We just got back from California where we test-drove the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Arteon.
Santa Barbara, California — I think we could all agree that Volkswagen is a pretty cool brand. Okay, hold your horses. Cool doesn’t necessarily mean reliable, efficient (ahem), or relevant. But VW does have a sizeable following, and various nameplates from its lineup have been sought after for their performances, handling capabilities, and overall “coolness”. Daily-ing a 400 000km MK4 diesel Jetta is also pretty cool, all things considered.
The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon is the latest addition to the sedan offering from Volkswagen in North America. And it has everybody saying: but why? The common Canadian driver statistically wants an SUV, and VW’s own growth on this side of the planet is generated thanks to its SUV lineup. Yet, it is launching three sedans this year, the Jetta GLI, the Passat and the Arteon. To quote Volkswagen representatives, this Arteon is the “spiritual successor of the CC”, but bigger.
We took the trip to Santa Barbara in sunny California to see what this Arteon is all about and had the chance to take it for a drive in the many sinuous roads that cross SoCal’s parks and forests.
Physically, the Arteon undoubtedly has some pizazz. It looks like nothing else. And that’s the whole point. The giant hood seems to cover other body panels, an opulent chrome-accented horizontal grille dominates the front, and the slanted roofline is its entry ticket to the “four-door coupe” club. In addition to being big, the hood is also “reactive”. Which means it will pop out in case of pedestrian impact to reduce head injury.
Canadians only get one trim, the Execline, and it wears 18-inch wheels standard. This R-Line package is an add-on and is composed of 20-inch wheels, an exterior design package that includes R-Line badges, aluminum door sills and the R-Line leather heated multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters.
The Volkswagen Arteon is very capable, but not sporty
Under its gigantic clamshell hood, the Arteon hides a well-known 2.0 Liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that boasts 268 ponies and 258 lb-ft of torque. Paired to this contraption is an 8-speed automatic transmission. This all feeds into the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.
If you’re looking for GTI-like sensations in a bulkier, four-door package, this is not it. If you’re looking for a Kia Stinger rival in terms of dynamics, this isn’t it either. The 268 horsepower 2.0 liter provides enough power, but a V6 option would have been appreciated to spice things up in a straight line.
The 8-speed automatic does a very acceptable job also, but a DSG would have banged in the gears a little more staunchly. Yes, the Arteon is a great tourer on the highway, and thanks to a rigid chassis, it can be pushed around on twisty roads. But with a light-ish feeling in the steering and overall comfortable behaviour, it gives you very little feedback that hints spirited driving.
The DCC damper adapting system does a great job at calibrating chassis-related components to give you a sensation of control and a well-balanced ride. It comes with presets like Sport, Comfort and Normal mode, but also adds 12 settings other that you can fiddle with.
An interior designed for comfort on long drives
Stepping into the Arteon, you’ll find a mix of what VW has to offer in terms of materials in its lineup, whether it be from the GTI and the Jetta GLI, but with some Audi traits. The almighty analog clock triumphs on top of the dashboard, letting you know that this is a sedan for sophisticated and modern fellas who still embrace the old ways. The design is simple, yet classy – but not luxurious. Just like we like our V-Dub sedans. And most of all, it is deafeningly quiet.
The seating is that of a luxury car, however. It is extremely comfortable and seriously spacious in the front and in the back. The driving position is optimal, and visibility comes without the clutter in the A-pillar thanks to frameless windows. Space in the trunk is quite ample, at 563 liters to 1557 liters of total volume available.
The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon is already available for sale in Canada at a price of 47 995$. Give it the R-Line cosmetic package and you’ll have to tack on a further 2 995$. Want more nannies? The Driver Assistance Package will run you 2095$ and will add things like lane assist, park assist and area view.
Volkswagen gave the Arteon the “flagship” title. Why only one trim for us folks in Canada? With the CC, the upper trims sold well, low end trims did not. And if you don’t have AWD in this segment in Canada, you’re losing your time. So bundling everything is one variant made more business sense.
The Arteon’s design will make heads turn when you go to the mall. There won’t be many of them driving around, so you will definitely have that uniqueness feeling.
It’s not a sports sedan, but VW doesn’t seem to pretend it is either. Is it cool? Heck yes.
A flagship is not about sales, nor is it about technical advancement. A flagship is COOL. And after the little emissions hiccup, Volkswagen could use a good dose of coolness to keep its followers and gain new ones.