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2020 Volkswagen Arteon: Bargain Luxury, or Glorified Passat?

Updated: Aug 8, 2020


MSRP as tested: $49,960

Specs: 2.0L turbocharged 4 Cylinder (268hp, 258 lb.-ft. torque),

paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission

0-100kmh as tested: 6.2 seconds


With the Phaeton and Touareg now gone from North American markets, the Arteon now takes over as the flagship among the Volkswagen model lineup. While there’s no doubt that Volkswagen is more than capable of putting together a killer value-luxury car, the Arteon platform is based off of the humble Passat and is closer to a reimagined Passat CC, unlike past flagships which borrowed robust platforms from luxury cars double their price. So, has Volkswagen put together a compelling-enough package to make the Arteon a viable entrant into the ever-competitive luxury sports sedan segment?



Driving Impressions:

Driving the Arteon is a pleasant yet very 'vanilla' experience. As a jack-of-all-trades, this handsome sport-back isn’t particularly sporty nor particularly luxurious, instead offering a refined ride, adequate and smooth acceleration, and an overall feeling of solidity. Power comes from a turbocharged 4-Cylinder pumping out a solid 268 horsepower and reaching 100km/h in 6.2 seconds. It feels quick enough once you get going, though many rivals in the price range do feel a tad quicker off-the-line. Additionally, because the power plant is tuned for efficiency rather than performance, there is a bit of initial delay when punching the accelerator.

To counteracting this fastback's large size and weight, steering is light yet pleasantly sharp and responsive, almost reminiscent of the sporty Golf GTI except with muted steering feedback and less nimble. It's an odd experience; on one hand the steering feels relatively alive and responsive to your inputs, but on the other hand it feels quite disconnected from the road. While you won’t be mistaking the Arteon for a sports sedan, it does make it responsive and easy to manoeuvre without feeling overly artificial, as well as predictable in the corners. And with the Arteon's ability to remain firmly planted during spirited driving, one might even call it fun-to-drive, if not for the lack of drama and steering feel.


Where the Arteon truly shines is comfort. Passengers are treated to a luxury smooth ride at all times, as well as plenty of room. Unfortunately the interior itself is a bit of a let down, which taints an otherwise luxurious interior experience... more on that in a bit.



Exterior:


Looks matter, and there's no denying that the Arteon is a very attractive vehicle (scroll through the above photos to see for yourself). While understated luxury has been the theme for past Volkswagen flagships (just look at the modest-looking Phaeton and Touareg), Volkswagen didn't hold back this time around when it came to the Arteon's design. Dual LED daytime running light strips swoop in from the sides and merge seamlessly with the chrome grille's lines, giving an impression of sleek seamless dual light strips across the entire front end. Graceful curves, sharp body lines, and a swooping coupe-style roofline achieves a stunning look reminiscent of the Audi A7 Sportback, while still looking distinctly Volkswagen.


Opt for the R-Line appearance package and things get even spicer thanks to flared front bumpers with larger air intakes, black inlets, a rear spoiler, and 20 inch turbine wheels. It's not often that a design can be both fresh and unique while retaining brand identity, as well as stylish and aggressive without being tacky or pretentious, but Volkswagen's designers seem to have accomplished just that.



Interior:

Unfortunately, the Arteon's devilishly good looks doesn't extend to its interior. The cabin feels like a Passat with slightly nicer materials and an analogue clock tacked onto the dash, rather than a bargain Audi or flagship Volkswagen product. Simply laid out and boring to look at, its a stark contrast to the flashy interiors of competitor offerings from luxury brands. While it does have an old-school charm that may appeal to some, as well as a slightly premium feel, the fact of the matter is that many of the Arteon's interior components are directly sourced from lesser Volkswagen models, and the design itself looks severely outdated when compared to the competition, or even some of the latest Volkswagen models (namely the Mk8 Golf).


It's not all bad though; features such as the fully 'Digital Cockpit' instrument cluster and an excellent 'Dynaudio' sound system help to spice up the otherwise snooze worthy interior. As well, Canadian Arteon's come fully loaded with a bunch of goodies as standard, highlights of which include a massage function for the driver, heated and cooled seats, Nappa leather, and more.


Practicality is also a highlight. As a sport back, the Arteon benefits from a huge trunk and more interior space than similarly-sized sedans. While many coupe-shaped cars compromise rear head room, the Arteon's cleverly packaged interior results in surprisingly ample head and leg room for all occupants. This is as car that can easily fit 4 adults comfortably (or 5 in a pinch), and is nearly as versatile as a crossover in terms of storage space thanks to its massive hatch.



Purchase and Service Experience:

Act quick, and you might just be able to secure some massive discounts on the 2020 Arteon. Actually scratch that; even if you decide to wait for the refreshed 2021 model comes out, you're almost guaranteed to receive some sweet savings you wouldn't find from competition entry-level luxury car. Because the Arteon is such a niche vehicle it doesn't exactly sell out, resulting in some very attractive incentives to entice buyers, and making it even better value.


Much like the car itself, the ownership and service experience is quite pleasant, but nothing special. And for many buyers, perhaps exactly what they want. Just don't expect the same treatment or amenities as you'd get when spending your $50K on a luxury brand.



Final Thoughts:

In short, the Volkswagen Arteon is a very compelling luxury alternative for those who care less about brand prestige, sportiness, or a snazzy interior, and more about value, comfort, and a stylish exterior. Some people call this the "baby A7", and to be honest that's not that far fetched, if not for the economy interior.


While Arteon does everything extremely competently, it doesn't excite or stand out in any particular aspect (except maybe in looks). In fact, the biggest issue with the Arteon is not a flaw with the car itself, but the fact that there exists more exciting competitors, such as the Kia Stinger GT (see our review of the Kia Stinger GT here). To the Arteon's credit, it does offer more tech and rear passenger room, but the Stinger GT offers a far sportier driving experience, superior interior design/materials, a similarly plush and quiet ride, and an option for a far more potent 365 horsepower powertrain, all for a very similar price.



Recommended Build: Arteon Execline 2.0 TSI ($49,960 CAD)

Unlike many luxury entrants, for 2020 the Arteon’s options list is dead simple. In Canadian markets, all Arteon come in Execline form, with literally only 2 optional add-ons packages, both of which are simply cosmetic upgrades. This means that all Canadian Arteons essentially come fully loaded, with goodies such as the all-digital instrument cluster, AWD, premium audio system, massage function, and adaptive cruise control, as standard.


As for the options, the Wheel Package ($1295) adds larger 19 inch wheels, whereas the R-Line Package ($2995) takes exterior styling a step even further, adding 20 inch satin-grey alloys, as well as a a handful of aforementioned cosmetic enhancements and “R-Line” logos smattered here and there. Truth be told, the visual enhancements are quite subtle, and we feel the car is more than handsome enough as is without any cosmetic upgrades. Besides, the standard 18-inch wheels deliver a slightly softer ride, and after all, comfort is a big part of what makes the Arteon so appealing.

White VW Volkswagen Arteon Execline Canada
Our 2020 Arteon Execline, with the standard exterior and wheels
2020 Arteon Execline with the upgraded R-Line Package