First Drive

2017 Volkswagen Arteon prototype review

Volkswagen's stylish new Arteon faces tough competition, but our first encounter shows promise

Words ByJim Holder

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Volkswagen Arteon

The Arteon is an all-new model name appended to a car type that has long been in Volkswagen’s line up: initially it was called the VW Passat CC, and more recently the VW CC.

As that suggests, the Arteon is based on the Passat, but is heavily modified, most significantly to have much more dramatic coupΓ©-like styling, albeit with the added practicality of a hatchback boot and generous rear passenger and boot space.

The name Arteon is formed from the words β€˜art’ and β€˜eon’ - the former was chosen to highlight the car’s dramatic design, while the latter is a made-up suffix that Volkswagen’s marketing folk believe conveys an upmarket sound.

Although our disguised pictures of this early prototype make it hard to tell, the end result is said to combine the desirability of the Audi A4 and BMW 5 Series - our current favourites among the executive class challengers - with the practicality of cars such as the Passat, Skoda Superb and Ford Mondeo.

What's the 2017 VW Arteon prototype like to drive?

We drove a European spec car powered by a 188bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine and a US-spec one powered by a punchier 2.0-litre 268bhp petrol engine. Both were front-wheel drive, although four-wheel drive will be available as an option.

However, we expect the Arteon to get a familiar range of Volkswagen turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, with the most potent European petrol unit producing 276bhp. All should be adequate to haul the Arteon along in a smooth and refined manner.

Of particular interest was the Volkswagen Group’s new seven-speed DSG gearbox. It changes gears quickly and smoothly, and is a step forward from the outgoing unit because it links to the stop-start system more rapidly and smoothly when the engine fires into life.

Regardless of what size wheels the Arteon rode on, or whether it was equipped with standard suspension or the fully adaptive DCC system, the ride was too firm. There’s still time for tuning ahead of the production car’s mid-year launch, but at the moment the ride feels like it is dialled up too far in the search for a sporty set-up.

What's the 2017 VW Arteon prototype like inside?

If you know the VW Passat, the interior of the Arteon will be mostly familiar. It is spacious, well made and well thought through, with all the controls within easy reach and a multitude of clever storage areas throughout the car.

Most eye-catchingly, there is also the option of Volkswagen’s Active Info Display digital dash - a version of the screen system pioneered by Audi under the Virtual Cockpit name. Putting information in the heart of the dash display, it is both stunning to look at and beneficial to use because important information is directly in your line of sight.

Space is excellent, too, with two six-footers happily able to sit behind one another, and with no head room issues in the rear despite the sloping roofline.

The boot extends to 1700 litres with the rear seats down, but no figure has been given for boot space with the seats up. The hatch opening boosts practicality over saloon rivals, too.

Should I buy one?

Even if you admire the lashings of space and practicality and assume the disguised bodywork will make way to reveal a stunning shape, the VW Arteon faces a tough fight to persuade buyers away from premium-badged rivals.

Much will depend on pricing, of course, but the suspicion must be that it will be in the ballpark of a well-specced BMW 3 Series after discounts - both in terms of cash and lease deals - and that will leave buyers facing a tough choice that will likely hinge on how much they like the look or want the added space.

Buyers must also consider that the ride is currently firm to the point of irritation. This may be improved before launch, but on the basis of this prototype drive we would caution buyers to try it before they buy it; all rivals from premium manufacturers strike a better balance between comfort and sportiness.

Read the full Volkswagen Passat review


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Rivals:

Audi A4

BMW 5 Series