Following in the footsteps of its low-slung predecessor, the newly christened Volkswagen Arteon continues in the Mercedes-Benz CLS-style mould of being a more rakish and richly equipped version of a sedan.
While in this scenario we’re again talking about the Passat mid-sizer, changes abound for the model that now serves as Volkswagen’s flagship.
For starters, the Arteon ditches a bootlid for a liftback (the first Passat derivative to do so in 30 years, history buffs), adding another dimension of family-friendly practicality, backed up by an extended wheelbase offering near-limo levels of rear-seat legroom (if not headroom).
In fact, the Skoda Superb, which is classed as large, and also based on the widely deployed MQB modular transverse architecture, is mere millimetres longer.
Indeed, ensuring occupant wellbeing is this high-quality German-built Vee Dub’s calling card (CC stood for Comfort Coupe, after all), with fresh-to-brand tech to help justify the near-$70K pricing of this single-spec R-Line all-wheel-drive proposition.
These include the ability, in the event of sudden driver unconsciousness at speed, to automatically change lanes and then stop away from traffic, active lane-keep guidance, AEB that works at up to 250km/h, impending rear-collision hazard flashes warning drivers behind to take action, auto halt and resume in traffic jams, and sub-10km/h manoeuvre self-braking to avoid parking collisions.
All were undreamt-of advances not so long ago.
For extra showroom dazzle, VW also obliges with an Audi parts-bin raid that sees all-LED lighting, sequential-action indicators, fully digital instrumentation à la Virtual Cockpit with head-up display, and high-end multimedia offering gesture-control, as well as massage and memory front pews, heated front and outboard rear seats, and hugely adjustable dampers for tailored softness.
Or hardness, which reveals another Arteon attribute – decisive, involving dynamics to match the bullish acceleration and effortless speed of the Golf R-derived 206kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-powered tearaway.
Quick, reactive steering, sharp handling and utterly unfazed control (singling out an excellent ESC calibration on gravel) reflect the terrific bandwidth of the donor Passat’s AWD chassis, infused with that cultivated on-brand civility. Hammering the posh People’s Car at whirlwind pace seems incongruous but the Arteon breezed through Lang Lang’s tests of dynamic fortitude. “Personality with polish,” as Ponchard remarked.
However, away from the glam and tinsel, the same more-or-less applies to the Passat 206TSI, even if some of that semi-autonomous wizardry hasn’t (yet) filtered down through the range.
Our example wore optional 20-inch alloys and while we’re impressed that the hungry cargo area can stow the same-sized spare, there isn’t the level of ride suppleness found in similarly shod rivals such as the Alfa Giulia and Jaguar XE. And some might find the steering uncommunicative.
Crucially, Kia is on a similar mission with the audacious (and less-costly) Stinger, and that car struts its stuff with arguably more personality and greater thrills for fewer dollars, to tap into Australia’s fondness for all things rear-drive. The Arteon also seems expensive next to the vanishing VFII Calais V and its forthcoming replacement.
Still, in any other year, its Passat-plus virtues would probably have seen the Arteon sail through to the second round. But none of them really progress the premium mid-sized segment, so it’s here that Volkswagen’s wildcard bows out.
A work of Arteon
Take a long, hard look at the Arteon’s styling because it is believed to be the first to adopt Volkswagen’s new design language. While the sleek silhouette and frameless side windows won’t find their way onto the next-gen Golf, the horizontal-line grille treatment and LED-signature headlights might, as well as the wider tracks and shortened overhangs.
A shooting brake is also said to be on the drawing board, which might even spawn an Alltrack version.