Thursday 23 January 2020

VW's 2-litre petrol Arteon: For those who don't want SUVs or posh German saloons

The interior of the VW Arteon
The interior of the VW Arteon
VW Arteon
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I've been between two minds on Volkswagen's large Arteon 'saloon' (technically a 5dr liftback) for some time.

Not that there is anything wrong with the car. Far from it. In engineering and driving terms, it's excellent.

However, I just keep asking myself why you'd spend €45,000 to €50,000-plus on it and not buy a compact Audi, BMW, Merc, or Jag for a few euro more.

As well as that, I wondered, in the course of my many drives, what circumstances would have to prevail for me not to opt for an SUV or crossover instead of this?

I would be failing in my duty on your behalf not to ask those questions, but finding answers has been a different proposition altogether.

Volkswagen says there is a market for a car like this for people/executives who don't want to show off in a posh executive and who want to avoid SUVs.

All I can do is take the Arteon at face value against a fairly fast-changing backdrop of buyer preferences.

So far this year, 135 models have been registered (to the end of March). They expect 400 to 500 people to buy one in a full year.

Look, the argument will swing to and fro because that is the nature of cars, especially something that doesn't quite fit in more traditional pigeon holes.

As a Volkswagen executive told me last year, the Arteon is "half a class" up on the Passat. I take that to mean it's another step upmarket.

Its biggest attractions, for me, are the amount - astonishing - of space for all passengers and luggage (massive) and the application of executive-type touches to the interior generally.

I'm still a bit negative on the design. I think it's too stretched-looking on the rear corners, but lots of people like it.

The real reason I was back behind the wheel of one (a gorgeous chilli red model) was the arrival of a new 2-litre 150bhp petrol. Yes, petrol (of course there's a diesel - I've reviewed it previously).

How is it that an engine can so alter the feel, the whole sense of a car, so much? I still love a good diesel - it's not dead yet, for me anyway - but a sweet petrol like this brings a different sense of a drive altogether.

We certainly clocked up the kilometres - several drops and pick-ups from the airport highlighted its attributes. Each and every arriving, or departing, passenger had praise for the room and comfort - three across the back if you need - as well as for the huge boot.

That's not surprising really when you consider how much bigger the Arteon over the Passat (5cm longer wheelbase for starters).

Me? I enjoyed the drive, the smooth quietness of the engine and the transmission.

The drives were not madly dynamic, certainly not the way I drove the car - I didn't want it to be despite the presence of adaptive chassis control.

No, for me, it was more a recognition of the fact that a large saloon/5dr can still provide such a seamless drive and driving environment.

Push me hard and I'd say not too many SUVs or crossovers match that level, partly of course because of their lower centre of gravity.

But is it different enough to nudge the posh saloon players aside? My R-Line version was ladled with stuff (see panel), which is why it costs so much. Thus attired, it makes a case.

But they ideally need to have fewer of the more visual elements from the general Volkswagen kit box if they want this to really stand out.

It's a car with a difference for people who don't want what has become the conventional.

For that reason - and the arrival of that sweet 2-litre petrol - it makes a solid case, if not an utterly compelling one.

Facts & Figures

* Volkswagen Arteon 5dr fastback R-Line; 2-litre petrol TSi 190bhp petrol, €280 tax.

* Price: €53,157. Prices start from €38,270 on-the-road for the 1.5-litre Tsi 150bhp petrol. Realistically, the average buyer will spend well north of €40,000.

* Key spec with trim: adaptive chassis control, 20in alloys, adaptive cruise control with predictive speed control, active info display, comfort R-Line bumpers, light assist, poor weather light, ambient lighting, 'silver'/piano black inserts centre console, scuff plates/stainless steel inserts, LED headlights for high/low beam, separate daytime running lights, rear fogs.

* Technology upgrade: Discover Pro nav system, panoramic sunroof and Dynaudio Confidence sound system.

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