Edgy Arteon will drive new buyers to VW

Peter Atkinson
The edgy Volkeswagen Arteon could attract new buyers to the brand

For a brand whose name literally means "people's car", automotive giant Volkswagen has some interesting marques under its corporate umbrella.

Bentley, for instance.

Not to mention Lamborghini. And Bugatti. And Porsche. And, of course, Audi.

All owned by the global giant that is the VW Group.

Yet despite this line-up of glamorous, prestige vehicles in other parts of its company garage, the VW brand itself has remained true to its humble beginnings.

The Golf, one of the world's most awarded cars and the template for the modern hatchback, is just as accessible and affordable as it was when launched four decades ago. The bigger Passat equally so.

Despite its extraordinary success in the small and mid-sized markets, VW has resisted the lure of corporate vanity projects or attempts to be something it's not. No glamorous or high-priced models to stroke the company ego.

A noble policy, but one which raises an interesting question. What do devoted VW drivers buy when they grow rich and successful? A Bugatti, perhaps?

VW did dabble in the luxury market a few years back with a model called the Phaeton - which was kind of like an Audi A8 with a radical W12 engine (two V6s built side-by-side). But it cost two or three times as much as any other VW model.

Otherwise, the closest VW came to a "halo" model was the Passat CC - a coupe-style sedan that enjoyed modest success at best. They even changed the name to just CC - but the car remained mostly anonymous.

Now, VW has an all-new flagship with yet another name - the Arteon. And if first impressions are any guide, it's a worthy standard bearer for the world's most prolific carmaker.

VW launched the Arteon at last year's Geneva Motor Show, promising an altogether more upmarket offering than the CC. So far, so good.

The Arteon is a big, handsome car with a design that is more athletic and alluring than anything to previously wear the badge.

It looks, drives and is equipped to a noticeably higher standard than its predecessor - showcasing some technology that was once the sole province of its upmarket cousins at Audi. VW even has a name for this new process - "democratising German technology".

Standard Arteon features include Active Info Display (Audi 's version is called Virtual Cockpit) - a configurable, digital screen that takes the place of traditional instruments, complemented by a 9.2-inch central control screen to command other cabin functions.

The Arteon gets adaptive cruise control, emergency city braking, adaptive chassis control, head up display, ambient interior lighting, lane assist, park assist, side assist and rear traffic alert. In fact the only options available on the car as an "extra" are panoramic sunroof, metallic paint and an upgraded audio.

As well as being well equipped, it looks the part, with contemporary lines that are both sporty and luxurious - with its 4.86m length magnifying the low, sweeping design cues. A luxury interior includes plush leather seats - heated front and rear - as well as high quality finishes and a modern, minimalist style.

Under the bonnet, a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder seems at first blush to be a bit overmatched for a car of this size - but it delivers pleasingly punchy performance.

That should come as no surprise - the 206kW, 350Nm powerplant was previously seen in the racy Golf R. In the Arteon, that means 0-100km/h in a hasty 5.6 seconds.

Unlocking that performance will require some encouragement from the driver, though, either via the gear change paddles or by utilising sports mode on the gearshift - to get the engine into full cry.

That's because the 7-speed DSG transmission tends to hold onto higher gears on occasions, blunting acceleration.

In normal Drive mode, though, it's smooth and refined as well as delivering impressive fuel efficiency. That power is delivered to the ground via VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

We found very few niggles with the Arteon - except for the over-enthusiastic operation of the rear cross-traffic alert. On a steep driveway, it saw the road surface behind us as a potential collision target and kept slamming on the brakes as we reversed out.

At one stage we feared it would prevent us from ever leaving our driveaway at all - but it eventually relented.

Otherwise it's a car without vices, and with plenty to recommend it.

The Arteon certainly achieves its goal of dragging a few new eyeballs to VW dealerships with its imposing road presence and edgy, sculpted lines.

Not to mention the retina-burning colour of our test machine - which VW calls Turmeric Yellow but which most would describe as "can I please borrow your sunglasses".

I've also seen the car in plain white and to be honest, it can probably do without the garish paint job.

The dazzling hue was slightly offset by some very smart-looking black 20-inch alloys and dark window tinting - both part of the R-design package that further accentuates the car's deliberately in-your-face persona.

Its hatchback configuration delivers plenty of family practicality for one of these so-called four-door coupes - with ample space for fully-grown adults front and back.

And that raking rear hatch conceals a massive 563 litres of cargo space, all covered by an electronic tailgate.

Which, after all, is the kind of practicality you'd expect from a Volkswagen. It is the people's car, after all.

VW ARTEON

HOW BIG? It's based on the same underpinnings as VW's mid-sized Passat sedan. While the low-slung design robs of some headroom, it's acceptably roomy inside for both front and rear-seat passengers.

HOW FAST? Impressively so. It will reach the speed limit in 5.6 seconds thanks to its all-wheel grip and the punch, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

HOW THIRSTY? Despite lugging around a sizeable piece of car, the 2-litre petrol four delivers an acceptable 7.5L/100km average consumption, which is pretty good. It also emits just 170gm/km, which is quite green.

HOW MUCH? Retail price is a very reasonable $65,490 plus onroads, which seems decent value considering the car's appeal and capability. Our test machine, thanks to that metallic paint plus a "sound and style" package, stretches to $68,890 plus statutory costs.