undoubtedly a better car to steer with the 4Motion set-up and a properly punchy engine, because then it has the go to match its dramatic show.

With the long wheelbase of 2.8 metres and a broad track, the Arteon feels considerably more assured and composed than many Volkswagens of recent years. Rack it up into Sport mode on the DCC dampers and it'll corner brutally flat, the four-wheel drive system shuffling torque neatly out to the corners which can handle it best to provide mammoth traction in all conditions. There's less of a feeling that the 4Motion Arteon is going to tip into understeer, something that hovers at the edges of your perception when driving the front-drive model quickly, and there's even the hint of throttle adjustability when you've got the chassis loaded up. Outright thrilling, the Arteon is not, but as a grand tourer that can titillate when the mood takes you, it's pretty damned effective.

You'll also never lament the lack of a six-cylinder option in the Volkswagen's armoury, because this 280hp motor is a proper gem. Hooked up to the swift-shifting DSG transmission, it bestows mighty all-revs pace on the Arteon. It will step off the line with a startling pace, and once it's loping along a motorway, the midrange torque means it's never found wanting for roll-on acceleration. The engine even sounds good, although there's a timbre of artificiality about its voice in Sport mode. Whether that bothers you or not, it's unlikely to be a deal-breaker.

Nevertheless, for all of its back-road dynamic prowess, the Arteon has doubtless been optimised to sit at 85mph in the outside lane of a motorway somewhere (one where 85mph is legal, for a start), and it's the stellar refinement of the car which really wows. The acoustic pack we mentioned earlier puts sound-insulating glass in the front side windows, and the result is that - unless you are mercilessly thrashing the TSI motor up front - you'll be hard-pressed to hear anything of the engine, tyres or wind flowing by outside during steady-state cruising. This, despite the fact you sit a lot closer to the windscreen than you might imagine when looking at the car from the outside; one of our minor gripes about the Arteon is that getting in the driver's seat can have you often brushing your head on the top of the door frame.

But with a lovely, languid, longitudinal lollop to the car's movements in Comfort mode, the Arteon just eases away long-distance motorway grinds with disdain. And perhaps here we can talk about some of its clever tech, like those predictive toys, as the headlights and cruise control both use the GPS of the sat-nav to work out what the road ahead is doing. This means that at night the lights start illuminating a corner before you turn the wheel and the cruise control can foresee sharp bends, junctions and roundabouts that are on your path, and then adjust the car's speed accordingly and automatically. It's actually quite eerie how the predictive ACC works so well, as we tried it on the test route and found it quite excellent. At one point we approached a 90-degree, tight left turn off a main road and the ACC slowed the car down to about 15mph to allow us to make the manoeuvre, without touching the pedals. Don't think it's a full autopilot, though, because it won't actually stop you at junctions where you must give way or stop; it slows the car a long way, but you need to be alert to making a few crucial inputs. However, it's a version of ACC that can be safely and comfortably used on most A- and fast B-roads and not just motorways and dual carriageways, which is quite remarkable.

The Arteon isn't faultless, of course. The handling still has the on-the-limit aloofness that permeates through much of the Volkswagen Group's output. And the steering, while direct and pleasant enough to use in its various different driving modes, sadly never comes alive with feedback and feel. It remains a bit too 'executive' in that regard. Also, the Sport setting of the dampers is just too firm for most British back roads, so you'll find you are more often than not in Normal or Comfort on rural lanes, even if you're going reasonably quickly. Luckily, body control doesn't go all to pot in these modes, so the Arteon still manages a credible road-holding display. Ultimately, it's not perfect, but it is tremendously likeable, in a way its CC-badged forebears never were.


The Volkswagen Arteon is bold, brave, beautiful and it's absolutely unmistakeable when compared to a Passat. It simply drives more sweetly and feels more special to sit in than the more mundane four-door, so in terms of divorcing this grand coupe-like hatchback from the repmobile, it's a 100 per cent success. The Arteon feels worth the extra outlay, no doubt about it.

But the better news for Volkswagen is that the Arteon also feels right at home competing with similar products from BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar et al. It's more arresting on the eye than any of them, it's bigger inside than all the compact executives, it drives as well as most (if not all) of the competition on a twisting road and it's a match for anything in terms of its enormous refinement. We'd have the Arteon over an A5 Sportback. We'd have it over a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, too. We think it's a fantastic, possibly even class-leading creation. Welcome to the big league, Volkswagen.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 7 Sep 2017    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- Arteon images

2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.

2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 Volkswagen Arteon TSI 280 first drive. Image by Volkswagen.


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