- What’s Good: Every option you can think of in the near-luxury mid-size sedan priced at under $50,000.
- What’s Bad: No front passenger grab-handle (pet peeve) and doesn’t like being pushed.
SANTA BARBARA, CA: Volkswagen is again launching a near-luxury sedan as its new flagship model – the 2019 Arteon.
The brand has tried this before with the CC (2008-2017) with mild success and the even larger Phaeton before that (2003-2006 in North America) with a choice of engines including a 12-cylinder.
But now the market is seeing a sea change with the onrush of the SUV tsunami.
So, you might think this is not a great time to be bringing a mid-size sedan to market, but Volkswagen thinks otherwise.
VW sold more sedans in the U.S. last year than all its vehicles in Germany put together so, yes, VW is a firm believer in sedans.
And when asked why the bigger and more opulent Atlas three-row SUV is not the flagship, VW officials responded saying there is something about a car claiming top of the brand, not a truck, that appeals to the company and consumers.
Like just about everything VW builds these days, the Arteon is based its global modular platform which is highly flexible and expandable.
In this case the Arteon wheelbase is a good five inches longer than the CC as well as wider. Factoring the passenger and cargo volume, this is mid-size approaching full-size, which for me, is any car longer than five metres.
Despite its size, the aerodynamics give the Arteon a 0.30 drag coefficient which is good on a car this size.
Motive power comes from VW’s ubiquitous turbo 2.0-litre TSI inline four-cylinder producing 268 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque with Stop/Start technology along with the equally ubiquitous eight-speed automatic transmission.
The latest generation 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is standard in Canada (optional in the U.S). In low load or coasting, drive is to the front wheels with the rears decoupled to save on fuel.
The centre differential monitors sense demand and can engage the rear wheels in a fraction of a second and can send up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear.
At the same time, the electronic stability control can detect if a wheel is slipping and gently apply braking for greater stability during cornering.
There is an extensive array of driver/safety aids one of which is the standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System that deploys with the assumption a crash is a series of events that follow the initial impact the most significant of which can cause additional collisions.
What the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System does is apply the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the sensors inside the airbag reducing residual kinetic energy the possibility of additional damage.
Another interesting safety feature is the Volkswagen Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions.
Entering the cabin, the size of the rear passenger area is immediately apparent with legroom of 1,022 mm (40.2 in) which must be a record for any VW car.
Cargo volume is 565 litres (19.9 cu ft) which expand to 1,557 litres (55 cu ft) when the 60/40 split/fold rear seat is lowered.
Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit is standard in Canada with a 12.3-in screen for the main instrument cluster with five different driver selectable displays – Classic, Consumption and Range, Efficiency, Performance and Driver Assistance, and Navigation.
And for the first time, VW introduces Driving Mode Selection with three choices – Comfort, Normal and Sport which have sub routines for Sport+ (more performance and handling) or Comfort+ (greater smoothness).
With all that going for it, I put the Arteon to the test on the roads in and around Santa Barbara, CA, where VW held its media ride-and-drive.
With its long wheelbase, the Arteon is by the nature of its architecture made for comfort over long distances where it excels on major highways.
However, our drive route took us up from Santa Barbara into the hills which reach up to 5,000 feet with so many twists and turns that, on a map, look like your intestines.
I found the Arteon was very happy and tractable at posted speed limits but did not like being ustled in the corners, again due to the generous wheelbase.
My co-driver used the drive modes and we could feel the difference. But when he opted for the manual sequential shifting in hills, it seemed like a lot of work the transmission could have done better by itself.
Coming back down, I rode in the back seat and commodious fails to describe the legroom and the headroom coupled with a sensation of relaxed cruising in the Comfort setting.
Now on sale here, we get one trim level called simply Arteon with no letters or numbers after the name and is loaded with every feature as standard you would ever want.
The list price is $47,995 with only two options, the driver assist package ($2,095) including Park Assist, Lane Assist and Overhead View Camera (Area View) and the R-line trim package ($2,995) with 20-inch wheels (as opposed to the standard 18-inchers) paddle shifters and unique design elements.
When you compare Arteon to other German mid-size AWD sedans like the BMW 5 Series or Audi A5, the price difference is hard to ignore.
Did Volkswagen make the right call on the Arteon?
Only time and shifting consumer patterns will tell.