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Volkswagen Arteon review: Art attack

The sleek new Arteon embodies Volkswagen's assault on premium players such as BMW.

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Hannover

VOLKSWAGEN might be a "semi-premium" brand in Singapore, perched above the mainstream but below the Big Three of German luxury (Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz), but back home it's remained true to its name - the "people's car" in German.

But VW has dipped its toes in upper-crust motoring before, with varied results. The excellent Touareg SUV has been a global hit, but the Phaeton luxury limousine racked up meaningful sales numbers only in China and Taiwan.

Can Volkswagen's newest model finally propel the brand into the luxury leagues for good?

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The Arteon replaces VW's CC four-door coupe model (previously known as Passat CC), which belongs to a segment whose buyers want something quick, roomy and presentable, but with more visual oomph than a sedan can muster.

Thanks to an elegant silhouette and design flourishes such as the full-width bonnet, broad shoulders and wing-like face, the Arteon is easily one of the most radical-looking VWs ever.

A 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with a very generous 280hp shuffled to all four-wheels gives the Arteon serious pace to match its looks. The sprint to 100km/h takes 5.6 seconds, which makes the VW quicker than the BMW 430i Gran Coupe, a key rival.

The turbo engine's grunt is matched by a decent exhaust note too, while shifts from the dual-clutch gearbox are imperceptibly quick.

Our test car came loaded with features, including VW's latest adaptive damper system, which can now be tweaked on a wide spectrum from soft to sporty. The handling and steering seem direct and responsive, but the route around Hanover lacked the challenging roads needed to confirm this, so we'll leave our final verdict until a local test drive.

At least the refinement is at a very high level, with 180km/h on the autobahn a stress-free exercise, although our test car rode on 20-inch wheels that delivered an occasionally busy ride. The standard 18- or 19-inch wheels should deliver better overall comfort.

The cabin is a mirror of the Passat's, with clean lines, wide spaces and lots of (possibly cost-optional) technology on display, from the active instruments to the latest VW infotainment system.

The Arteon also debuts some semi-autonomous driving systems, such as adaptive cruise control that uses GPS data to slow down automatically for bends, and a feature called Emergency Assist, which can pull the car over to a kerbside lane if it detects that the driver is unresponsive.

Such features aren't for Singapore just yet, but at least the Arteon gets the basics right, too. There's copious amounts of interior space and masses of legroom, so you could conceivably use one with a chauffeur.

VW insists it's not a four-door coupe but a five-door grand tourer, so stowing large objects is easier, thanks to the rear hatch, and cargo room is massive, stretching from 563 litres to a maximum of 1,557 litres with the rear seats folded.

Two petrol-driven 2.0-litre models will be launched at the Singapore Motorshow in 2018, with a cheaper 190hp model joining the 280hp version tested here.

While its deeper handling capabilities are still somewhat unknown to us, there's little doubting the Arteon's space, refinement and straight-line performance. Most importantly, its sophisticated appearance shows that VW isn't just good at moving bodies, but getting better at moving hearts, too.


Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 280 TSI R-Line

  • Engine 1,984cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
  • Power 280hp at 5100-6500rpm
  • Torque 350Nm at 1700-6500rpm
  • Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
  • Top Speed 250km/h
  • 0-100km/h 5.6 seconds
  • Fuel efficiency 7.3L/100km
  • CO2 164g/km
  • Price TBA
  • Available 2018