Driven: 2020 Volkswagen Arteon

‘R-Tee-on’ is VW’s new flagship sedan

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VW Arteon
Volkswagen's new Arteon flagship sedan is right at home in the hills when Sport modes are engaged | Larry Edsall photos

The first time I saw the 2020 Volkswagen Arteon (pronounced, says VW of America, as R-Tee-on) was during Monterey Car Week 2019. The sleek sedan was painted in a shade VW calls Kurkuma Yellow Metallic and it glistened golden in the Pacific coastal sunlight as it made its way up the driveway in front the Del Monte Lodge at Pebble Beach. 

I can assure you that this graceful and golden Volkswagen turned the heads and drew the attention of the gathered automotive aficionados at this, the most prestigious and highfaluting automotive gathering in the Western Hemisphere.  

Yes, a Vee-Dub!

So here we are, several months later and in the grasp of a coronavirus pandemic that has us locked up at home, venturing out in our cars only when necessary, and it’s my turn to take a test drive in VW’s new flagship vehicle.

And not in just any Arteon but in the top-of-the-line SEL Premium R-Line model with 4Motion all-wheel drive. Instead of shimmering like the Golden Dome at University of Notre Dame, this one wears what VW terms Deep Black paint and even rides on black wheels, each of them 20 inches in diameter and thus nicely filling the car’s wheel wells.

Technically the replacement for the Volkswagen CC, the Arteon is a different creature from the “Comfort Coupe,” even though there is a “Comfort” setting should you prefer a soft-riding experience. 

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However, the Arteon is built on VW’s contemporary and versatile MQB platform, which provides enhanced rigidity for finer turning of dynamic capabilities and characteristics. 

So, in addition to Comfort, you can select Comfort+, Normal, Sport or even Sport+ modes with software adjusting damper settings in response. And, yes, you can feel the differences, as ride quality stiffens and the car remains flatter through quickly negotiated curves.

VW says the Arteon is tuned toward the Grand Touring end of the MQB spectrum. In the case of the Arteon, both front- and all-wheel driven, the front and rear axles get XDS cross-differential lock technology, which is designed to enhance agility at highway speeds. 

With a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine pumping out 268 horsepower, and with the car benefiting as well from 258 pound-feet of torque — available at just 1,950 rpm — and a 6-speed automatic with its own Sport mode, those highway speeds can come quickly, thank you very much.

Pity that typical owners likely will put the car in Normal and just sit back and enjoy the ride while focusing on the Arteon’s array of creature features. And that list is long.

The Arteon comes in SE, SEL, SEL R-Line and SEL Premium R-Line versions. SE, SEL and SEL R-Line offer a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The SEL Premium R-Line comes with standard 4Motion.

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XDS, Driver Mode and adaptive damping are standard on all versions, as are many other features. The Premium R-Line also gets full LED headlamps, auto-dimming and heated exterior mirrors, Panoramic sunroof, remote starter, 3-zone climate controls with rear-seat switchgear, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats with massage feature on the driver’s side, power trunk opener, and 12-speaker Dynaudio sound system. 

A 12-inch touch-controlled display screen with navigation is standard, on all but the SE, and the Premium R-Line gets all 15 available driver-assistance/technology & safety features, including overhead view camera, high-beam control, paring steering assist and lane-keeping assist. 

The 10.25-inch instrument panel offers the driver a choice of 5 different and selectAble displays

The car provides midsize room for 5 people, with Bluetooth and what VW calls Car-Net connectivity, and with a large-capacity trunk.

Nearly $50,000 for a VW may seem surprising. But considering what Areton has to offer, and the fact that it’s not just another cookie-cutter crossover but a sleek sedan with a coupe-like silhouette that seems ready for a family road trip or arrival at your local country club, it might seem the sort of bargain on which VW built its reputation.

2020 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 SEL Premium R-Line

Vehicle type: 5-passenger sedan, all-wheel drive

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Base price: $47,695 Price as tested: n/a

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 268 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm, 258 pound-feet of torque @ 1,950 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 111.7 inches Overall length/width: 191.4 inches / 73.7 inches

Curb weight: 3,854 pounds

EPA mileage estimates: 22 city / 29 highway / 25 combined

Assembled in: Chattanooga, Tennessee

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I own this vehicle (in white) and I love everything about it. The photos don’t show how nicely-designed that it is. the sportback makes it as useful as a wagon, but with a sporty coupe look. By the way, this car is made in Emden, Germany, not Chattanooga.

  2. Hi Larry, I too own an Arteon and love it. It has really unique European looks and lots of creature comforts. My only complaint: Needs that beautiful Audi six cylinder engine. The car is just a bit too much for the 2.0 liter four and I pay for it in gas mileage and acceleration.

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