There’s a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from. With Volkswagen predicting diesels will be the bigger seller, let’s start with those.
Flat out, the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel isn’t a particularly brisk beast; instead, it delivers good mid-range welly to easily build speed on motorways without the need to change down all the time. For most people, that should do the job quite nicely.
If you need more acceleration, then try the 187bhp version, or there’s even the same engine with 236bhp – courtesy of a couple of turbochargers instead of just one in the others – that’s enough to whisk you from 0-62mph in 6.5sec. That’s genuinely quick, but it’s the effortless manner in which it carries you along using just the mid-range punch that’s particularly impressive.
Although the diesels are impressively refined compared with those in rivals such as the Jaguar XE and BMW 4 Series, they make more background grumble under hard acceleration than the impressively smooth Audi A5 Sportback diesels.
The petrols start with a turbocharged 1.5-litre unit. Even if it’s not totally peaceful, producing some audible mechanical chunter at idle and a distant drone around 2500rpm – which annoyingly, is just what the engine’s doing at typical motorway cruising speeds in top gear - it is a good deal smoother and quieter than the diesels. Where it does fall short, is in its ability to build speed. Although it produces an identical amount of power as the 148bhp diesel engine, it generates considerably less low and mid-range pull, so when looking for a boost of overtaking acceleration, it can feel like it is straining to motivate the Arteon’s fairly substantial body mass.
So, given the choice we’d opt for the 187bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre instead. We’ve tested it against the 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol in the XE and it proved quicker in pretty much every respect, offering all the performance you could reasonably need. And if you want an automatic gearbox, the premuim over an automatic version of the 1.5 TSI 150 is very small.
Again, for those who love a bit more oomph, there’s a twin-turbo petrol. With a thumping 276bhp and a willingness to rev, it's properly fast, as its 0-62mph time of just 5.6sec attests.
Depending on which engine you choose, it’ll come with a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed DSG automatic one. The manual is smooth and light to use, while the auto shifts slickly on the move but can be jerky at parking speeds.
In wet or slippery conditions, front-wheel-drive Arteons can struggle for traction, so it’s worth considering 4Motion four-wheel drive that’s available either as an option or standard on the most powerful engines. Even on greasy roads, this gives terrific grip out of tight corners.
Which brings us neatly on to the handling. The Arteon’s steering is well weighted and precise – if not as feelsome as the XE’s or the best-set-up 4 Series’. As standard, you get variable steering, which is calmer at high speeds for better stability but quicker around town for less arm-twirling – a real boon when parking in tight spots.
The Arteon is sold as a sportier model and, as such, it gets tweaked suspension to make it much better planted through corners than the Passat, with lots of grip. Still, for keener drivers, it misses out on the playfulness of the best rear-wheel-drive 4 Series or XE.
The Arteon rides pretty well. We’ve driven cars with standard non-adaptive suspension as well as ones with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) adaptive dampers. On the latter, even when set in Normal (one of three modes), the Arteon rides well both at motorway speeds and around town. Sharper potholes and ridges hit at speed are the only things that catch it out and cause it to thump. The standard suspension is similarly compliant at speed but more unsettled in town, especially when paired with larger wheels.
On the motorway, you hear a fair amount of road noise, but wind noise at a steady 70mph is muted.