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Driven: Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake
Thoroughly stunning appearance masks a competent, but not thrilling, Teutonic estate car.

   



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Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake

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Good points: the looks of it, frankly; we'd forgive a car with this styling almost any transgression...

Not so good: chassis is a bit dull, pricey as tested, crunchy low-speed ride

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake R-Line TSI 190 DSG
Price: Arteon Shooting Brake range from 35,395; R-Line TSI 190 DSG from 38,420, car as tested 45,100
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 179g/km (VED Band 171-190: 895 in year one, then 490 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 35.6mpg
Top speed: 145mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,200-6,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,500-4,200rpm
Boot space: 565-1,632 litres

Our view:

If you are prepared to buy this rather pricey Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake R-Line TSI 190 on the strength of its looks alone, and to hell with the consequences, then good on you. Honestly, what an absolute stunner. Even if it flouts the traditional rules and precise definition of what constitutes a shooting brake, this sort of deliberately sensuous and downright sexy styling on the part of VW ought to be heartily revered by all and sundry. We don't need to go into minute detail about various aspects of the Arteon SB's glorious bodywork; you can probably guess we love it to a level we never thought possible, not least for something that is distantly related to a hyper-beige Passat. Just look at it. There's not a bad angle to be found.

Moving inside, things are almost every bit as impressive. When we first drove the Arteon back in 2017 (the hyperlink's in the intro, folks), we loved its exterior and interior design. Well, for the facelift, which has also seen the Shooting Brake body introduced at the same time, the dash panel, centre console and upper door trims have all been resculpted to better tie the Arteon in with the similarly upmarket Touareg SUV. There are also proper wood or metal inserts for various bits of the trim, while the inlays have 30-colour backlit ambient illumination so that they look properly classy at night.

Better still, the Arteon has not yet fallen victim to the infestation of touchscreen controls that is sweeping through the Volkswagen Group. So although you can still command the main infotainment display by pressing on the screen, there are physical shortcut buttons and knobs to either side of it. The car also has a beautiful digital instrument cluster and, praise the heavens, separate climate control functions on a smoother-looking panel in the centre stack. Granted, the steering wheel in this R-Line now has those odd haptic buttons which VW is so fond of, which don't feel that pleasant to operate, but otherwise ergonomically and visually the Shooting Brake's cabin is spot on.

It's also absolutely vast. The back seats appear to have been housed in an aircraft hangar by mistake, with more than a metre of rear legroom being generous in the extreme, while the boot is a useful 565 litres with all seats in play; that rakish roofline doesn't totally ruin the practicality. Mind, having said that, the fastback version takes 563 litres (yes, only two litres less), so if you need to transport large, bulky items around on a regular basis, the Arteon Shooting Brake might not be the wagon for you.

At the moment, petrol and diesel engines are the choices, with a 1.5-litre 150hp unit kicking things off and then this more potent 190hp 2.0-litre sitting above it on the TSI side of the fence, while a 2.0-litre TDI is offered in both 150- and 200hp specs. More models will join in the future, including a plug-in hybrid derivative and a high-performance R.

In this R-Line, the 190 TSI is teamed to front-wheel drive and a seven-speed DSG gearbox, and a very pleasant combination of components this proves to be, too. The engine is strong and willing, and it doesn't lose its composure in terms of either noise or vibrations as it homes in on its redline. The on-paper stats of a sub-eight-second 0-62mph time and a top speed of 145mph feel eminently believable, while the DSG 'box is only occasionally hesitant in its responses.

Even more enjoyable is the fact the Shooting Brake is an epic motorway cruiser. Now, some of the cost options that turned our test car into a vehicle the wrong side of 40,000 - thus incurring the 'VED rich tax' of an extra 335 per annum in years two to six of ownership - included Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) with 20mm-lower Sports suspension (910), an ergoComfort 14-way adjustable driver's seat with massage and memory functions (1,150), the Head-Up Display (520) and an Acoustic Pack (300, basically noise-insulating glass at the front and more sound-deadening material swaddling the passenger compartment). And these things made it imperious for long-distance duties.

Once up to 70mph or thereabouts, the Arteon SB is about as faultless as faultless can be, oozing its way across most of the national network of motorways in an effortlessly accommodating fashion. On a run back from the Shropshire-Welsh border, a best economy of 47.7mpg was achieved (overall consumption for the week was pegged at a commendable 40.6mpg) and on another trek down to Farnborough, for the first time in our lives we used the Individual configurable drive-mode setting in a car to make it as comfortable as was humanly possible - instead of our usual technique of ramping up the sportiness quotient as far as we can. So, for the Arteon SB, it was DCC lowered right down to setting 1/15 (yes, FIFTEEN different parameters for the dampers alone - yeesh), steering and adaptive cruise control in Normal, drive and air-con in Eco; magnificent.

Of course, we're bigging up the refinement and comfort levels, because this Arteon Shooting Brake wasn't half as much fun to drive on quieter roads as the 280hp TSI R-Line we sampled at the four-door car's launch back in 2017. OK, so this SB is 'only' a 190hp petrol and, being honest, there's nothing really wrong with the steering, the body control, the brakes, the grip and the traction of the Volkswagen. It's just that you don't get much joy out of hurling the wagon down your favourite back roads when the mood takes you. The car is clean and tidy. It's not exactly thrilling or involving. But then, does it need to be? And won't the impending 320hp R version rectify any dynamic shortcomings in the platform? Here's hoping - the Arteon Shooting Brake R might well be something very special indeed.

Anyhow, the cultured Shooting Brake is far from perfect in other ways. On its big 19-inch wheels with 40-profile tyres and the lowered suspension, the Arteon R-Line's low-speed ride lacks finesse. Too often it picks up and amplifies lumps in the tarmac into significant imperfections for the comfort of the car's occupants. Like so many German machines these days, its operating sweet spot for damping seems to be somewhere north of our national limit and the Shooting Brake's occasionally gritty town-pace comportment can therefore frustrate. We also can't ignore the 45,000 asking price, not when a similarly specified Passat Estate would be a good few grand cheaper and would do a much better job of the practicality side of things.

However, we did nearly 743 miles in the Arteon Shooting Brake during our week, culminating in more than 16 hours at its wheel. And we enjoyed all of that lengthy stint driving the VW, especially when the car was in our own pre-defined 'Mega Comfort' drive mode. Nevertheless, even more than that, what we really loved about the Volkswagen was walking up to it, each and every time we had to drive it, and ogling its arrestingly majestic shape. Maybe there's a case to be made that the SB puts form before function, but when the form ends up looking like this, seriously - who cares?

Alternatives:

BMW 3 Series Touring: Volkswagen would probably prefer it if we compared the Arteon SB to the 5 Series estate, but really the Three is where it's at. Some overlap at the top of the VW's range and the bottom of the Beemer's, but once you spend the spondulicks on the 3 Series, you end up with a sublime machine like the M340d.

Peugeot 508 SW: if anything can hold a candle to the Arteon Shooting Brake for aesthetic appeal and even interior quality, it's this Peugeot. However, the Volkswagen has the better drivetrains to go at and not everyone likes the 508's iCockpit layout with the tiny steering wheel.

Skoda Superb Estate: if you need more carrying capacity than the Arteon SB can provide, you're a big fan of Volkswagen Group products but you can't bring yourself to put your name down for a humdrum Passat wagon, you could do a lot worse than this Superb. Mental 272hp model presages the impending Arteon R.


Matt Robinson - 16 Mar 2021



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2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 190 TSI R-Line UK test. Image by Volkswagen.








 

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