Thursday 19 October 2017

Arteon: Volkswagen say it's 'half a class' above the Passat. But what does that mean for you?

First drive in Hannover: Volkswagen Arteon

Stretch: The new VW Arteon
Stretch: The new VW Arteon
Arteon dash

Eddie Cunningham, Hannover

Even the Arteon's name is a blend. The 'Art' bit comes from 'art' obviously, and the 'eon' is the company's way of telling you it's a bit different. The phrase is applied to a lot of the cars they make in and for China (the Arteon is targeted big-time for that huge market).

For us in Ireland (it gets here in a couple of weeks), the car is all about the mix of a posher, stylish Volkswagen fastback with loads of room that's "half a class" higher than the Passat.

There is so much rear leg/head room (despite the sloping roof) it reminded me of the Skoda Superb. At the same time, its striking crescent contours echo the Audi A5/7. No wonder lots of A5 owners looked hard at us on autobahn and country roads late last week.

I reckon you could - stress could - argue it's a cross between the Superb and the A5. It does have the enormous practicality of the Superb (what a boot) and the outward, upmarket look of the A5.

Unfortunately, it does not have the class or half-class of the A5's interior. Everything, except the excellent seats, comes from the existing Volkswagen Group box in some shape or form. The dash is Passat (stretched and decent in its own way). The display is Golf and is too low - Volkswagen execs conceded that. They agreed the cabin could be "more premium" and undertook to attend to that at its mid-life, 2.5-year revise.

I've not met a more upfront bunch of motoring execs in a long time. They spoke of the Artreon's "business statement", profile etc. The temptation is to call it a major step forward on the old CC, but that's a bit facile - the CC is long gone.

Built on VW's famous MQB platform, its wheelbase is 5cm longer than the current Passat (= large rear-seat/boot space).

And that's far more relevant about what it can do for €44,000 that others can't.

We mostly drove the 2-litre 150bhp diesel (biggest seller here) with DSG - and the 2-litre TSI petrol for a little while. There was a lot of tyre noise with our diesel drive and the ride felt choppy on moderate surfaces. The opposite was the case with the petrol (few would buy it here). It was smooth and unruffled. I'll not go any further until I drive it on Irish roads in a few weeks, please God, because there should not be an issue with ride quality.

So should you consider it? You probably won't if you're among the SUV multitudes with €45,000 or so to spend. Nor, probably, if you drive an A4/5, Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-series.

But I see it really suiting a mid-rank exec with a family, for example, who doesn't want an ostentatious display of status, but likes the idea of showing he or she can command more than a Passat. As one of the Volkswagen execs said: "This is half a class above the Passat."

In essence, it is probably the furthest, in this segment, that Volkswagen have stretched the limits of mainstream.

They expect 400/450 Irish people to buy one in a full year. That would be a major advance on the CC. For me? A fair bit will come down to how the car drives on Irish roads.

However, there is a major plus in the high level of safety technology on board. The 'driving assistants' incorporate radar and GPS, so the Adaptive Cruise Control/lane departure/speed-sign recognition all play advanced roles. The system slowed us to the prevailing speed limit but, even better, it reduced speed as we approached a junction where our sat nav directed we turn off. I'm clumsy setting up cruise control, speed limiters, lane departure, self-driving etc, but when I got the hang of this I must say it was impressive.

It is standard on the Arteon for Ireland. That puts a different slant on the price (from €43,295 for 2-litre TDi 150bhp; €44,070 on-the-road; 190bhp version from €50,970). Yes, you could spec a Passat to the 150bhp-version price if you wished, or get an entry-level A5 from €46,500.

So you see how the Arteon blurs and mixes the lines? It's an interesting addition to the ranks.

Standard spec also includes 18in alloys, rear fogs, LED rear lamps, driver's seat electric/adjustable lumbar support, unsplit rear bench, heated front/ outer rear seats/tinted windows, LED headlights, park distance control, two USB points, one charging port, three-zone air con (rear controls), multifunction display, 8in 'Discover Media', eight speakers, Side Assist Plus, spare wheel.

Elegance adds Alcantara cloth/leather side bolsters, voice control, rear view camera. R-Line adds 19ins alloys, titanium black headliner, Alcantara leather design sport-seat covers, active info display, ambient lighting, dynamic light assist.

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