Volkswagen Arteon R-Line long-term test review

Update: we give our stylish Volkswagen Arteon a clean to highlight the executive saloon’s impressive stylingVerdict4Every time I clap eyes on the Arteon, I’m impressed by the Volkswagen’s reserved but quite beautifully detailed design. In the premium sector this is half the battle. But while the executive saloon’s good looks turn heads, it’s only so-so to drive, even if it is proving to be a great cruiser.

Mileage: 9,589
Economy: 41.8mpg

The Volkswagen Arteon is a good-looking car that attracts either quiet approval from those who know what it is, or bewildered fascination from those who don’t. Despite bearing a distant resemblance to the CC that unofficially preceded it, the Arteon is a much more dramatic, far more successful design than just about any other previous big VW.

There are several reasons why. One, its proportions are almost perfectly in balance from front to rear, which is unusual for such a big car. Two, the line from bonnet to tail is entirely unbroken as it swoops rearwards, which makes the car look like a classically dynamic coupé, rather than a traditional five or four-door. Three, its wheels sit quite beautifully within the wheelarches, and the design is, I believe, kind of breathtaking.

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The wheels are 19 inches in diameter, but somehow look bigger. What’s more, they don’t seem to pick up road grime or brake dust like other big alloys; and even when they do get dirt on them, they are extraordinarily easy to clean, with no nooks or crannies that can’t be reached. As a result, I quite often find myself giving them a quick rub down with a cloth to ensure they look pristine.

I know this is sad, but unless you get down and dirty with your car once in a while, you’re never going to bond with it fully. I still enjoy driving it, too, most of the time. I used the head-up display recently, but found it too intrusive. Otherwise the VW continues to be a brilliant long-distance car, even if it’s not one that encourages you to go for a cross-country thrash on a Sunday morning. It’s best to clean it instead…

Second report: Volkswagen Arteon

Bird muck and minor niggles take shine off premium Volkswagen Arteon exec hatchback

Mileage: 8,585
Economy: 43.6mpg

To anyone who lives in a city but who doesn’t have a garage, returning to your vehicle when you’ve been away for a couple of weeks is never a pleasant experience.

You leave your beloved car parked up quietly in the street in pristine condition. But you come back to find it’s been targeted by an avian invasion, plus covered in a fair bit of sap that seems to come off the trees at this time of year. And when you see the mess it’s made of your paintwork, your heart sinks.

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That happened to our Volkswagen Arteon just recently, and I couldn’t believe how much grime there was to remove from its smart-looking bodywork after leaving it parked up for just 10 nights.

But having taken it to the most powerful and best car wash I know of down on the south coast, and having employed plenty of elbow grease, plus some T-Cut, to the worst-affected areas for good measure, I’ve got our Arteon’s red metallic paintwork back to its best. And I’m continuing to enjoy driving the VW again now it’s been restored to its original sparkling form.

However, even after several thousand miles together, there are still areas of our Arteon 2.0 TDI’s driving experience that I’m struggling to bond with. I like the way it looks, love the amount of space it has inside and the capacity of its vast, cave-like boot.  

What I really don’t like is the turgid response from the 2.0-litre diesel engine below 2,000rpm. At best it’s a pain and at worst it’s worrying, especially when pulling out of junctions; the absence of initial response has sometimes left me looking – and feeling – a bit silly.

Some of the so-called safety functions included in the Volkswagen’s optional “Emergency Assist” system are also proving to be strangely counter-intuitive – the distance-sensing adaptive cruise control being the worst culprit.

On occasion, it has appeared to develop a mind of its own, dramatically reducing the speed of the car of its own accord, and when there was seemingly no reason to do so, because there was no other traffic in front or behind at the time.

Also, although the fundamental appeal of the Arteon’s spacious cabin is hard to argue against, there are certain elements inside that are less satisfying. The air-con system’s rotary controls look fine, for example, but feel peculiarly cheap to the touch; they rattle when you rotate them. In a cheaper car you’d say fair enough, not great, but not a deal-breaker, either. In a model that costs north of £40,000 with options, it’s not good enough. That’s unusual for a VW.

The leather on the driver’s seat has also started to unstitch itself slightly on the right-hand side, which again is pretty disappointing in such a new car.

The diesel Arteon is, after all, one of those models you just know will rack up hundreds of thousands of miles in the hands of travelling execs and high-end chauffeurs, so to find that its driver’s seat leather has already started to falter is not a good sign of things to come.

On the other hand, there can be few other cars at this price that are quite so relaxing to drive a couple of hundred motorway miles in, and in this respect the comfortable seats play a positive role, even if the leather they are covered in feels a bit low-grade and is degrading faster than we’d like.

The combination of the Arteon’s soothing suspension, light but accurate steering, supremely comfortable seats and its £1,010 optional, 700-watt, 11-speaker “Dynaudio Confidence” sound system, along with its impressive fundamental mechanical refinement, makes it a truly great long-distance car.

Which is why, overall, I still like driving the Arteon. And still like being in it, and just looking at it. So long as it’s not covered in you-know-what.

First report: Volkswagen Arteon

New four-door Volkswagen Arteon makes a great first impression on our long-term fleet

Mileage: 6,379
Economy: 47.9mpg

Winter is finally over, and now that the weather is improving in the UK, we’ve got a new model to brighten up our fleet. This is Volkswagen’s new flagship car, the Arteon. It’s a four-door coupé that takes on the Audi A5 Sportback and, as you can see, it’s a beautiful thing.

Our car’s Chilli Red metallic paint (£595) looks stunning in the spring sunshine. It’s got my creative juices flowing, and I’m looking forward to photographing it for Auto Express. For now, though, I’ve just been enjoying driving it instead.

Unlike my old Peugeot 3008, the driving position feels very low and quite sporty, and the experience so far backs that up. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is really punchy, and the steering is direct and well weighted. It makes for a great companion on a long trip: at motorway speeds the Arteon is refined and comfortable, but it’s also quite fun to drive once you leave the main road.

The seats are comfortable, too, and are of a high quality. It’s a similar story with the rest of the interior as well, because the materials used around the cabin are classy and give it an upmarket feel.

Crucially for me, though, is that the Arteon is still really practical, despite its stylish looks. There’s 563 litres of space in the boot with all the seats in place, and 1,557 litres when the rear bench is folded down. That’s more than enough for all of my photography gear.

Unfortunately the tailgate is giving me a headache – not because I’ve bumped my head on it, but rather because it never seems to behave as I want it to. Often when I’m loading up the boot with my gear, there might be a cleaning cloth or a soft bag sticking up. In any other car I’d shut the boot and it would squash down without issue, but the Arteon’s automatic tailgate is so sensitive that it seems to need constant attention in order to get it to close.

Still, it’s a small issue and just requires a bit of extra care on my part when using the boot. We’re still looking forward to seeing how well the Arteon shapes up over the coming months.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points.

Key specs

  • Model: Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI 150 DSG R-Line
  • On fleet since: March 2018
  • Price new: £35,690
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 148bhp
  • CO2/tax: 116g/km/£140
  • Options: Metallic paint (£595), Area view and rear-view camera (£765), Emergency Assist (£1,485), Park Assist (£645), acoustic pack (£535), keyless entry and power tailgate (£900), Dynaudio stereo (£1,010), 14-way electric seat (£965)
  • Insurance*: Group: 22 Quote: £396
  • Mileage/mpg: 9,589/41.8mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

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