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First Drive - Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI DSG R-Line (A)

Text and photos by Desmond Chan, sgCarMart

The brand new Volkswagen Arteon is the Wolfsburg brand's latest offering, a Gran Turismo (GT) that promises elegant styling, dynamic driving and futuristic technology. Like a boxer looking to take the step up to a higher weight class, the Arteon is VW taking the fight to the big boys.

To find out if this is really the case, we've headed up to Hanover, Germany, (just west of Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg), to drive the new model.


Slick and sleek

At first glance, you are immediately struck by the Arteon's design. As far as VW cars go, the Arteon is as bold and arresting as they come. It's telling that the name, 'Arteon', is derived from the word 'art' and 'eon' - the Arteon is meant to be beautiful and eye-catching, and 'eon' ties it to its China-only Phideon.

The first thing that strikes you about the Arteon is its sleek silhouette. The GT fastback design gives it a sweeping look that is oddly evocative compared to the more conservative design language you see on most other VWs. At the front, there is an aggressive grinning chrome-lined fascia, flanked by two large, bold air intakes (in R-Line trim) that adds to the car's dynamic look.

From the onset, the Arteon seeks to impress, and on the looks front, it certainly does.

Digital modernity

Inside, the Arteon continues to impress. Built on the MQB platform, the Arteon's wheelbase is 50mm longer than the Passat. This translates to additional space inside, especially at the rear where the three passengers will have ample space to stretch their legs.

VW also wants the Arteon to excel when it comes to daily usability, and in this department the car has 563 litres of boot space, expandable to 1,557 litres with the rear seats folded down. In comparison, similarly sized fastback models like the Audi A5 Sportback and the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe both have 480 litres of boot space.

The Arteon also features the Active Info Display, where you get the digital cockpit as standard. This puts essential information on a fully digital dashboard, allowing you easy access to anything from navigation to your phone contacts to changing the music track.

Furthermore, you can keep track of your speed and the next direction from the sat nav via the head-up display. The new generation touchscreen infotainment system also ditches tactile buttons you may be familiar with in older models, allowing more screen real estate. The infotainment system is also very intuitive and easy to use.

Smarty pants

The Arteon features the latest in safety and assistance technology from VW, such as front, side and rear assist to create a proactive passenger protection system.

The most impressive technology is the new Adaptive Cruise Control with predictive cruise control. More than just keeping to a particular speed and maintaining a fixed distance from the car in front of you, the car uses GPS and sat-nav information to regulate your speed within speed-limited zones, such as the small towns around Hanover that have a 30km/h or 50km/h speed limit. This means that even if you set the cruise control at 90km/h, the car will automatically slow down as you enter these zones, and subsequently speed up once you have cleared the speed-limited zone.

Also, predictive cruise control means that the car takes into account upcoming bends in the road and will slow down accordingly, and will speed up again once you exit the bend. We were told the car is even able to negotiate roundabouts, but we must admit we weren't brave enough to test it out. What this means is that even on non-highway roads, you could technically drive with just your hands and without using your feet.

Hammer time

And when you do decide to use your right foot, the car doesn't disappoint. Under the bonnet is the acclaimed EA888 2.0-litre engine, producing 276bhp and 350Nm of torque. It's a strong and smooth engine that pulls well, and can get up to 140km/h on the Autobahn quite effortlessly. Even as you accelerate onwards past the 200km/h mark, the car feels remarkably stable and composed - it is always planted and easy to pilot.

The Arteon also features a brand new suspension system. It is deliberately designed for 20-inch wheels, and it should come as no surprise then that our test car was equipped with 20-inch wheels instead of the standard 18-inch ones. Does it work? Well, sort of. The ride is certainly acceptable for 20-inch rims, but even in the most comfortable of settings, don't expect it to be buttery soft. Over poorer roads, it can get a tad bumpy.

The new suspension system also features Adaptive Chassis Control, and has an individual mode where you can fine-tune the stiffness on a slider scale. It looks and sounds cool, but the truth is you are unlikely to feel the differences in the minute adjustments. Just leave it in Comfort, the mode we reckon the car is best enjoyed in.

However, the Arteon isn't without its flaws. The most tangible gripe would be that the car is somewhat noisy, with both wind noise and road noise (20-inch tyres might be to blame) intruding the cabin. We suppose this could easily be overcome by turning up the radio playing through the excellent Dynaudio sound system, but unfortunately this wasn't really an effective option as we couldn't grasp whatever was playing on German radio.

It's actually the intangibles where the Arteon feels a little bit lacking. While its certainly competent and the raw numbers/specifications certainly impress, it lacks that sense of being interesting or exciting.

Headed north

Globally, you could see the Arteon being VW's new range-topping model (once you exclude the China-only Phideon). Judged in isolation, it certainly has all the qualities to justify its placement as the pinnacle of the brand. It takes all the best parts of its cars, infuses it with typical VW know-how, and presents a deeply accomplished and impressive GT. It is definitely a step upwards for the brand in terms of technology, sophistication and styling.

Ultimately, we reckon the success of the Arteon will come down to price, though there's no word yet on how the model will be priced in Singapore. It faces stiff competition in its niche market - the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is better to drive, and the Audi A5 Sportback wears a more premium badge.

In this sense, we will have to wait and see how customers eventually react to the new Arteon, slated to reach our Singapore shores by early next year. If customers take well to it, we could very well see the brand take a big step upwards to capture a segment of the premium car market.

This article was first published on sgCarMart.

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