Volkswagen Arteon

Debut: 2017
Maker: Volkswagen
Predecessor: Passat CC (2008)

 Published on 7 Jun 2017
All rights reserved. 

It is set to be the most upmarket Volkswagen this side of the next generation Phaeton.

“4-door coupe” is a market segment German manufacturers trying very hard to explore. However, to make a successful 4-door coupe is difficult. The first Mercedes CLS managed that, ditto the current CLA and Audi A5 Sportback. Less so the BMW 4 and 6-Series Gran Coupe and Audi A7. The least successful is probably the outgoing Volkswagen Passat CC, which was a rare sight on street. The key to success is to differentiate the car from its sedan sibling. Since 4-door coupes are priced higher than the mass-production sedans on which they are derived and offer less practicality as well, they have to be styled far sexier to arouse your desire. Unfortunately, due to their mechanical constraints and the need to preserve reasonable rear-seat space means very few designers could manage the mission impossible. That was exactly the problem of Passat CC – it looked too dull and conservative to win hearts. It would be remembered as the less practical Passat rather than a more beautiful Passat. In its final years, Volkswagen tried to cut its tie with Passat by renaming it simply CC, but smart buyers were unmoved. Set 1 finished. 0-6.

However, Wolfsburg gives it a second chance. In the second incarnation, more emphasis was placed on styling. It was described by its designer as “the sexiest Volkswagen ever”, although that title means little to us. Moreover, more differentiation from the Passat is implemented by utilizing the flexibility of MQB platform, stretching the car's length, width and wheelbase to give it more space and a more upmarket feel. As a result, Volkswagen calls it a premium car and changes its name to Arteon. It is set to be the most upmarket Volkswagen this side of the next generation, electrified Phaeton. Big promise, but does it deliver?

It was described by its designer as “the sexiest Volkswagen ever”...

Yes, the new Arteon might be the sexiest Volkswagen ever. Problem is, no one would describe a Volkswagen as sexy. Even a classic like the 1955 Karmann Ghia (designed by Italian) was rarely associated with this word. Before the introduction of Golf, VW meant cute. After that, it means boxy. More recently, its styling theme has added a stronger sense of sharpness, but when you talk about sexy, you mean curves, and this is exactly what Volkswagen lacks. The Arteon is no exception. Its sheet metal primarily consists of straight lines. There is no coke-bottle waist line, sculpted fenders or curvy bonnet. Its flat bonnet and the horizontal treatment of front grille and headlamps emphasizes the car’s 1871mm width rather than a sleek proportion. The shape of its fastback and the side windows are ordinary, without any drama or character to speak of. Unlike the first CLS, its roof line is quite flat, thus the coupe effect is subtle. Maybe they know it is not sexy enough, the launch car was painted gold to catch eyes. Change to silver, and it looks more like a typical Volkswagen.

Its roof line is quite flat, thus the coupe effect is subtle.

As said, the Arteon is larger than Passat in all dimensions but height, which is just 6mm lower. It is nearly 100mm longer, 40mm wider and 46mm longer in wheelbase. However, compared with a Skoda Superb, all these dimensions deviate by merely a single-digit millimeter. This implies that both cars have ready reached the upper limit of the MQB platform, which is quite a notable achievement for something underpinning Golf. It is also notably larger than Audi A5 Sportback or BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe. In addition to the FF architecture, no wonder the Arteon offers class-leading interior space. In particular, the rear seat offers plenty of legroom, while headroom is compromised just a tiny bit by the fastback roofline. At the back, the boot is also class-leading at 563 liters.

The dashboard is basically the same as that of Passat, which is no bad thing in terms of perceived quality, but failing to give it a sportier or more premium image. As in its sedan sibling, the design is civilized and minimalist. There is a new, larger infotainment touchscreen which does away rotary knobs, but it will be offered in Passat and Golf as well soon. You sit lower in the car than in the Passat, and the side windows are shallower, so the ambience is not as airy.

Class-leading interior space matches VW-typical quality.

Predictably, all of the engines are carried over from the Passat and Superb. These include the 150hp 1.5TSI Evo, 190hp 2.0TSI, 280hp 2.0TSI and a trio of 2.0TDI with 150hp, 190hp or 240hp – the latter employs sequential twin-turbo. They are coupled to 7-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox. Some markets will be offered with only the top 280hp petrol and 240hp diesel engines, and they are attached to 4motion system to handle the extra torque. Naturally, the diesel is the choice for long distance cruising, while the petrol’s wider power band is more fun to access, and its 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds is already in the league of the last generation Passat R36. That said, while the four-cylinder turbo is refined, it lacks the beautiful sound and extra punch of a V6. Volkswagen guys recently acknowledged that a new V6 turbo could be added soon. Will it be the transverse version of Audi/Porsche V6? Or a turbocharged version of the old VR6? Hopefully we shall know later. Before that happens, the Arteon is not going to challenge the more powerful models of 4-Series GC and A5 Sportback.

Well, I suspect even when it is given the V6, it is not going to be a driver’s car. The MQB platform has a conventional FF layout, of course, so its weight is biased towards the nose. The 4motion system sends power to the rear wheels only when the front wheels run out of traction. These mean while the Arteon has good roadholding, it is not agile or tightly controlled enough to threaten BMW, or to lesser extent Audi. Understeer happens more readily. In fact, the Arteon is not tuned to be too sporty either. Most of its controls are light and easy to operate. The variable-ratio electric power steering is accurate enough but too light and short of feel. Switch to Sport mode adds a little bit weight but no more connection to the road.

Another misstep taken by the group.

What it excels is cruising on highway, where it is smooth and quiet. The car rides on 245/40R19 tires as standard or 245/35R20 as option. Thanks to bespoke dampers and bushings, the ride quality on 20-inch wheels isn’t as harsh as you might expect. However, on B-roads the story is different. Even the softest suspension setting might struggle to contain the bumps, potholes or sharp ridges. Sport mode is useable only on the smoothest highway. An Individual mode allows you to set the stiffness in between, but for most roads the softest setting works best.

Volkswagen needs a fresh and successful new product to recover from the damage of “Dieselgate”. Unfortunately, Arteon is not that car. It seems to be another misstep taken by the group. The market segment of 4-door coupe is relatively small and hardly growing. Is it wise to pour money into the segment instead of the fast-growing SUV-crossover or EV? If it is a premium brand, it might make sense. Since Volkswagen is never associated with a sporty image, the chance of success is very slim, unless China like it.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Arteon 2.0TDI 240hp 4motion
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4862 / 1871 / 1450 mm
2837 mm
Inline-4 diesel
1968 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Sequential twin-turbo
240 hp
369 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
1753 kg
152 mph (c)
6.2 (c)
Arteon 2.0TSI 280hp 4motion
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4862 / 1871 / 1450 mm
2837 mm
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
280 hp
258 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
1641 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.3 (c)

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