Essentially a Passat, but obviously longer, wider and swankier. Alvin Thomas takes the upmarket version of the People’s Car aimed at rivalling country cousins Audi and BMW for a spin and is all smiles about its poshness and practicality.
Volkswagen has been on the front foot for quite a while now, hitting the right notes with every possible release it has made over the last decade or so. It’s a feat in itself and – if you ignore the negative press it received for pushing through the wrong gates – it’s one of those few car companies that is foraging into newer grounds with its fresh breed of cars.
Albeit, there’s no denying that there’s one car in the lineup that – over the years – has stuck out like a sore thumb: The Passat CC.
Launched back in 2008 as a ‘Comfort Coupe’ in a rather mysterious segment what I now call the “not-so-much-a-sedan-as-it-is-a-coupe-segment”, not many of us expected the Passat CC to do well in sales…but it did. The car did so well that it clocked respectable numbers in sales and continued taking up shelf space until 2017.
Nevertheless, it was time to retire the old CC to make way for a new car – and thus the new Arteon came to life. It came as a bit of a shocker to us that Volkswagen would get rid of the ‘CC’ tag from its nameplate but, hey, change is always good, right?
The Volkswagen Arteon is quintessentially the spiritual successor to the former in every possible way: Pillar-less doors, sleek and sharp lines, and a coupe-like profile to match. There’s no way you’d take me to court over that statement.
But where it splits ways with its predecessor is in exterior design – and we’re in awe of that. The Arteon is by far one of the most striking and artsy fastbacks you can currently buy. It’s so stylish and contemporary that it belongs in an art museum (!), especially if it’s finished in candy red (like my tester).
Every line and crease on the car is made functional by other complementing elements. For instance, the massive front grille – which comprises several chrome lines that run from end to end – is home to the LED lights on both sides. This constitutes the daytime running lights that you see on the car. The headlamps are further hidden to match the three-dimensional form factor of the fascia.
That’s not all, though. The Arteon comes with flared air intakes on either side of the bumper too to complete the front end of the car. I cannot lie: It looks stunning in person.
The side profile, as I had stated earlier, now sports a fastback profile, thereby eliminating all the shortcomings of a four-door coupe. Instead, you’re now treated to copious amounts of head and leg room in the rear. This also means you get a ginormous 563-litre boot, which expands to 1,557 litres with the seats folded down flat. This is by far the largest boot we’ve tested in a fastback of late.
The R-Line model I was testing came with some cosmetic enhancements in the rear too. The stupendous LED lights, along with the subtle lip spoiler and dual exhausts, add to the car’s sporty guise – though it can come across as a bit reminiscent to that of a Mercedes-Benz C63 S AMG coupe. We’re not complaining, though.
The interior of the Arteon is classic Volkswagen, starting from the flat-bottomed thick-rimmed steering wheel and the gear lever, all the way to the strategic button placements on the centre console.
Gone is the old touchscreen and in comes a newer 9.2-inch infotainment screen with motion detection that brings up necessary functions when you’re looking to make changes. The instrument cluster also takes a digital approach with a large 12.3-inch driver display. This can be altered to show details ranging from your current location on the map to your music playlists and other driving information.
The fit and finish of the cabin is top-notch and you’d have to be a wizard to spot panel gaps or loose panels. The seats are large and comfortable, but offer great support while taking sharp corners. The lumbar and shoulder supports are excellent too, and there’s a massage function (for the driver only) to take care of you on long journeys. Oddly, you only receive the option to have heated seats.
Our test car was the top-of-the-line Arteon, which came fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder TSI petrol engine. It is the same unit you receive in the Golf R – so it churns out 280hp and 350Nms of torque. The engine is further mated to a potent seven-speed DSG gearbox that then sends power to all four wheels for maximum effect.
The result is a 0- to-100kph time of 5.6 seconds, which is only a fraction slower than its top-of-the-line predecessor that packed a 300hp 3.6-litre V6 under the hood. Still, power delivery is addictive, with torque kicking in at about 2,000rpm and holding its way until the redline (about 4,000rpm). Power delivery isn’t nearly as liner as the former, though.
As is the case with most Volkswagen products, you get to choose from ‘Sport’, ‘Economy’ and ‘Normal’ driving modes. ‘Sport’ mode sharpens up the steering, throttle and gearbox response – which translates to greater oomph when taking sharp corners or during spirited driving.
Irrespective of the driving mode, the Arteon manages
to return decent fuel economy. I was able to achieve figures of 8 litres/100km – which is miles ahead of its V6 predecessor.
The steering is well weighted, and is almost too heavy, in Sport mode. But it mellows down in ‘Normal’ mode. Mind you: It still isn’t as light as that of cars from Audi or Mercedes-Benz.
Where it kicks dust on the aforementioned is in handling. The Arteon, with its brilliantly-tuned shocks, can safely take tight corners at incredible speeds. The steering provides decent feedback, and understeer is doled down to a bare minimum.
The stiff and well-balanced chassis does feel like it wants to kick out midway through a corner, but the ESP kicks in to avoid any tail swinging action. Still, there’s no undermining a car that can munch down corners at speeds of above 80kph.
This can also be pinned down on the “DCC” chassis control, which adapts the shock absorbers as per the road conditions. In ‘Normal’ mode, this translates to a smoother and softer ride.
The Volkswagen Arteon still possesses all the bells and whistles of the Passat CC, but adds so much more value to the overall package. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the sedan has finally shaken off its “Comfort Coupe” tag to go up against cars in a class much higher than its own.
Don’t believe me? Just take a long and hard look at the Arteon. And once you’re done with that, take it out for a spin. I cannot pick on any faults with the car – it’s that great. And for the first time ever, the other big guns from Germany are feeling the heat. The “People’s Car” is slowly evolving, raising the stakes, and the others cannot quite keep up… literally.