Just as night turns to day, trends also come and go. We don’t curtsy when we meet someone anymore or wear white gloves to tea but there are some retro customs that shouldn’t have been cast aside. Writing letters, for instance. Or memorising phone numbers. Table manners, doing math in your head, the art of conversation – all of these and countless others have been consigned to the history books. However, there is one fad that does not seem to be going out of fashion anytime soon. In fact it has spiralled out of control; it is the demand for SUVs.
The Arteon, based on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform, has a silhouette that resembles the outgoing CC’s but it has plenty about it to help give it its own identity such as its ever so sharp character lines.
We are living in a time where there is an SUV epidemic. It would appear that people have been conditioned to believe that they just cannot get around without these bulky eyesores. Buying groceries? You need an SUV. Dropping the kids to school? Same answer. If you believe all of the marketing fluff then you would even need one to brush your teeth before heading off to bed. So, it makes for a very pleasant and surprising change to find Volkswagen serving up the Arteon — a new saloon positioned above the Passat (ahem, right after launching the new Teramont SUV...) — even when demand for this class of vehicle appears to have dwindled into extinction. This large five-door combines the design elements of a sportscar with the elegance and space of a fastback and is as far from SUVs as today’s trousers are from those flares your dad wore in the Seventies but the need for sport utility vehicles is a habit that’ll die hard. They have proven their sheer staying power and it is unlikely that these boxy high-riders will be ditched anytime soon, but this handsomely sculpted avant-garde gran turismo — which replaces the CC — sure will get people sitting up and taking notice of it, and it’s not just for the vibrant turmeric yellow paint or 20in charcoal Rosario alloy wheels that our tester packs. If the move back to saloons is ever to gather pace, it might be sparked because of this car. Having spent the weekend with it, I can vouch that it will do everything you currently do with your SUV. When did you last go off-roading in yours? For the vast majority of owners, the answer is... never — and you won’t be doing that with this, so, I rest my case. What you will be doing is driving around with a grin firmly planted on your face because the Arteon doesn’t just look ever so good bringing with it some much needed sex appeal to the VW range, it is also very enjoyable to drive.
You may also like: 2016 Volkswagen Passat driven
Based on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform, it has a silhouette that resembles the outgoing CC’s but it has plenty about it to help give it its own identity such as its ever so sharp character lines. The creases on the bonnet — incidentally, one of the largest hoods in the entire Volkswagen Group — are so pronounced that they almost look like they have been painted on with a thick brush. It has a wide grille flanked by a pair of squinting headlights with LED strips that travel inward to meet the two horizontal slats of the grille (it’s a subtle yet fetching touch). Indeed the front end exudes a bold confidence while the smaller corner air intakes — garnished with Audi-like inserts — bring more than a hint of aggression to proceedings. The body line on the profile runs more parallel to the waistline and is sharper while the wheel arches have been flared out more compared to those of the CC and in spite of the low slung roof the door windows are larger which aid outward visibility a great deal and also allow natural light to bathe the cabin giving it an airy and open feeling. The rear window retains a steep angle, the deck lid features a bit more of a lip and the thin taillights and chrome exhaust tips (they’re integrated into the lower lip) round off the rear end nicely. Overall, the Arteon’s muscular and sporty stance is reminiscent of its corporate cousin, the Audi A5 Sportback, and it’ll do battle against it and the likes of the Lexus ES, Infiniti Q50, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s almost identical to the Sport Coupé Concept GTE which became the star of the Geneva motor show three years ago and on aesthetics alone, the Arteon — replete with perhaps the most striking and powerful shoulder sections of any car in its class — is more than a match for them.
The Arteon keeps within its brief and is, without a doubt, a very convincing long-distance cruiser blessed with great looks a spacious and very well appointed cabin and plenty of tech and kit.
The interior is made up from the VW Group parts bin and some may feel this is a bit of a let-down — they may have hoped Wolfsburg’s latest push into the premium market would have featured more of a bespoke touch when it came to the cabin (aside from some nice material and inlays, where are the proper ‘upmarket’ trappings in this R-Line trim?) — but overall, there is not much to really complain about as not only is it comfortable, it is also packed with tech and kit and is hugely accommodating for five adults thanks to its long 2,841mm wheelbase, stretched roofline and a large rear hatch. It also has a very flexible luggage compartment volume of 563 to 1,557 litres. The large 9.2in infotainment system containing plentiful info and entertainment options is blessed with good swiping (and not so good) gesture control while the digital Active Info Display (in place of conventional instruments) is configurable to show you whatever tickles your fancy. Some of the driver assistance features includes a cornering light system with predictive beam control, adaptive cruise control and best of all Emergency Assist which can take control of the car, change lanes and come to a stop at the side of the road should you become incapacitated. It also has nine airbags including side curtain, and knee units making safety a key facet just as tech — and lots of it — is. A head-up display, 360-degree camera view, tri-zone climate control and heated seats (front and rear) are just some of its many highlights. Speaking of the seats, they’re electrically adjustable and the bolsters on the sides offer ample support when you let the turbocharged-four off the leash. They look good too what with those R-Line logos embroidered just below the headrest but what looks even better is the rear indicator lights that sweep beautifully across in the direction of the turn.
You may also like: Volkswagen Teramont review: The big picture
As for performance, it’s almost akin to a sportscar and that’s not a surprise for under that purposeful bonnet resides a slightly de-tuned version of the Golf R driveline. The blown 2.0-litre TSI is mated to a seven-speed automated dual clutch gearbox with four-motion all-wheel drive as standard and makes a healthy 280 horses and 350Nm of torque and can launch the car from 0-100kph in just 5.6 seconds but what I find as eye-catching as those numbers is the fact that you can see the wheel housing shells when you pop the bonnet! That’s cool. Nothing else in this segment has this unconventional trait. A wide torque band that affords effortless cruising (and immediate response when you bury your foot in the carpet when you’re in Sport mode) along with a crisp gearbox and loads of traction courtesy of the AWD makes for a fine drive (very refined when you’re in Comfort) and my only gripe would be the slight tyre noise caused by the contact patch of those fat 245/35 P Zero’s and the lack of any aural excitement from the exhaust but this hardly detracts from the overall pleasure it is to wheel this fancy GT which dispatches rough and twisty roads with aplomb. The electronically-adjustable dampers have three setting (Normal is the third...) and you can fine-tune the chassis to one of 43 individual settings too but I suspect you’d need a very sensitive bottom to be able tell the difference from them all.
The Arteon keeps within its brief and is, without a doubt, a very convincing long-distance cruiser blessed with great looks a spacious and very well appointed cabin and plenty of tech and kit. However, there are sharper driving alternatives out there such as the 4 Series Gran Coupe — but if you don’t need to drive your family hauler with your teeth clenched and arrive everywhere sideways in great plumes of white smoke then this is a very sensible choice. So, I implore you to start a new trend by ditching SUVs and going back to saloons. I for one would take this over VW’s three T’s and every other SUV out there because it’s brilliant. Now, I wonder if I can bring back bell-bottoms and mullets...