2019 Volkswagen Arteon First Drive: More than the sum of its name

Mike Juergens - May 25, 2019, 12:01pm CDT
2019 Volkswagen Arteon First Drive: More than the sum of its name

The name Arteon is the culmination of the words Art & Eon. Art defines what happens when you allow your designers and engineers the freedom to create an eye-catching sculpture. Eon represents a long period of time, an homage to the timelessness and sophistication of the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon. Cars as art isn’t a new concept, but it’s usually the preserve of exotics or classics. That makes the Arteon something very different.

The Arteon stands as one of the most beautiful modern Volkswagens. The front of the car immediately grabs your attention, with its daytime running that lights that fade into the lines of the large chrome grill. The optional R-Line body kit and wheels provide for an even more aggressive look with unique turbine wheels and sharper styling.

The large clamshell hood helps define the overall proportions of the car, while a strong character line that flows nose to tail along the side of the vehicle emphasizes its profile. The designers took their cues from nature, especially the shark, but also references from other Volkswagen group premium cars.

While many other sedan manufacturers have changed focus to the crossover and SUV segment, Volkswagen still sees the sedan market as vital. In 2018, sedans represented 25% of all sales, which equals about 4.25 million vehicles sold in the US market. The premium sedan segment represents the most substantial portion, hence the positioning of the Arteon. In terms of size and available features, the Arteon fits into the C segment: for reference, it’s very close in proportion to the Audi A7, with a wheelbase that’s nearly 112 inches long. But when talking price, it’s much closer to the Audi A5 or Kia Stinger GT.

Volkswagen invited us to experience the Arteon first hand in Solvang, California. Solvang is a beautiful small town nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley located within Santa Barbara County, first settled in 1901 by the Danish. The town is filled with beautiful Danish-style architecture and many wineries. It’s the perfect backdrop to test the latest premium Volkswagen offering… so how does it fare?

The Drive

The 200 mile route through Santa Barbara County provided an incredible mix of roads, elevation changes, and climates with which to experience the Arteon. The route started in the center of town and quickly transitioned to the highway. As we entered the highway, for a big car, the Arteon promptly got up to speed – even without the typical V6 or larger engines that are often associated with luxury vehicles. The only option underneath the hood is the tried-and-tested Volkswagen 2.0T, which in the Arteon produces 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The current generation of the 2.0T is now able to best nearly all of the VW group V6 engines of the past. It’s available in various forms across the entire Volkswagen Auto Group. For the Arteon, the 2.0T is connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and 4Motion is available as an option on every trim level.

As we ascended from sea-level to 5,000 feet we entered the clouds, and the rain started. The Arteon responded very well to these twisty mountain roads. There is plenty of torque and horsepower available to fully enjoy the ride. The standard DCC adaptive chassis control allows the driver to configure the vehicle’s running gear for Normal, Comfort, Sport, or Individual. Individual mode opens up a more extensive range of settings including Comfort+ to Sport+. With the DCC set to comfort, as It allowed for just the right amount of suspension damping and steering feel. Sport+ mode is a little too harsh for such a big vehicle. However, with Sport+ mode enabled, I couldn’t help feeling like I was driving a GTI, albeit a lot bigger one.

The 8-speed transmission, which can be found in lots of vehicles today, has improved so much and it leaves the gearbox is in the correct ratio more often than not. Especially during the climb when trying to maintain a consistent speed through the mountain roads, the transmission was never hunting for gears. On the SEL, paddle shifters are included for those that like to feel a little more in control.

While the 4Motion system is mostly front biased, it can send power to the rear wheels within milliseconds. Even on the slippery mountain roads, the Arteon maintained traction effortlessly. On the Arteon, Volkswagen’s XDS+ cross-differential lock is equipped at the front and rear. XDS functions as an electronic replacement for a mechanical limited-slip differential, and it helps to compensate for understeer during cornering by braking the inner wheel to help restore optimal traction as soon as it starts to slip.

The Interior

Inside, you will find the new tech-packed cabin that has been spreading across the Volkswagen lineup. On the base model, the 8-inch media screen allows for access to radio and media functions, along with app-connect for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The SEL gains enhanced navigation and infotainment with Sirius XM connected services, and the analog gauges are also replaced with the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. That allows the driver to move the map display from the center console screen to the driver’s screen. In his mode, only the directions are displayed on the center console without the map. Most of the cars infotainment options can be accessed via the Digital Cockpit.

As standard, the Arteon offers plenty of Driver Assistance features, including Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Traffic Alert, and standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking. On the SEL, Adaptive Cruise Control is added. The SEL Premium gets Lane Assist, Park Assist, Park Distance Control, Overhead View Camera, and Light Assist as standard. They’re the sort of features you might until recently have only expected to find on a high-end luxury car, yet Volkswagen did not leave anything off the list when it comes to the Arteon.

The amount of effort spent on the interior is very apparent. The seats are supportive yet comfortable, and on the highest-trim SEL Premium they will even massage your back. Volkswagen also thought it was necessary to attach an analog clock to the center console. On the SE, even the leatherette felt great; the SEL upgrades that to full Nappa leather. The quality of the leather is very high, including on the fantastic multi-function steering wheel, which has been my favorite part of Volkswagens for many years.

A full leather package would have been nice, to cover up some of the plastic on the dash and door panels. Still, that would further bring up the price. In the back, there’s 27 cubic feet of trunk space, increasing to 55 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. The rear hatch makes it very easy to access the cavernous trunk to unload and load.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon Verdict

After spending several hours behind the wheel exploring Santa Barbara County, it was more than evident that Arteon is the flagship that Volkswagen needed. The automaker needed to return to the upscale path it blazed many years ago with the Phaeton: there’s really no reason that they cannot operate in the luxury segment.

While the Arteon lacks the extreme levels of comfort and luxury that Phaeton delivered, Volkswagen’s intentions are clear. They want to play in the luxury arena with the rest of the family. Honestly, they’ve succeeded: everything in the Arteon works so well together, to provide a truly excellent driving experience that can adapt instantly to any driving style or condition. From sea level to the 5,000-foot climb, and the descent into the desert and back, the Arteon got us there very comfortably and quickly. It’s definitely a vehicle that fits well into any lifestyle

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