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2021 Volkswagen Arteon Gets New Look, Upgrades

High-tech cabin features mean the Arteon will be knocking on Audi’s door.

Aaron GoldWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Volkswagen's top-of-the-line Arteon sedan didn't go on sale in the U.S. until April of 2019, so it seems rather strange that it's up for a mid-cycle refresh already, and yet here we are. The 2021 Arteon boasts a range of appearance-related improvements, all of which we think will increase the car's appeal.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Styling Changes

Up front, VW has removed one bar from the grille, a minor change that we think makes a big difference—it makes the front of the Arteon look much less busy and more cohesive. The entry-level Arteon SE model features a chrome bar under the lower grille to match the strip on the rocker panels, while, as pictured, the R-Line models (for the U.S. market, that's the Arteon SEL and SEL Premium) get a full-width LED light bar that lights up day and night, and a different lower grille treatment. Out back, the tailpipes have been split to form quad outlets and the taillights have been tweaked a bit. The Arteon also sports the latest version of the VW logo on its nose and rump.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Interior Upgrades

The biggest and best changes to the 2021 Arteon come to the interior. VW interiors tend to look (and function) pretty much alike, which is something we like about its cars, and the Arteon's interior looks like a concept-car rendition of the VW cabins we've come to know and love. The displays are all-digital, with an LCD dashboard, a nearly-button-free stereo, and a new touch-sensitive climate control panel. The steering wheel also loses its mechanical buttons in favor of touch controls.

One of the coolest elements is the 30-color ambient lighting package that comes on the SEL and SEL Premium models. A light strip on the dash is complemented by lights arranged behind translucent panels on the doors. Trim panels are patterned aluminum, though Volkswagen also showed photos of open-pore wood trim that we believe will only be available on European models. (Shame, as the wood makes a nice old-world contrast to the modern LED lighting.)

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Performance

Mechanically, the Arteon is unchanged; it uses the same 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder found in the current car, with 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque delivering power to the front wheels (in standard form) through an eight-speed automatic transmission. VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive will be optional on the mid-range SEL R-Line and standard on the top-of-the-range SEL Premium R-Line. In our experience, the Arteon's powertrain delivers strong acceleration, quiet cruising and good fuel economy, and we're glad it isn't changing.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Safety & Equipment

The Arteon will offer the usual package of safety and driver-assist features. SEL models and above will have VW's lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking, which couple with the full-speed adaptive cruise control system to provide semi-autonomous driving—provided you keep your hands on the wheel, that is (the steering wheel rim is touch-sensitive to prevent cheating). The high-end stereo is a 700-watt, twelve-speaker system from Harman/Kardon, indicating a shift away from Fender audio as the typical VW upgrade tier.

For Europeans, there's more to the Arteon story, including a mild hybrid and a slick wagon called the Shooting Brake. Neither of those will be coming to the United States, but oh, how Volkswagen loves to tease us.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Pricing

Volkswagen hasn't announced pricing, but it intends to keep a 10 percent gap below the Audi A5 Sportback to avoid stepping on its corporate cousin's toes. With the current A5 starting at $43,000 and the current Arteon at $36,000, that would put the 2021 VW Arteon's price somewhere in the neighborhood of $37,000 to $38,000—a mild increase for the added feature content. VW noted that 70 percent of vehicle transactions in this segment are leases, and VW plans to take steps to ensure the new Arteon is a better lease prospect than the current car. The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon will arrive in dealerships in late October or early November.

 

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Specifications
ON SALE: Fall 2020
PRICE: $37,000 (est)
ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 268 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,950 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE: 23-25 mpg combined (est)
L x W x H: 191.4 x 73.7 x 56.5 in
WHEELBASE: 111.7 in
WEIGHT: 3,700 lb (est)