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The Arteon has undergone a subtle facelift, but Volkswagen has surprised us with a new estate variant.
Digital cockpit, keyless entry (Shooting Brake only), 3Zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, an 8in Discover navigation system with tMIB3 infotainment platform, alloy wheels, LED front and rear lights, eight-speaker audio, six-way electric adjustment driving seat
150hp 1.5, 190hp 2.0
150hp 2.0, 200hp 2.0
SE Nav, Elegance, R-Line
Six-speed manual, seven-speed DSG auto
Volkswagen's Arteon has been a better car than its presence on the roads suggest. Holding a loftier position in the range than the Passat, with which it shares engines and other technology, it is intended to do battle for sales with premium brands.
Of course, much of the appeal in a BMW 3 Series or 4 Series, Audi A4 or A5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Jaguar XE is in the brand. Volkswagen might be on the radar for drivers who are used to Vauxhall, Peugeot and Ford, but probably not for those already driving a car from another German brand.
The brand struggle is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that we're in the more conventional 'saloon' area, rather than SUV, with brand status a little more blurred in the latter.
But Volkswagen would argue that the Arteon is anything but conventional, launched four years ago as a Fastback 'four-door coupé'. The trend of giving saloons a lower roofline and frameless windows before calling them 'four-door coupé' began with the Mercedes-Benz CLS more than 15 years ago, and many other models have adopted the body style to help them seem more exclusive.
But as large estates tend to be more popular than saloons in mainland Europe, it seemed remiss of Volkswagen to not have that box ticked with the Arteon.
So, when the facelifted Arteon was announced in summer 2020, many of us were surprised to learn there would be an estate launched at the mid-point in the vehicle's life.
Much as Mercedes-Benz has estate versions of the CLS and smaller CLA, calling them by the archaic name coined in the 1890s for horse-drawn carriages dedicated to transporting shooting parties, so Volkswagen has followed.
A little pretentious, perhaps, especially as other Volkswagens (and Mercedes-Benzes) with extra luggage space are called estates in the UK.
The minimum luggage capacity of the Shooting Brake is no different from the Fastback version, but there is slightly more volume when measuring to the height of the roof.
Having said that, the profile and rear-end styling of the Shooting Brake variant are somewhat elegant, and although moderately less functional than a traditional estate, it would probably manage to deal with most of the cargo the majority of people will need. During my brief pre-lockdown stint in the car, it comfortably accommodated a 2m stepladder on emergency loan to a friend, with part of the rear seats folded.
Engines initially available include a 150hp 1.5 TSI as well as the 190hp 2.0 TSI we had on test to satisfy those who prefer petrol engines, with the choice of 150hp and 200hp diesels using a 2.0-litre engine. The higher-power diesel is also available with optional 4Motion all-wheel drive.
But we cannot see many of these taking the fancy of company car drivers, although both manual and DSG automatic versions of the Fastback 150hp 2.0 TDI offer BIK tax at 29% for the 2021/22 fiscal year.
But as we write, Volkswagen has opened orders for plug-in hybrid versions of both Fastback and Shooting Brake derivatives, using the same powertrain as in the Passat, and offering BIK tax at 11% from April 2021. It could also be a more cost-effective alternative to plug-in hybrids from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, currently available in the 330e for the former, and C 300e and C 300de for the latter.
The performance in our 190hp 2.0 TSI test car was brisk, and the DSG transmission was smooth, making for a serene driving experience. It seems adults would be accommodated in slightly more comfort than in premium-badged alternatives, and if the driver was prepared to sacrifice on image, the Arteon Shooting Brake would be rewarding to use as a company car.
Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake 2.0 TSI R-Line DSG