Tour de France

Re­port 5 VW Ar­teon £40,305 OTR/£47,810 as tested

Top Gear (UK) - - GARAGE - JA­SON BAR­LOW

Volk­swa­gen will sell you a Car­avelle camper, but the Ar­teon is al­most as roomy in­side, although you’d have to im­pro­vise the sleep­ing ar­range­ments and the cook­ing fa­cil­i­ties are a bit rub­bish. The Ar­teon is 4.8m long, 2.8m of which con­sists of wheel­base, re­sult­ing in pala­tial rear quar­ters.

France is also big, es­pe­cially if you do an en­tire lap of it. Which we did, in­ad­ver­tently: Cam­bridge to Aix-en-Provence, Aix to La Rochelle, then Calais… Fac­tor in some cock­ing about in between, and you’re talk­ing 2,000 miles and a to­tal of 24 hours on the move. Look it up on a map. I wish I had be­fore we set off.

That’s a proper test, and the Ar­teon is quasi-Merc S-Class/CLS, not just in terms of rear legroom but also in pres­ence and its stately on-road gait. It’s an im­pos­ing ma­chine, and with some stand-out de­sign cues: the nose, clamshell bon­net and the swell over its rear arches are all strong. As is its mo­tor­way cruis­ing game, at which point the BiTDI engine’s low-rev grum­bli­ness has smoothed out into an un­ob­tru­sive in­dus­trial beat. Dou­ble glaz­ing helps, as does Flight of the Con­chords on ro­ta­tion (es­pe­cially French pop piss-take ‘Foux du Fafa’).

It was also an op­por­tu­nity to test some of the func­tion­al­ity that wouldn’t get much of a look-in dur­ing the pre­view of hell that is the M25. The Ar­teon fea­tures much of VW’s lat­est think­ing on the path to full au­ton­omy, by way of its pre­dic­tive and Adap­tive Cruise Con­trol, which au­to­mat­i­cally ac­cel­er­ates and brakes to main­tain an ap­pro­pri­ate dis­tance to the car in front. It also uses GPS road data to ad­just the car’s speed as it ap­proaches bends, and lane as­sist stops you wan­der­ing into the Armco or a Ro­ma­nian ar­tic.

Af­ter a bit of fid­dling, I got it all work­ing, and sat back to let the car swal­low the empty miles south. Of course, a chime ev­ery 20 sec­onds re­minded me to keep my hands on the wheel, and it wasn’t long be­fore I got bored wait­ing for the car to speed up again fol­low­ing an­other bout of de­cel­er­a­tion. Nor did my in­sis­tence on my fam­ily watch­ing the wiz­ardry at work have the de­sired ef­fect, other than my son also ask­ing me to put my hands back on the wheel. Fail, as the kids say.

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TION

1968cc, 4cyl twin-tur­bod­iesel, AWD, 237bhp, 368lb ft 47.9mpg, 152g/km CO 2 0–62mph in 6.5secs, 152mph 1828kg

TESTER’S NOTES

It’s more re­fined and much less an­noy­ing than a Ryanair flight. And no scratch cards.

MILEAGE: 6555 OUR MPG: 49.1

On a long road­trip, a long range is a very sat­is­fy­ing thing

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