Since the demise of the unfortunately conceived Phaeton, Volkswagen’s flagship car has been the CC, a coupe-like version of the Passat. Volkswagen has decided that this is not a good look, and so the new range topper gets a new, larger chassis and an all new look. If this car was black it would look like Kylo Ren’s daily driver, all sharp edges and aggressive lines. In bright, bright yellow it looks more like the sort of car an evil clown would drive. Pennywise then.
This NZ$74,990 Arteon certainly gets noticed, though whether it’s the looks or the colour or a combination of the two is unclear. What is clear is that people are surprised to find that it’s a VW. Probably a good sign, as this design language is going to spread to the rest of the VW range in the future, dragging the brand relentlessly upmarket.
The Arteon, at least in New Zealand, is available in only the highest R trim level and the most powerful engine. While many competitors stump up a six-cylinder engine in their top models, VW is limited by the platform to a four-pot only. That said, there’s 206kW (276 hp) and 350Nm (258 lb-ft) of torque available to fling the Arteon down the road. And when the car gets to a corner there’s VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system to keep things on the tarmac. The seven-speed dual clutch transmission is as quick as ever and matches the sporty nature of the car.
With all that hardware the Arteon can be a fun drive, especially when the suspension, transmission and engine settings can all be independently customised. The best aspect of this is the suspension control, which gives you a massive range of adjustment from disturbingly soft to spine cracking hard. I found personally that the sportiest engine and transmission settings combined with a ride very much on the soft side was the best mix for typical NZ roads, but as they say, your experience may differ.
But while you get an impressively woofly exhaust note you don’t get a sonorous six-cylinder induction sound at the front end. The Arteon’s snarling engine intake sound is great if that’s your sort of thing but buyers in this price range usually want something a little more refined.
Inside, there’s no mistaking you are inside a VW product. Everything is as solid as granite and ergonomic as a physiotherapist’s textbook. The Arteon has a full TFT instrument display, which allows plenty of customisation, whether it be different data or different dials. There’s also gesture control that lets you control things like the stereo volume with a wave of a hand (which I couldn’t quite master).
But it’s very dark inside the car, and the interior does quite closely resemble that of the Passat, a car a touch lower on the VW totem pole. There’s no problem with the fit and finish, as mentioned above, but there’s not much creativity or individual touches to it.
The Volkswagen Arteon is a mixed bag. It looks modern on the outside, drives well and certainly feels like it should be worth NZ$75,000, but there’s no style to the interior and there’s a lack of refinement from the engine.
But dedicated Passat owners do now have an obvious standalone model to shift up to, rather than something that was obviously a different version of the car they already had. It’s a pretty safe bet though, that most Arteons sold will not be in quite such an eye searing colour.