Christopher Little

Quick Spin: 2020 VW Arteon

After a dismal week driving the “all new” Passat, I wasn’t exactly excited to jump behind the wheel of another Volkswagen. What was once a solid German sedan had been rendered soft and characterless, and I was gutted. Until, that was, the 2020 Volkswagen Arteon rolled into my driveway. It’s low-slung appearance and in-your-face chili red paint helped ease my despair. This, it seemed, was a glimmer of the VW I grew up idolizing; edgy, sporting, and German. Can this proverbial book be judged by its cover? We spend a week behind the wheel to find out.

Just look at. The low and wide stance, liftback roofline, and 20″ wheels seem more concept than production. The black wheels draw attention to the long wheelbase and short overhangs. The front grille seamlessly transitions into the headlights with gloss black and chrome elements. Those accents carry around the car on the window surrounds, lower door, and trunk. Standard LED lighting gives the Arteon it’s signature running-light appearance. The bright red pairs well wit the black accents, and the panormatic sunroof gives this big VW the appearance of a blacked-out roof. Stylish and head-turning for sure, the 2020 Arteon looks the part of a luxury contender.

Climb into the Arteon and Volkswagen’s austere interior design is on full display. The airy and roomy cabin is appointed with soft touch materials and metallic trim accents. Visibility is phenomenal and ergonomics and on point. The way the air vents design is carried across the dash and the way the dash flows directly into the front door panels provide a wrap-around feel. Overall, it’s a modern cabin, but it eschews the sporting appeal of the Arteon’s exterior design. So too does it fail to live up to a true luxury car experience, despite the amenities. Front and rear seat passengers will enjoy a surprising amount of legroom and headroom. Our top-trim SEL Premium R-Line tester also comes with headed and ventilated seats with driver massaging function, a heated steering wheel, Volkwagen Digital Cockpit, and an 8″ touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and onboard navigation capability. All of VW’s safety and driver assistance technology is also standard, including 360-degree cameras with park assist and self-park feature, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive radar cruise control.

On the road, the Arteon’s sporty appearance gives way to its luxury car billing. In fact, from the driver’s seat there isn’t a single sporty aspect to this big swoopy sedan. The long wheelbase and fixed dampers provide a comfortable and compliant ride. The R-Line’s large wheels do add a bit of stiffness over broken road surfaces, however. But even with VW’s XDS cross-differential lock at the front and rear helping put the power down to all four wheels, there isn’t much sport in the chassis setup. That isn’t helped by the Arteon’s 2.0L turbocharged engine. 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque is merely adequate. The decent mid-range torque is ample for daily driving, however, and we weren’t left wanting more power, until we got back out and were reminded of the sporty looks and bright red paint job.

The Arteon left us a bit confused. Great looks and uncluttered and airy cabin are reminders of the best of what VW has traditionally offered in a sedan experience. But pitching the Arteon as a luxury product, including the nearly $49,000 as-tested price tag, leaves something to be desired. The ride is a little too stiff, the engine a little too coarse, and the interior a little spartan to feel like a luxury car. And if you got sport sedan vibes like we did from the sharp styling, bright red paint, and blacked out trim of the R-Line, you’ll be similarly puzzled. There’s no denying the merits of the Arteon, and its rare a new sedan is launched in the era of crossovers. But you’d better explore with the right set of expectations.

-Christopher Little

2020 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium R-Line with 4MOTION$47,695
Destination Charges$1,020
As Tested MSRP$48,715

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