Volkswagen Arteon long-term test review

Our long-time Korean car convert Will Williams has taken delivery of a swanky new Volkswagen Arteon. Can its Germanic charms woo our senior snapper?...

Volkswagen Arteon rear
  • The car: Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI 190 DSG Elegance
  • Run by: Will Williams, senior photographer
  • Why it’s here: To find out if there’s still life in the executive car class and whether the Arteon makes more sense than a Passat
  • Needs to: Be comfortable, smooth-riding and economical on a colossal commute, with plenty of space for photography equipment

Price £33,545 Price as tested £35,335 Miles 2122 Official economy 47.1mpg Test economy 37.8mpg Options fitted Crimson Red metallic paint (£665); Heated front climate windscreen (£305); Dynamic Chassis Control (£820); Silver Birch interior trim (no cost)

10 October 2018 – the Volkswagen Arteon joins our fleet

As the two teenage boys approached my car, I expected the worst when they raised their hands to make a gesture at me. I was in Portsmouth, after all.

But, to my surprise, I got a thumbs up and an appreciative head-nod. Clearly, my new long-termer is improving my street cred no end.

Which is surprising, because it has a Volkswagen badge on it. That’s no disrespect to the German manufacturer – it's certainly one of the best car makers around, pound for pound – but its portfolio of late hasn’t exactly been teeming with head-turning, scintillating designs.

This new executive car, the Volkswagen Arteon, bucks that trend and is surely one of the most ambitiously designed cars the brand has made. Mind you, with buyers flocking away from this segment into high-riding SUVs, something needs to entice them back to more traditional saloons.

2018 Volkswagen Arteon sunset

And if public perception is anything to judge by, it’s worked. I’ve never had so much attention in a long-termer before. As much as I’d like to think everyone is impressed with my new diet, it’s probably the car they’re interested in. Anyone who passes it in the supermarket car park will find their eyes hang onto it for a second longer than normal. Someone even filmed me on the A27.

In my long and not-so illustrious career of What Car? long termers, the only other car that’s come close to getting this much attention was the Chrysler 300C Touring – which may have been distinctive at the time but looks a bit of a dog now.

That the Arteon is getting so much attention is especially surprising considering we’ve got it in Crimson Red metallic paint – or, as I’d call it, 'Slippers Burgundy'.

Regardless of the covert colour, there’s no doubting it’s a good-looking thing on the outside. But, as a high-mileage driver with lots of kit to lug around, it’s what’s inside that counts for me, and the early signs are very encouraging.

Volkswagen Arteon driving

It’s great on space. There’s so much room up front I’m surprised there isn’t an echo when I talk, and the driving position is brilliant: nice and low, just how I like it. Leg room is brilliant as well, no matter where you’re sitting.

It’s not all brilliant, though. The door pockets seem a bit small to me – although that’s after coming from the super-practical Skoda Karoq SUV – and rear head room isn’t amazing because of the Arteon's sloping roofline. These are minor gripes, though, in what appears to be a very practical interior.

The boot is huge, too, swallowing suitcases, buckets and step-ladders without a problem. The only pain is that the boot lid itself is actually quite heavy, but having just renewed my gym membership, I’m sure that won’t be a problem in a few months' time.

Practicality is one thing, but is it actually going to be nice getting to know the interior over thousands of miles? Well, again, the first signs are impressive. The touchscreen is good, and one I’m familiar with from the Karoq, while the materials around the interior are impressive. However, I have noticed a bit of a rattle emanating from the edges of the dashboard, which seems to be squeaking slightly. I’ll be keeping an eye and an ear on that.

Volkswagen Arteon boot gaze

We’ve gone for Elegance trim, which is our pick of the range. It’s the entry point, but don’t let that put you off, because it’s packed with kit, including adaptive cruise control, 18in alloys, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as front and rear climate control. It’s so well equipped that we haven’t had to go crazy on options. Along with metallic paint, we’ve added only a heated windscreen and Dynamic Chassis Control. Nice and simple. However, it’s annoying not to have a rear-view camera as standard.

Now, for what is possibly my favourite bit of the Arteon: the engine. As seems to be the trend, we’ve gone for petrol rather than diesel. We’ve also gone for the mid-range 2.0-litre 187bhp unit that, like the trim, is our favourite.

It’s a corker. It properly goes and is great to blat around on country roads. The good news isn’t just its performance, though, because it’s still pretty efficient, too. I’ve achieved more than 40mpg on my commute before, and averaging almost 38mpg since I’ve had it is no bad result. I can get about 500 miles out of a tank, which is good for a petrol. I’ll admit, I missed having diesel power in my Karoq, but in the Arteon I haven’t missed it so badly, mainly because I’m not constantly having to fill up.

I’ve found the steering to be nice to live with as well. It’s smooth and accurate, which helps give the car a relaxing feel to it, whether that’s on the motorway or around town. The seven-speed automatic gearbox that comes with this engine has proved to be impressively smooth so far as well.

If I were to sum up the Arteon in one word, I’d take inspiration from this model’s trim name and call it elegant. I’ve no doubt this car can mix it with premium rivals. Indeed, in a twin test we did last year between the Arteon and the Jaguar XE, the Volkswagen claimed Jag’s scalp to show this isn’t just a style-over-substance car.

It is, however, expensive. With its list price tipping the scales at more than £30,000, the Arteon isn’t exactly affordable. But I’m looking forward to finding out if the swish design is matched by a brilliant ownership experience over the coming months. If it does, it could seem like a bargain.

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