Volkswagen Arteon R-Line long-term test review

Final Report: flagship Volkswagen Arteon is a fine travelling companion, but there are still some niggles

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

THE Arteon is no driver’s car, and feels too digital for our man. However, its comfortable and composed motorway manners have charmed him anyway.

Mileage: 9,850Economy: 48.0mpg

Sometimes it felt a little bit like I was driving in a virtual-reality computer game, not an actual car, when I was behind the wheel of our Volkswagen Arteon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy being its keeper for the past six months or so, because, in many respects, I found it to be a really great everyday companion; I’m now sad to be handing back the keys.

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But the basic driving experience it offered wasn’t terribly engaging. The Arteon always felt a bit too digital to drive for me, mainly because the feedback it offered via its main controls was simply too remote for it to be considered as a fun car to drive.

Still, the Arteon wasn’t ever designed to provide true driver appeal. Dynamically it is meant to be good enough, but not a lot more. The diesel engine delivered decent enough performance (and excellent 48mpg economy), while its steering, chassis and DSG automatic transmission served up comfortable, effortless driving. On long journeys, therefore, I found the Volkswagen to be just about the perfect companion. 

Apart from its adaptive cruise control, which, on occasion, developed a mind of its own. Or more to the point, a speed range of its own. Sometimes I’d set the desired speed to 70mph in order to cruise along a motorway but, occasionally, right out of the blue and seemingly for no reason whatsoever, it would sense something that wasn’t there and drop the speed quite suddenly to 40mph. That made me look like a right idiot to anyone following behind.

I also think the gap the system leaves to the car in front is too big. As do many other road users, who would get so fed up with the distance I was leaving that they’d undertake, fill the gap, and I ended up falling backwards down a queue of outside-lane traffic. I wish the car just had normal cruise control.

On the other hand, I really came to appreciate the seats in the Arteon, and its cabin, even though the leather on the driver’s seat itself did start to come unstitched in places. The comfortable driving position definitely added to the model’s long-distance capability. Although having said that, I always thought the brake pedal was a touch too high in relation to the accelerator.

One of the car’s very best features is its excellent infotainment system. VW is right at the top of its game when it comes to this aspect of modern cabin design, and the Arteon’s big, intuitive touchscreen, its superb sat-nav system and native Apple CarPlay connectivity all added to my enjoyment of this car overall. These systems make a real difference to the ease of everyday driving – the business of simply living with and using the car day in, day out. In our car’s case, there was also a top-notch but optional 11-speaker sound system (£1,010) to sit back and enjoy listening to when on the move.

Another aspect I enjoyed about the Arteon was learning how to get the most out of it in terms of economy. Within the infotainment system there’s a mode that shows you data on your driving, and suggests how you can get more miles to the gallon. It sounds quite dull really but, in practice, I found this system weirdly compelling. It provided an extra element of appeal when on the move, seeing just how much I could squeeze out of the car by chilling out on the throttle or turning the air con down. My best run was just shy of 60mpg.

Although the Arteon feels like a big car on the road and one that requires a suitably huge parking space to sit in when it’s not moving, it makes up for that with plentiful interior space. Anyone who travelled in the rear seats loved just being in the VW revelling in its limo-like atmosphere.

So overall our time with the Arteon has been positive, but it is also a car that’s not without flaws. To begin with I found Volkswagen’s coupé-cum-hatchback quite hard to understand; I wasn’t quite sure what its vocation in life was. But after covering 10,000 miles it’s now become obvious: the Arteon is a car to relish travelling in.

Third Report: Volkswagen Arteon

We give our stylish Volkswagen Arteon a clean to highlight the executive saloon’s impressive styling

Mileage: 9,589Economy: 41.8mpg

The Volkswagen Arteon is a good-looking car that attracts either quiet approval from those who know what it is, or bewildered fascination from those who don’t. Despite bearing a distant resemblance to the CC that unofficially preceded it, the Arteon is a much more dramatic, far more successful design than just about any other previous big VW.

There are several reasons why. One, its proportions are almost perfectly in balance from front to rear, which is unusual for such a big car. Two, the line from bonnet to tail is entirely unbroken as it swoops rearwards, which makes the car look like a classically dynamic coupé, rather than a traditional five or four-door. Three, its wheels sit quite beautifully within the wheelarches, and the design is, I believe, kind of breathtaking.

The wheels are 19 inches in diameter, but somehow look bigger. What’s more, they don’t seem to pick up road grime or brake dust like other big alloys; and even when they do get dirt on them, they are extraordinarily easy to clean, with no nooks or crannies that can’t be reached. As a result, I quite often find myself giving them a quick rub down with a cloth to ensure they look pristine.

I know this is sad, but unless you get down and dirty with your car once in a while, you’re never going to bond with it fully. I still enjoy driving it, too, most of the time. I used the head-up display recently, but found it too intrusive. Otherwise the VW continues to be a brilliant long-distance car, even if it’s not one that encourages you to go for a cross-country thrash on a Sunday morning. It’s best to clean it instead...

Second Report: Volkswagen Arteon

Bird muck and minor niggles take shine off premium Volkswagen Arteon exec hatchback

Mileage: 8,585Economy: 43.6mpg

To anyone who lives in a city but who doesn’t have a garage, returning to your vehicle when you’ve been away for a couple of weeks is never a pleasant experience.

You leave your beloved car parked up quietly in the street in pristine condition. But you come back to find it’s been targeted by an avian invasion, plus covered in a fair bit of sap that seems to come off the trees at this time of year. And when you see the mess it’s made of your paintwork, your heart sinks.

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That happened to our Volkswagen Arteon just recently, and I couldn’t believe how much grime there was to remove from its smart-looking bodywork after leaving it parked up for just 10 nights.

But having taken it to the most powerful and best car wash I know of down on the south coast, and having employed plenty of elbow grease, plus some T-Cut, to the worst-affected areas for good measure, I’ve got our Arteon’s red metallic paintwork back to its best. And I’m continuing to enjoy driving the VW again now it’s been restored to its original sparkling form.

However, even after several thousand miles together, there are still areas of our Arteon 2.0 TDI’s driving experience that I’m struggling to bond with. I like the way it looks, love the amount of space it has inside and the capacity of its vast, cave-like boot.  

What I really don’t like is the turgid response from the 2.0-litre diesel engine below 2,000rpm. At best it’s a pain and at worst it’s worrying, especially when pulling out of junctions; the absence of initial response has sometimes left me looking – and feeling – a bit silly.

Some of the so-called safety functions included in the Volkswagen’s optional “Emergency Assist” system are also proving to be strangely counter-intuitive – the distance-sensing adaptive cruise control being the worst culprit.

On occasion, it has appeared to develop a mind of its own, dramatically reducing the speed of the car of its own accord, and when there was seemingly no reason to do so, because there was no other traffic in front or behind at the time.

Also, although the fundamental appeal of the Arteon’s spacious cabin is hard to argue against, there are certain elements inside that are less satisfying. The air-con system’s rotary controls look fine, for example, but feel peculiarly cheap to the touch; they rattle when you rotate them. In a cheaper car you’d say fair enough, not great, but not a deal-breaker, either. In a model that costs north of £40,000 with options, it’s not good enough. That’s unusual for a VW.

The leather on the driver’s seat has also started to unstitch itself slightly on the right-hand side, which again is pretty disappointing in such a new car.

The diesel Arteon is, after all, one of those models you just know will rack up hundreds of thousands of miles in the hands of travelling execs and high-end chauffeurs, so to find that its driver’s seat leather has already started to falter is not a good sign of things to come.

On the other hand, there can be few other cars at this price that are quite so relaxing to drive a couple of hundred motorway miles in, and in this respect the comfortable seats play a positive role, even if the leather they are covered in feels a bit low-grade and is degrading faster than we’d like.

The combination of the Arteon’s soothing suspension, light but accurate steering, supremely comfortable seats and its £1,010 optional, 700-watt, 11-speaker “Dynaudio Confidence” sound system, along with its impressive fundamental mechanical refinement, makes it a truly great long-distance car.

Which is why, overall, I still like driving the Arteon. And still like being in it, and just looking at it. So long as it’s not covered in you-know-what.

First Report: Volkswagen Arteon

New four-door Volkswagen Arteon makes a great first impression on our long-term fleet

Mileage: 6,379Economy: 47.9mpg

Winter is finally over, and now that the weather is improving in the UK, we’ve got a new model to brighten up our fleet. This is Volkswagen’s new flagship car, the Arteon. It’s a four-door coupé that takes on the Audi A5 Sportback and, as you can see, it’s a beautiful thing.

Our car’s Chilli Red metallic paint (£595) looks stunning in the spring sunshine. It’s got my creative juices flowing, and I’m looking forward to photographing it for Auto Express. For now, though, I’ve just been enjoying driving it instead.

Unlike my old Peugeot 3008, the driving position feels very low and quite sporty, and the experience so far backs that up. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is really punchy, and the steering is direct and well weighted. It makes for a great companion on a long trip: at motorway speeds the Arteon is refined and comfortable, but it’s also quite fun to drive once you leave the main road.

The seats are comfortable, too, and are of a high quality. It’s a similar story with the rest of the interior as well, because the materials used around the cabin are classy and give it an upmarket feel.

Crucially for me, though, is that the Arteon is still really practical, despite its stylish looks. There’s 563 litres of space in the boot with all the seats in place, and 1,557 litres when the rear bench is folded down. That’s more than enough for all of my photography gear.

Unfortunately the tailgate is giving me a headache – not because I’ve bumped my head on it, but rather because it never seems to behave as I want it to. Often when I’m loading up the boot with my gear, there might be a cleaning cloth or a soft bag sticking up. In any other car I’d shut the boot and it would squash down without issue, but the Arteon’s automatic tailgate is so sensitive that it seems to need constant attention in order to get it to close.

Still, it’s a small issue and just requires a bit of extra care on my part when using the boot. We’re still looking forward to seeing how well the Arteon shapes up over the coming months.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points.

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