Careful… if there’s one word to describe the manner in which we drove the laps which Volkswagen Australia offered us in its apprentice-built Arteon time attack car, it’s that. Careful.
Not just because it was very, very rainy, or because it was cold and the car is fitted with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R semi-slicks, or even because the car’s boasting 360kW and 600Nm. It’s because Luddenham Raceway, the setting for our race car romp, is a tight track with little room for error.
There’s a little more pressure, as the Arteon, which VW Australia has rolled out for us, is one of a kind. It’s the latest in a still-fresh program in which Volkswagen sets its apprentices up with the goal to build a racecar using a standard VW product as a base, and then show it off at World Time Attack Challenge at Sydney Motorsport Park
In pictures: World Time Attack Challenge 2018
The previous result of this was a stripped-out VW Amarok with custom suspension, smaller track tyres, but the standard diesel V6 engine. It lapped Easter Creek in 1:57.01, two seconds quicker than a Golf GTI.
The Arteon time attack car, known to VW as the ‘ART3on’, was built with the aim of hitting 100km/h in less than four seconds, something which Volkswagen claims it has achieved uphill on Luddenham’s straight with a 3.9sec run.
Aside from its custom track-focused build, it’s also sporting a harlequin-like livery designed by a street artist from Sydney named Simon Murray.
Picture: The apprentice team behind the ‘ART3on’
Underneath that is a host of modifications made to the chassis, suspension, and the Arteon’s standard running gear. The massive lift in power and torque, up 154kW/250Nm from 206kW/350Nm to 360kW/600Nm, comes thanks to several RacingLine modifications including a stage 3 turbo and intercooler setup, plus intake, oil management and fuel pump upgrades.
Upgraded DSG software comes from Harding Performance and TVS Engineering, helping the standard seven-speed gearbox transfer the new outputs to the Arteon’s four wheels. Bilstein Australia supplied a custom racing suspension setup, and APR dished out the stopping power.
Inside, the seats have all been turfed and a roll cage put in place of the rears, while Velo racing seats sit up front. Most of the carpet and lining has been removed, while the dash and centre console are the only major interior elements that remain.
All up, the changes to the Arteon allowed a 1:49:02 lap of Eastern Creek with racer and driving coach Renato Loberto at the wheel. Luckily, Loberto was also on hand to coach us at Luddenham.
After a few demonstration laps in the passenger seat, during which Loberto gave a taste of what could go wrong and where it’s likely to happen, it was time to drive.
Being strapped into the driver’s seat is a bizarre fusion of the alien and familiar, facing Volkswagen’s familiar dash while feeling a bucket seat underneath and race-style metal shift paddles behind the wheel.
At idle, the car is burbling and vibrating as you’d expect a racecar to do, competing with the visuals of its exterior for volume dominance. This is clearly not going to be as easy as driving a standard 206kW Arteon.
On the out lap, Loberto asks if we can keep things smooth and gradual, keeping throttle application conservative in corners and at low speeds. Even with this request – or plea – taken into account, the mix of cold-ish Trofeo Rs and a wet surface wasn’t conducive to laying down 600Nm, and it showed in a rather startling fashion.
A moment of reflexively strong right foot had the 360kW Volkswagen wanting to get sideways, while still heading for the outside of a bend.
“Did you feel that? You lost traction there,” Loberto said. I was aware, or at least my heartrate was.
Its exhaust note is almost equally as exhilarating. The anti-lag system creates intense crackles and backfires on the overrun, and it sounds like there’s a rally car trying to get out.
After getting more familiar with the Arteon’s bitey gearshifts and sharp torque delivery, it becomes much friendlier, almost to the point where on any other day (and on a more open track) it seems like it could be considered ‘easy’ to drive.
After fighting puddles for enough laps to feel like the Arteon wasn’t constantly at risk of meeting the wall, Loberto suggested opening it up properly on the short straight.
While the Arteon might not have topped a particularly impressive speed, in fact a Golf R was almost certainly faster in the conditions, its acceleration is brutal and a dry surface would surely reveal a proper weapon.
If anything, the rain gives us an excuse to ask VW Oz for another crack in the dry…
All about the drive on MOTOR reviews
2019 VOLKSWAGEN ARTEON TIME ATTACK CAR SPECS:
Engine: 1984cc inline-four, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 360kW @ N/A
Torque: 600Nm @ N/A
0-100km/h: 3.9sec (claimed)
Like: Impressive pace; unsuspecting package; WRC soundtrack
Dislike: Nervousness in low-grip conditions; low grip conditions ruining our fun
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars