Road Tests

First Drive: 2019 Volkswagen Arteon

Swoop, swoop: VW builds a stylish, near-premium four-door coupe

WOLFSBURG, Germany — For a few years after its 2008 launch, the Volkswagen Passat CC enjoyed a respectable level of sales success in the U.S. that peaked at 29,502 in 2011, when it accounted for 9 percent of the brand’s volume. Despite a facelift and a name change to just CC, its momentum receded rapidly; in 2016, the aging “four-door coupe” was VW’s slowest-selling model in the U.S. Despite the negative trend, the automaker is staying in the segment and is getting ready to replace the CC with the bigger, better-named, MQB platform-based 2019 Volkswagen Arteon.

Where the CC is about the same size as the smaller European-market Passat, the Arteon is almost the same size as the Tennessee-built Passat sold in the U.S. and the Nissan Maxima. A half-inch shorter in length than its conventionally styled sibling, the Arteon rides on a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase, and is 1.5-inches wider and 2.3-inches shorter in height. Compared to the CC, the Arteon is 2.4-inches longer and rides on a 5.2-inch-longer wheelbase; the stretch in wheelbase is entirely in the rear and allows the Arteon to provide rear passengers with an extra 0.6-inch of headroom (now totaling 37.2 inches).

The Arteon’s design is a big win. Its seamless, wide-banded front grille rounds out into high shoulders and a low roofline before shooting rearward to provide a sharp profile. Big, turbine-style wheels fill the four corners, offered in 19-inches for the U.S. and 20-inches for the rest of the world.

While the interior isn’t quite as striking as the swept exterior, it’s a nice, upscale place to lounge. VW’s signature gloss black surfaces and dark materials blend well with silver trim throughout the cabin. We spent most of our time in a range-topping Excellence model, where we enjoyed cushy leather seats and an option-soaked environment. VW’s new 9.2-inch infotainment touchscreen is a much-needed upgrade, and it works in tandem with the sharp Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, a near carbon-copy of Audi’s similarly named Virtual Cockpit.

VW was mum on what powertrains we can expect on our shores, but did admit its newest 2.0-liter turbo-four is our best bet. In the cars we drove, the 2.0-liter put down a claimed 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, but those power figures are not finalized.

Europe’s Arteons will arrive with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission managing the power, but U.S. variants will receive a traditional eight-speed automatic. The DSG-equipped model felt fast enough, charging from zero to 60 mph in what seemed like the low six-second range. With the eight-speed, the U.S. Arteon is likely to be a little more sluggish.

On the Autobahn, our 4Motion all-wheel-drive-equipped tester was solid, big, and smooth — typically Teutonic. When we turned off the arrow-straight Autobahn and onto snaking German mountain passageways, it handled its bulk in a manner befitting the sleek appearance. The selectable drive modes allowed us to soften, stiffen, or smooth-out the ride and driver inputs, including steering, throttle, and shift points.

When it arrives, the Arteon should start at around $35,000, much like the outgoing CC. That’s competitive with the likes of the Toyota Avalon and aforementioned Maxima, which don’t offer the Arteon’s stylish design or flexible hatchback body. While the Arteon feels and looks more premium than those two, making for a short debate, it’s also up against the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, which start at around the same price.

The Arteon’s shapely body is its main asset against those luxury opponents as well. To get a similar profile from Ingolstadt or Munich, you need to step up to an A5 Sportback or 4 Series Gran Coupe, a roughly $43,000 proposition. For those more tempted by substance rather than badge, the Volkswagen Arteon, which can be outfitted with enough kit and caboodle to challenge those luxury alternatives, is sure to be a strong alternative when it arrives the U.S. in 2018.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon Specifications

ON SALE 2018
PRICE $35,000 (base, est)
ENGINE 2.0 turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/268 hp, 258 lb-ft (est)
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE N/A
L x W x H 191.4 x 73.7 x 56.2 in
WHEELBASE 111.8 in
WEIGHT 3,400 lb (est)
0-60 MPH 6.5 sec (est)
TOP SPEED N/A

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