Price: $43,395 (Includes $1,800 AWD)
Pros-Rakish styling. Upscale. Roomy. Fairly fast. Hatchback practicality. Smooth ride. Good handling. Optional All-Wheel Drive.
Cons--So-So fuel economy. Cabin needs more flair. Largely overlooked.
Bottom Line-Sporty, upscale practical sedan.
The 2021 mid-size four-door hatchback Arteon sedan is Volkswagen's rakishly styled, practical flagship model, but only 3,602 were sold in America last year. So what gives?
Could it be that Volkswagen still is associated by many, who remember the VW Beetle, with lower-line economy cars? Is that why the Arteon is outsold by rivals such as the Acura TLX, Nissan Maxima, Kia Stinger and Infiniti Q50?
Volkswagen ran into a low-sales problem here with its top-line fast, sophisticated and costly Phaeton model several years ago. Many potential Phaeton buyers were afraid they might draw snickers for "paying a lot for a Volkswagen" although it was carefully built at a unique glass factory in Dresden, Germany (I visited the spectacular plant).
The Arteon (alludes to the Latin word "art") comes in three models starting at $36,995-the SE, sportier SEL R-Line and SEL Premium R-Line. I tested the 2.0T SEL R-Line with optional all-wheel drive. It lacks a few items the Premium version has such as a power lift gate. Too bad, as the manual lift gate causes a lot of muscle to open and slam shut.
My made-in-Germany test car sticker at $43,395, partly because it had the $1,800 all-wheel drive system. Add an $1,195 destination charge and the bottom line was $44,985.
The R-Line has a special grille, bumpers and exterior trim with a black headliner and black trunk lid lip spoiler. The interior has a leather-wrapped R-Line steering wheel with touch controls and responsive shift paddles.
New Arteon features for 2021 include prominent front bumper side intakes, fewer grille bars and a somewhat intriguing illuminated grille light bar that runs across the grille's length just below the headlights.There's automatic LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and power folding heated side mirrors.
The quiet, redesigned cockpit has high-quality materials but looks more bland than snazzy, despite a new digital gauge cluster, nifty interior stitching, stainless steel door sills and an 8-speaker premium sound system. There's also an 8-inch touchscreen that takes some effort to learn, an infotainment system and clearly marked buttons and knobs. The Napa leather front seats are supportive without being confining, and there's a three-zone automatic climate control and a power tilting and sliding sunroof.
Other features include a push-button start and wireless charging.
Front doors open wide for easy entry to the quiet interior. There's limo-style room for four adults (five in a pinch) and the cargo area is spacious and impressively so with the 60/40 split rear seat backs folded flat forward. Cargo room goes from 27 to 55 cubic feet with the folded seatbacks.
All Arteons have a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder with a start-stop system for better fuel economy. It shoots out 268 horsepower and 258 pound/feet of torque at only 1,950 r.p.m. The car is a tad slow off the line but is plenty fast under all other circumstances. The 0-60 m.p.h. time is about 6 seconds, as the engine shoots power though an 8-speed automatic transmission. The Transmission has a tendency to hold gears, likely for fuel economy's sake, but generally shifts quickly and crisply.
Estimated fuel economy of my 3,955 test car was a so-so 20 miles per gallon in the city (I got 17.5) and 31 on highways. The fuel tank holds 18.3 gallons, and premium fuel is recommended.
The steering is very quick and precise. The ride is smooth, although the suspension and steering stiffens a bit if a driver selects the console mounted "sport" button. It's best to keep the driver mode in "comfort or "normal," although an "eco" mode is also available for fuel-saving and slightly slower acceleration.
Features such as an all-independent suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, anti-slip regulation, engine brake assist, stability control, electronic differential lock and the all-wheel-drive system kept my test Arteon steady in fast curves. The brake pedal has a rather soft, linear action and electronic brake pressure distribution.
The Arteon 2.0T SEL R-Line is loaded with safety features. They include dynamic road sign display, hill-hold control, front/rear park distance control, rearview camera system, intelligent crash response system with automatic post-collision braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping system, blind-spot monitor, rear traffic alert and a front-assist system (forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring.) There's also advanced air bag protection system with 8 air bags.
One thing for sure-Arteon buyers won't see themselves coming and going on the road.