Final report: Volkswagen Arteon long-term test
24 January 2019
Author: Rachel Boagey
Volkswagen's flagship saloon expects a high fleet uptake, but is it worthy?
|Alloy wheels, LED self-levelling headlights with separate LED running lights; headlight washer system, dynamic light assist, LED tinted rear light clusters with dynamic indicator|
|Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system with voice-activated control system. 9.2in colour touchscreen control system for navigation, DVD, CD and radio functions. Preloaded European navigation data, 3D map view, three calculated routes (Fast, Short, Eco), speed limit display, gesture control, USB port in front storage compartment (£895)|
|Keyless entry - with electrically operated opening and closing function, operated via foot movement under rear tailgate or from driver's door. Time delayed push button electrically closing tailgate (£900)|
|Turmeric Yellow metallic (£595) with 'Nappa' leather upholstery|
Final update: Farewell, dear friend
Pulling into the drive-through hand car wash in Fulham I assumed the man signalling a thumbs up and smiling at me was telling me that I'd pulled the car far enough forward in the queue, but to my surprise, what he was really telling me is that he loved it.
"I wash about 200 cars a day and it's not often I see one of these, especially in this gorgeous colour," he exclaimed. "How unique!"
It's not just passers by who notice, though. Even after driving the car for over 7,500 miles over a six month period, often when I'm returning to my Arteon after the weekly food shop it occurs to me what an attractive car it is, and how much it stands out from all of the other cars around it. Just like the guy in the car wash, it is not often that I see other Arteons out on the road, but when I passed on the M4 on my journey home for Christmas in the same turmeric yellow colour as mine, I couldn't help but think how stunning its silhouette looks. I even caught the man driving the similar Arteon observing mine at the same time, during which we both exchanged a little knowing glance and smile.
The Arteon's yellow tones, elongated contours and long wheelbase have succeeded in giving the car its own identity, and a very distinctive guise on the road. Details such as frameless windows and a wrap-around bonnet are all especially
eye-catching, and all contribute to its striking looks.
Particular aspects that help the car to express its luxurious personality are things like the large Arteon lettering on the rear of the car, and the modern rear LED lamps and LED indicators. Its elegant features also extend to the interior. Particularly of note is the analogue clock in the centre of the dashboard, which looks like something you would only get in a far more expensive car. The full-width air vents add an aesthetic link to the Arteon's distinctive style, and pay homage to the wrap-around bonnet, while its quality measures up to what you would expect from a Volkswagen.
I've noted in previous reports that while Volkswagen is insistent that the Arteon is not a replacement for the Passat, there is no doubt that it is the car upon which the Arteon is based. It is true that there is not much difference between certain features of both cars, such as the dashboard and other bits and bobs inside the car, including its features outside, but it's not like that is a bad thing.
With its increased price tag compared with the Passat - which reaches not too far off the £40,000 mark with options added to the Elegance trim we were lucky enough to run for half a year - it is clear where this extra money has been invested, and it is fair to say that we are very sad to see the Arteon go.
Truth is, the Arteon had big boots to fill, but those boots now need to go up a size.
Update 7: Technology of tomorrow
I've always been pleasantly surprised with the technological sophistication on offer in Volkswagen models.
In recent years, event the entry level models seem to have a good level of technology available for its customers, and that's the case with our Arteon.
This Arteon is in the Elegance grade, and although it's essetially the 'entry level', with only R-Line above it, as I've explained before it is fully loaded with active safety systems. These include a new generation of Emergency Assist that doesn't just stop the car if it thinks you've passed out, but goes even further by autonomously pulling over to the side of the road - something I fortunately haven't had to try yet.
Then there's the new Adaptive Cruise Control system, which uses cameras and GPS route data to not only react to changes in the speed limit, but also slow down for corners and other hazards - seriously impressive stuff. The self-steering Lane Assist system integral to this process is one of the smoothest I've encountered; it doesn't even feel like it's working sometimes, until you find yourself perfectly within the lane markings.
The buttons to operate the cruise control are easily accessible and placed ergonomically around your left thumb while you're driving, and after a few goes of using it, it is no longer necessary to look down to see which buttons need pressing. The same goes for adjusting the speed on the cruise control. The buttons feel like an obvious left and right control to your thumb, making adjusting your speed according to the rules of the road a doddle.
One thing that's slightly annoying is that the speed can only be adjusted by increments of 5mph using the buttons, so I often find I use the accelerator or brake to speed up or slow down, then click the 'set' button to set the speed at a more appropriate speed between the two. Increments of five are often just not accurate enough, and although the cruise control will adapt to the speed of the car in front of you, if there's nothing in front and there are speed cameras everywhere, you don't really want to be doing a whole 5mph over the limit, which decreases your reaction times significantly.
Luckily, autonomous emergency braking is of course standard in addition to all of the safety kit on this car.
Update 6: Vertically challenged
Being around the 5ft mark often presents problems when it comes to reaching my favourite cereal on the top shelf in the supermarket or struggling to grab my winter coat in the wardrobe. But it's often something that can be easily solved by asking a taller passer-by for a hand or pulling out my trusty fold-up step.
When it comes to cars, it's not often these days that I struggle with the driving position. Most cars allow a fair bit of adjustment in the driving seat, steering wheel and seat belt, so it doesn't look like a 12-year-old has stolen their mum's car from the driveway.
Luckily, that's the same for my long-term Arteon, and it would be a problem not being able to see properly as I'm keeping this car for six months in total. But while the driving position might be fine, another short-person problem has emerged in my time with the car.
I first noticed it a few weeks into the loan, but since then it has become a bigger issue. Pressing and holding the boot unlock button on the key fob when a few feet away from the car as I was leaving for work last week at 6am, the boot door made a noise as if it was going to open, but then, nothing happened. Not being a morning person, or a fan of the cold, I angrily pressed it again a bit harder and longer, but still nothing. Third time lucky and hey presto, the boot door began opening automatically and when it almost got to the top, it stopped, and got stuck.
No matter what I tried with the button on the boot, which I could only reach by jumping and poking it with one finger, or with the button on the key fob, nothing was working. I tried jumping to pull the boot lid closed but that only pulled it a few centimetres until it got stuck again. Eventually, after a good few minutes, a kind passer-by offered to help and managed to pull the boot door down a metre or so, and it eventually closed by itself. My red face eventually went away too.
It's not just the boot that has been causing problems either. No matter how many times you seem to press unlock on the fob, the mirrors may unfold but it may take another few attempts before you or your passengers can get in. First world problems, I'd agree, but I have to admit I expected a bit more from a Volkswagen.
Update 5: A practical giant
Volkswagen's Arteon is not, I repeat, is not, a replacement for the Passat. But as much as the manufacturer insists this, there's no doubt that this is the car on which Arteon is based. Longer and wider, though, meaning this car is on a mission to be the top dog when it comes to practicality.
VW says the Arteon is intended to raise the manufacturer to 'new heights' and at a price not too far off £40,000 it better be good. I've previously discussed the premium features of the car, of which there are many, which enable it to rival the likes of the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, but is it up to scratch with these fierce contenders when it comes to practicality?
On an initial glance at the car, the first thing passengers say to me after making (often negative) comments about the colour is that it's huge. On a recent trip to the airport, I placed a hand-luggage-sized backpack in the boot and, rather than being swallowed up by 563 litres, I reckon it was more like the Atlantic Ocean. It's far bigger than the boots offered by BMW and Audi rivals, which is a good start for the Arteon's mission to be a better buy. It's really easy to load, too, and there are a few hooks dotted around that I found really handy for hanging multiple suits and dresses when I transported friends to a wedding over the summer.
If you want to push the rear seats down, you'll be greeted by a ginormous 1,557 litres of space; more than enough room for your skis in winter too. However, manoeuvring this was a bit of a struggle as the boot is so big, I couldn't reach the back seats to push them down without physically climbing into the boot to do so. Another negative is that the load cover is big and although there's loads of room under the false floor, it's just not the right shape to store the cover.
If you want a posh-looking car that is brilliant for rear passengers, the Arteon is a clear choice. The rear seats can happily fit three full-sized adults as well as any and despite its fastback angles, headroom isn't bad back there either. You'd better hope your friends are tall as otherwise the masses of legroom would just be a waste.
Update 4: Executive appeal
Volkswagen expects the UK sales for the Arteon to be split 60% fleet and only 40% retail. With such a big fleet focus, it's a given that the car must be competitive when it comes to running costs.
The 2.0-litre TSI 190hp DSG seems an interesting choice for large saloons that have previously only been able to survive in fleet with diesel engines, of course, change is afoot and with CO2 emissions of 135g/km placing it in the 28% BIK band, our Arteon performs well against others in its class. Interestingly, a similarly powerful 2.0-litre diesel is quoted at 65.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 131g/km.
However, these decent running costs probably aren't the same in Sport mode, which I must admit I'm fond of to make the drive more dynamic. At medium speeds, the car turns quickly enough into corners and the chassis imparts confidence, but you soon learn the Arteon is a car built for long-distance comfort, not rewarding driving.
At a P11D price of £33,545, Volkswagen's flagship, which comes with a high level of standard equipment (apart from reversing cameras, which I almost expect on a flagship car now), is a worry for Audi's A5 Sportback, priced nearer the £40k mark in an equivalent trim. But rivals such as Audi and BMW win every time on the driving experience.
During my time with the car, I very happily drive it to and from work events, and mpg quoted by VW at 47.1 isn't too far off the truth - I've been reaching an average of 39.8mpg on a good mix of motorways, country lanes and city driving. I also appreciate the comfort of the Arteon when returning to it after spending time in other test cars. It's easy to see the car's appeal.
Update 3: Navigational errors
There's a very good reason why we opted for the Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system for £895 on our long-term loan of Volkswagen's flagship saloon: it looks seriously impressive. At 9.2in, the glass Pro system is the first thing you notice when you press the start button, lighting up in rich colours and displaying further options when your hand approaches it, due to its gesture-control capabilities.
The graphics are of such high quality that the 3D map view always inspires awe from passengers who often comment; 'German quality', whenever they jump in.
For all its merits, and the Pro system does look pretty professional, we have come across a few problems with its functionality. Entering a destination isn't always the easiest. It's not very good at points of interests; for example, typing in 'Luton Vauxhall' probably wasn't somewhere it wanted me to go, but it wasn't up to the Volkswagen. It instead likes to have the exact postcode entered and even then has been known to produce the 'circle of death', notifying me that it's loading for a good few minutes before registering the address in the sat-nav.
Another bug bear is that when you have found your destination, three calculated routes appear on the side of the map, allowing you to pick if you want to go for the eco route, the fast route or the short route. If you start driving hoping it will choose for you - like a Kia, for instance - it won't. It instead insists you choose one, and you can barely see on the map which colour route is the one you want. It also has a job recalculating if you miss a turning too, constantly telling you to go back and turn around to come back the way you were supposed to. I find this annoying, as I've tested it many times now and often know the route I've taken can lead me back on track without having to turn around. German quality? Sure thing, but if only the Arteon's efficiency was spot on.
Update 2: The premium package
Although everyone assumes the Arteon is a direct replacement for the Passat CC of 2012, that story is soon contradicted by a base price almost £10,000 more than its sedan brother.
The inclusion of almost entirely digital instruments is just one string to the Arteon's premium bow, but does this and its other premium touches make it worth the extra dosh?
The trim of our long-termer is the top-spec Elegance and the 9.2in touchscreen console with the Discover Navigation system costs £895 on top of the standard infotainment kit.
I'm surprised to be writing this but one of my favourite gadgets in the car at the moment (when I remember to use it) is the gesture control, which comes as standard in all trims. I've tried it in other cars and its function has either been completely pointless or just hasn't worked at all.
At least VW has got it right. It works flawlessly every time and it's actually proving really handy while driving (not to mention stopping the inevitable dirty fingerprints all over the screen). It can be used to switch between pages on the home menu or to change radio station or change song if you have your Apple CarPlay or Android Auto Spotify set up. The most impressive thing when you get the hang of it is that you don't have to look at the screen in detail while you're driving - just a simple wave of your left arm and a lovely whoosh sound tells you it's working.
Due to the gesture-control function, the infotainment system detects when your hand is approaching the screen, and menus also pop up from the bottom. It's odd as it's almost like the system is trying to second-guess what you're going to do, but when your hand lowers and the menus disappear, it leaves a nice, clean and sophisticated looking screen while you drive.
The high-tech infotainment system is part of a smart and sophisticated cabin setting with a luxurious ambiance, and is just one slice of the fancy cake that we're excited to try in the months to follow.
Update 1: A welcome ray of sunshine
"That car is a bit bold isn't it?" joked one of my colleagues as I pulled up in our company car park in my new long-termer. Bold is the right word for Volkswagen's Arteon actually, but little do my colleagues know that bold doesn't just refer to its £595 Turmeric yellow paint job as they might have thought, although I fully believe it's worth the money.
Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2017, the Arteon is built on the same VW Group MQB platform as the Passat - which means it's also a relation of a host of models from Audi, Skoda and SEAT, not to mention VW. Like the outgoing CC, the Arteon is a Passat-based flagship with coupe pretensions, and is designed to rival the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback, so it has a tough competition on its hands, then.
But unlike the CC that went before it, the Arteon boasts truly head-turning style, dramatic lines and elegant detailing, as well as low running costs and ample technology, and, if anything, is turning up the competition heat against its other German rivals. The first few weeks of the car's time with us have been spent in a sizzling summer in London - weather so hot that everyone in the city seems to bring out their garage favourites to pose in, and the Arteon fits right in, as turning heads is a walk in the park for this car.
The car only comes in one body style, five-door hatchback, and trim level choices are kept to a minimum too, with just two to pick from, although you can choose between two diesel and two petrol engines with power ranging from 150 to 280hp.
Our test car is the powerful 2.0-litre petrol with 190hp and comes with a seven-speed DSG gearbox, although most engine choices are available with a six-speed manual too. As with many cars in its class, there's a choice between driving modes to suit what you're doing at any given time - Eco, Normal, Comfort and Sport. In Sport mode, it's an agile performer that handles splendidly. Overall though, it's a very quiet machine, and while changing through the gears, the Arteon barely makes a sound. Only when you really rag the engine do you notice it's there.
Being a turbo, it also has plenty of torque given the relatively small capacity, with the maximum produced between 1,500 and 4,180rpm. We'll see over the next few months how it handles the varied driving roads and tests we'll be unleashing it on.
The Elegance trim gets you 18in alloys, LED self-levelling lights and predictive cornering lamps, as well as matt chrome mirrors and detailing. Inside the Elegance boasts nappa leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, three-zone climate control and sat-nav, all the things you would expect for a flagship car.
As for optional equipment on this car, as well as the paint job, VW has fitted a Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system with voice-activated control system that costs £895 and includes a 9.2in colour touchscreen control system for the navigation and radio functions. We have also opted for the keyless entry package for £900, which means the doors can be operated by a foot movement under the rear tailgate or drivers door.
We've already established that the Arteon stands out in the company car park but by releasing a car in this segment, VW has proved it's up for a challenge and we're looking forward to putting the car up for one too.
Volkswagen Arteon Elegance 2.0 TSI 190hp 7spd DSG
As tested £36,195
Official consumption 60.1mpg
Our average consumption 39.8