Introduced to the North American market at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show, Arteon is a 4-door fastback hatch that effectively replaced the CC in the VW lineup and becomes the European brand's most expensive sedan. Unlike the 4-place CC, the Arteon seats five in traditional 2+3 seating and is offered with front- or all-wheel drive. Competitors include the Acura RLX, Honda Accord, Kia Cadenza, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon.
Arteon comes in SE, SEL and SEL Premium trim with a starting price tag of $35,845. Sole engine offering is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque which mates to an 8-speed automatic. All save the front-drive SE come standard with Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.
SE standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlight, heated mirrors, active suspension, keyless ignition, tri-zone climate control and simulated leather upholstery. SEL adds adaptive headlights, sunroof, adaptive cruise control, leather upholstery, digital gauge cluster and navigation system. SEL Premium adds 19-inch wheels, hands-free hatch, massaging driver seats, steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, heated steering wheel and premium audio.
Standard safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitor. Also available is lane-keeping assist, front- and rear-parking sensors and automated parking. Android Auto and Apple Car Play integration are standard as well. VW also offers an R-Line package that adds sporty trim and 20-inch wheels.
Arteon's sole engine offering, the 268-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, provides ample thrust in most driving situations. Full-throttle acceleration from 0 - 60 MPH takes about 6 seconds. Though not the quickest in the class, that's certainly respectable. Passing punch is solid in the 30-50 MPH range, not so much above 60 MPH. The smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic feels a trifle slow when downshifting and, unless in sport mode, is constantly upshifting to save fuel.
Speaking of fuel economy, the all-wheel-drive Arteon is EPA rated at 20 MPG city, 27 MPG highway and 23 MPG combined. Like most competitors, all models require premium-grade gasoline. While these numbers are certainly not at the head of the class, they are reasonable considering the performance and size of the Arteon. In real world commuting, the Arteon can manage a combined 25 MPG. In straight highway driving, Arteon will manage better than 30 MPG overall.
The Arteon comes standard with front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive being optional except on the SEL Premium, where it is standard. For most, front-drive will provide plenty of grip, but Arteon does come with aggressive touring tires that struggle for grip on snow-covered roads. All-wheel drive adds a bit of confidence, but a better spend might be a set of dedicated snow tires.
With adaptive suspension standard, the Arteon has a natural leg up on most competitors. In most cases, automatically adjusting suspension improves ride quality and enhances road holding -- traits that are generally mutually exclusive. In the Arteon, drivers can choose between Comfort, Normal and Sport. As you might expect, Comfort has the most impact absorption and Sport has the firmest ride. Normal rides the fence between the two.
Adding to the fun, Arteon is available with 18-, 19-, or 20-inch wheels, and, honestly, tire selection has more impact on overall ride quality than the adaptive suspension. With 18s, the Arteon has a comfortable and controlled ride. The 19s impart a bit more harshness, but provide a great balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. The 20s are best suited for warmer climates where the roads are near perfect.
In terms of driving dynamics, most will find that the Arteon is more athletic than competitors and can really be fun to drive -- provided you crack the whip. Driven at a leisurely pace, Arteon handles bumps and expansion joints with aplomb. Turn up the wick, and the suspension firms and responds more quickly to changing road conditions. The steering is sharp and accurate with a nice heft off center. Brakes provide ample stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate.
Interior noise levels aren't luxury-car quiet, but certainly more hushed that traditional midsize sedans. The engine is silent in gentle cruising and growls heartily in hard acceleration. Unlike some other cars in this class, the Arteon's exhaust note is quite muted.
Inside, Arteon is finished with high-quality materials and lots of soft-touch surfaces. It lacks the flair of an Audi or Jaguar, but easily matches its competitors for overall appearance and fit and finish. Upscale models get a digital instrument cluster that adds a bit of panache. Regardless, gauges are readable, day or night. The center stack is topped by a large touch screen and finished off with traditional buttons and knobs for the audio and climate systems.
The infotainment system is fairly basic, with simple and intuitive menus and controls. Android Auto and Apple Car Play support are standard. Ancillary controls are conveniently placed and nicely lit at night. All-in-all, it's hard to fault Arteon's interior design as it's quite functional and intuitive.
As is traditional for VW, the firm front seats offer ample head and leg room. They aren't as comfortable or as confining as sport seats in competitors, but they are likely to appeal to a wide range of body types. All models get heated seats up front. Ventilation and a massaging driver seat are optional. Rear-seat room is actually much improved. There's good leg room for large adults and head room is only a problem for those over 6 foot. Entry and exit are hampered by the Arteon's low roofline, but outward visibility is quite good.
Cargo space is quite generous. Seats up, there's 27 cubic feet of space. That easily eclipses most competitors. Also, the rear seats fold to increase space and the wide opening hatch makes it easy to load bulky items. Interior storage is meager with just a few open and covered bins throughout.
Bottom Line - Arteon is a fine car, a clear step above the mainstream midsize competition. It drives, rides and performs exactly as you'd expect from a premium European hatch. The rub is the price. With a starting price of $35,000 and well-equipped models going for more than $50,000, it's a hard sell. Pluses include a refined interior, comfortable ride, athletic handling and versatile hatchback design. Arteon is a clear step above mot of its competitors in terms of refinement, but still a step behind luxury stalwarts like the Audi A4, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.