Road Test: Volkswagen Arteon
A new sports saloon with badge appeal – which it will need in a competitive sector, says Craig Thomas.
SECTOR Compact Executive PRICE £TBC FUEL 38.7-47.9mpg CO2 152-164g/km
With the decline of the D segment, the traditional four-door executive saloon has lost some of its desirability in the fleet market. After all, if you can have an on-trend SUV, why bother with a boring barge?
But carmakers are unwilling to consign the saloon to the parts bin of history quite yet, so they’ve decided to make them sportier and, therefore, more appealing. The Mercedes-Benz CLS, BMW’s 4 and 6 Series Gran Coupe, and the Audi A5 have all been successful in snaring buyers among company car drivers, so Volkswagen has decided that it too wants a piece of that action, with the all-new Arteon.
First impressions are always important – especially in this area of the market – so VW is already in the game with the Arteon’s exterior styling, which is sleekly unfussy, even going beyond the brand’s usual conservatism with elements such as the grille that flows seamlessly into LED headlight units.
The cabin is what we’ve come to expect from Volkswagens, albeit with slightly higher-quality materials than in, for example, the Golf, reflecting the Arteon’s status: leather and Alcantara seats with tactile, soft-touch materials on the dashboard and doors to create a cosseting effect. The 9.2-inch glass touchscreen with gesture control then adds a futuristic functionality to the infotainment system, which also includes a range of the latest connectivity features.
The interior is also spacious, with the sloping roof not having too much of an impact on headroom in the rear, so six-footers can sit in the back in relative comfort. Add into the mix a class-leading boot capacity of 563 litres and the Arteon proves itself to be a practical, as well as stylish, proposition.
The choice of engine is straightforward, with just two powerplants at launch. But as one is a 2.0-litre TSI unit producing 277bhp, which returns just 38.7mpg and emissions of 164g/km, the choice for fleet users is essentially reduced to the 235bhp twin-turbocharged 2.0 TDI. The official fuel consumption figure is 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions are 152g/km. It performs in the same consistent, unfussy way as 2.0-litre diesels in other Volkswagen Group cars, with extra urge from the additional turbo. It can be slightly gruff under heavy load, but the overall effect is one of relaxed progress.
It’s a similar story with the Arteon’s ride and handling, which isn’t entirely engaging, and even the Dynamic driving mode is not particularly involving. True, most drivers will be relatively unconcerned with this, but it’s hard to overlook when rivals offer something significantly better.
The ride is equally not as good as it could be, thanks to standard-fit 20-inch wheels, which add an element of disturbance that isn’t intrusive, but it is palpable.
Prices and specs are yet to be published, but there are indications that Volkswagen will also keep things simple here, too, with just two highly equipped trim levels: the comfort-oriented Elegance and the sportier R-Line. Prices are expected to start at around £38,000.
What we think
An attractive enough proposition. However, in the context of what else is on offer, Volkswagen might struggle to make any real headway in this segment.