VOLK­SWA­GEN AR­TEON

Busi­ness jet for the road

Driven - - Contents -

If you’ve won­dered whether the name of Volk­swa­gen’s new lux­ury five-door gran turismo with its avant-garde styling was de­rived from mythol­ogy and Greek and Ro­man tem­ples like the Parthenon or the Pan­theon, the an­swer is no.

It re­lates to the Phaeton, the Ger­man car gi­ant’s pre­vi­ous at­tempt at the up­per seg­ment of the lux­ury car mar­ket (an un­suc­cess­ful one, by all ac­counts) and the Phideon, Wolfs­burg’s cur­rent pre­mium sedan in the Chi­nese mar­ket.

But what does it mean? Ac­cord­ing to Volk­swa­gen, the name Ar­teon – with the em­pha­sis on the first syl­la­ble– con­sists of two com­po­nents:‘Art’ or ‘arte’ which de­scribes the har­mony and emo­tion of the coupe-like lux­ury car’s styling, and ‘on’, which dis­tin­guishes it as a pre­mium model.

The name also al­ludes to the fact that in terms of styling (art) the Ar­teon moved from con­cept, as de­picted by the Sport Con­cept GTE of 2015, which was very well re­ceived, to pro­duc­tion vir­tu­ally un­changed.

This is a good sign, as it was a lack of pas­sion and ex­cite­ment that led to the demise of the Phaeton. Tech­ni­cally and dy­nam­i­cally it was an ex­cel­lent ve­hi­cle, but emo­tion­ally it made no im­pact on the mar­ket. And this is the chal­lenge the more ad­ven­tur­ously styled Ar­teon must over­come.

The Ar­teon leads in a “new era of de­sign” for Volk­swa­gen, ac­cord­ing to the Head of De­sign, Klaus Bischoff, and the wide and deep new hor­i­zon­tally ac­cen­tu­ated front-end with LED head­lights in­te­grated into the con­tours of the ra­di­a­tor grille, will be the “face” used on up­com­ing mod­els (such as the new Touareg).

The big and wide clamshell bon­net (with in­te­grated safety mech­a­nism for pedes­trian pro­tec­tion) with sharp lines over the wheel wells give the Ar­teon an ex­tremely low and sporty look.

A char­ac­ter line that runs through the en­tire side of the car brings the vol­ume even closer to the ground. At the rear, it de­vel­ops into a sharp un­der­cut, vis­ually re­duc­ing the Ar­teon’s height. The mus­cu­lar shoul­der line is rem­i­nis­cent of the smaller Scirocco, and above this, the long line of frame­less win­dows (known as a DLO – day­light open­ing) ex­tends into the C-pil­lar. The DLO gives the Ar­teon an el­e­gant, coupé-like look and the rear has strong de­sign in­flu­ences from the Audi A5 Sport­back.

ELON­GATED BODY

Based on a length­ened ver­sion of VW’s Mod­u­lar Trans­verse Ma­trix (MQB) plat­form, the Ar­teon is 4,862 mm long (nearly as long as the mas­sive VW At­las in the US mar­ket), 1,427 mm high and 1,871 mm wide. This makes it 60 mm longer, 10 mm higher, and 16 mm wider than its Pas­sat CC pre­de­ces­sor, and eas­ily longer than both the BMW 4 Se­ries Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sport­back.

With a long wheel­base of 2,841 mm, its over­hangs at the front and the rear are short, and this helps to bal­ance its di­men­sions and pro­por­tions. How­ever, while dy­namic and el­e­gant, the five-seat fast­back’s de­sign still doesn’t con­vinc­ingly po­si­tion it as a sports tourer.

“A QUICK VISIT TO THE ZWARTKOPS RACE­TRACK CLOSE TO PRE­TO­RIA, EM­PHA­SISED THE STIFF­NESS AND RIGID­ITY OF THE AR­TEON’S CHAS­SIS”

It has class-lead­ing legroom (a full 1,016 mm at the rear), am­ple head­room, and a big 563-litre boot (just 87 litres less than in the Pas­sat), much big­ger than the 480 litres avail­able in the 4-Se­ries Gran Coupe and the A5 Sport­back.

In­side, the clean, Pas­sat-in­spired de­sign, with a high level of er­gonomic ef­fi­ciency, such as the air vent band which cre­ate a vis­ual link to the cross-bars of the ra­di­a­tor grille, and nu­mer­ous in­ter­ac­tive in­ter­faces cre­ates a calm, el­e­gant and pro­gres­sive at­mos­phere.

The in­ter­ac­tive and dig­i­talised in­ter­faces in­clude op­tional fea­tures such as the Ac­tive Info Dis­play (stan­dard on the R-Line) sim­i­lar to Audi’s Vir­tual Cock­pit, and a head-up dis­play. An am­bi­ent light­ing strip cre­ates a sooth­ing wrap-around ef­fect and pleas­ant am­bi­ence, and the steeply as­cend­ing cen­tre con­sole fits in well with the Ar­teon’s avant­garde char­ac­ter.

Two in­te­rior colour themes (black, dark grey and a com­bi­na­tion of dark and light grey) match the range of ex­pres­sive ex­te­rior colours, in­clud­ing the dis­tinc­tive Cur­cuma Yel­low, as well as At­lantic Blue and Chili Red. Two equip­ment lines are avail­able – El­e­gance and R-Line – with the El­e­gance line fo­cussed on so­phis­ti­cated and clas­sic styling fea­tures, while the R-Line em­pha­sises sporti­ness.

ONLY 4-CYLIN­DER EN­GINES

The new Ar­teon is now only avail­able with either of two four-cylin­der tur­bocharged di­rect fuel in­jec­tion en­gines and dual-clutch gear­boxes, but there is talk of a turbo-V6 petrol en­gine later (and per­haps even a Shoot­ing Brake model).

The diesel 2.0 TDI, as also used in the Pas­sat, de­liv­ers 130 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque be­tween 1,600 and 3,500 r/min. In com­bi­na­tion with the sixspeed DSG trans­mis­sion and front-wheel drive, its com­bined fuel con­sump­tion is 5.6-l/100 km, ac­cord­ing to VW’s mar­ket­ing team.

The petrol model uses the same drive sys­tem as in the Golf R – a 2.0 TSI en­gine de­liv­er­ing 206 kW and 350 Nm of torque from 1,700 to 5,600 r/min (yes, it is 7 kW and 30 Nm less than the cur­rent Golf R, be­cause the spec­i­fi­ca­tion was fi­nalised be­fore the lat­est R up­grade), cou­pled to a seven-speed DSG trans­mis­sion and 4Motion four-wheel-drive sys­tem.

This gives the TSI a zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 5.6 sec­onds and a top speed of 250 km/h. While this may sound quite ac­cept­able, it is slug­gish com­pared to the per­for­mance of the 4 Se­ries Gran Coupe.

Our test route, which in­cluded a quick visit to the Zwartkops race­track close to Pre­to­ria, em­pha­sised the stiff­ness and rigid­ity of the Ar­teon’s chas­sis and its stan­dard Dy­namic Chas­sis Con­trol, com­bined with four-wheel drive, boosted its han­dling dy­nam­ics around the track.

The fast­back tourer was in its el­e­ment on the high­ways, but while its long wheel­base and sup­ple sus­pen­sion en­sured comfort in these con­di­tions, it was badly caught out by short, sharp ruts, even in Comfort drive mode. The (op­tional) low-pro­file rub­ber on 20” rims just made it worse, and we would sug­gest stick­ing to the stan­dard-size tyres.

In gen­eral, the petrol de­riv­a­tive felt de­ci­sively perkier than its diesel coun­ter­part, but for a re­laxed, com­fort­able long-dis­tance cruise with ex­cel­lent fuel con­sump­tion, the diesel is per­haps the bet­ter op­tion.

When push­ing on, the TSI’s DSG elec­tron­ics also wasn’t al­ways fast enough, and the brakes, while ef­fi­cient and sharp, didn’t like too many hard brak­ing ex­er­cises; ac­cen­tu­at­ing the fact that the Ar­teon is more of a lux­ury cruiser than a sports coupé.

LAST WORD

Coupé-type four-door cruis­ers from au­tomak­ers out­side the Ger­man tri­umvi­rate does not have a good sale record lo­cally, as proven by the VW CC, the Ford Fu­sion (that qui­etly dis­ap­peared off the model list last year) and Hyundai’s Sonata.

How­ever, the new Ar­teon has ap­peal­ing traits. Its de­sign is el­e­gant, yet mus­cu­lar and en­er­getic; it is in­cred­i­bly roomy, has a full suite of high-tech equip­ment as stan­dard, all for a rel­a­tively af­ford­able price.

Volk­swa­gen is also re­al­is­tic in terms of its ex­pec­ta­tions for Ar­teon, as it’s not seen as a con­quest model, but rather as an as­pi­ra­tional choice for cur­rent Volk­swa­gen own­ers who are look­ing for more space and lux­ury than a Pas­sat can de­liver, and more sporti­ness than in a Jetta.

With prices rang­ing from R599,900 (for the 2.0 TDI El­e­gance) to R699,900 (for the 2.0 TSI R-Line) the Ar­teon is a def­i­nite al­ter­na­tive in terms of well-ap­pointed fin­ishes and lux­ury, as well as more overt sporti­ness, and there­fore should ap­peal to the ra­tio­nal buyer. But we said that about the Pas­sat as well…

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