The 2023 Volkswagen Arteon is a diabolically understated driver’s car
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The Volkswagen Arteon is a sleek and sophisticated grand tourer with a complete array of advanced safety and driver assistance technologies. But this large-midsize sedan travels below the radar of most motorists and, consequently, will be discontinued in the U.S. in 2024.
According to Automotive News, VW’s top-line internal combustion-powered sedan will be replaced by the ID Aero, a battery-electric sedan. ID Aero sales are expected to commence in China during the second half of 2023, followed by a version for Europe. There has been no confirmation yet on the ID Aero for North America, but surely there will be one. Volkswagen is in the process of electrifying its entire vehicle lineup.
Arteon arrived in the U.S. from Germany in the spring of 2019 as the replacement for the CC sport sedan. Its sales have been modest for the VW brand, averaging 2,500 to 5,500 yearly, but sales drove off a cliff in 2022. Just 941 Arteon models have been sold as of third-quarter reporting, per Volkswagen.
It is not because the Arteon is a bad car. It’s actually a very well-done car, and diabolically understated as a driver’s car. It is wide but not too low for open sightlines and simple entry and exit. The direct-shift gearbox hooks up quickly from a start and rolls aggressively up to speed. And there is expansive cargo space.
Despite its rewarding performance, the Arteon is simply overlooked in favor of SUVs and SUV crossovers. (VW has four SUV models, plus the battery-electric ID 4 sedan and upcoming ID Buzz microvan.) For the value shopper, the VW Arteon is a pricey commitment, no matter how enjoyable it is to drive.
Out With the ICE, In With the EV
Throughout the car industry, slow-selling cars are being replaced, mostly, by fully electric or electrified models. Would more advertising have helped save the Arteon? Or a more understandable name? “Arteon” is from the Latin word “artem,” meaning art.
The Volkswagen Arteon has just a few competitors in size and content, including the Kia Stinger, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Avalon. And these well-done cars are facing the same fate as the Arteon.
It is expected that Kia will cease production of the Stinger — a critically acclaimed liftback sport sedan — in late 2023. Sales will continue into 2024, and it will undoubtedly be replaced by an electrified model.
The Maxima is caught in the same dejected state. Nissan will end production for its long-running Maxima nameplate in 2023. And like Volkswagen, Nissan will fill the slot with an electric vehicle inspired by the IMs “elevated sports sedan” concept in 2023, per Automotive News. The same goes for the Toyota Avalon, which is being phased out and will be replaced by the 2023 Crown sedan, a hybrid.
In its three years on the market, Volkswagen has made dutiful improvements every year. Last year, VW repackaged the Arteon powertrain with a 300-horsepower, turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. It is the same EA888 2.0-liter engine used in the Mk8 Golf R. The new powertrain replaces a 268-hp, turbocharged and direct-injection 2.0-liter with an eight-speed stepped automatic transmission.
And for the 2023 model year, Volkswagen added more standard content for the entry-level SE R-Line and a few cosmetic changes for higher trim levels. The lineup also was restructured to three trim levels, continuing with a choice of front- or 4Motion all-wheel drive.
Newly standard exterior features include adaptive LED headlights, cornering lights, and front fog lights. The grille now has an illuminated light bar, and the liftgate has an easy open-and-close power function. On SEL R-Line models, 20-inch wheels replace the previous year’s 19-inch wheels.
Inside is a new heated steering wheel, Dynamic Road Sign Display in the digital gauge array, and IQ.Drive driver-assistance technologies. SEL and SEL Premium R-Line models add Black Carbon trim with 30-color ambient lighting.
Arteon is sold in three trim levels in front- or all-wheel drive with a 300-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and seven-speed automated-manual direct-shift transmission.
Starting prices for each trim level are $43,825 SE, $48,390 SE R-Line, and $50,990 for the SEL R-Line with 4Motion all-wheel drive. Pricing includes the $1,295 freight charge from Emden, Germany. No-cost interior colors are Titan Black or Stone and Raven.
The SEL R-Line tester with one option for metallic paint ($395 for Kingfisher Blue or King’s Red) was $51,385.
An interesting option is the LED Dynamic Turn Signals, $265, for a set of two. An amber lighting line on the exterior mirror body moves sequentially to the outside of the mirror housing.
The lengthy list of standard features is detailed in the specs box at the end of this story. But Arteon’s overachieving features support its $50K pricing without regrets.
Find current Arteon pricing here.
As of this posting, there are two 2023 $500 pricing offers for college graduates and military, veterans, and first responders. The offers are good for purchase or lease. Get the details here.
Warranties and Maintenance
Volkswagen supports the Arteon and every vehicle in its lineup with a bumper-to-bumper warranty and Carefree Maintenance Program. The warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles and can be transferred to a subsequent owner.
The maintenance program provides scheduled maintenance for two years or 20,000 miles. And this coverage, too, can be transferred to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of the warranty.
The 2022 Arteon was named a 2022 Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It is a specific award to Arteon models equipped with LED headlights and adaptive front lighting. It was a three-peat annual award for Arteon.
Standard safety features include six air bags, electronic brake-pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist, electronic stability control, anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock, and engine brake assist.
Driver-assist technologies include:
- Travel Assist (Level 2 semiautonomous driving) and emergency assist;
- Blind-spot monitor;
- Forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking;
- Pedestrian monitoring;
- Lane assist;
- Park assist with park distance control front and rear.
The Travel Assist function works through the adaptive cruise control and has stop-and-go capability. The system’s lane-centering is consistent, particularly in freeway curves, when many other systems allow the vehicle to drift wide across the white lines.
It is easy to maintain car control with the deliciously engaging German engineering for steering input, throttle uptake, and braking engagement. The steel-spring suspension (front struts and rear multilink) is reinforced by telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar, front and rear.
The chassis feels extremely rigid and secure. The ride quality is compliant but firm without jolt (or chin scraping) over lumpy intersections. Even the 20-inch Continental ProContact all-season tires (245/35) added to a smooth ride with little road noise. The tires on the test car were inflated to 42 psi. Typically that hard of a tire inflation would create harsh-riding black checkers. But the Continentals showed no harshness or noise. Four-wheel vented disc brakes have 13.4-inch front rotors and 12.2-inch rotors at the rear.
In Arteon specification, the EA888 evo4 engine displaces 1984cc, producing 300 horsepower (using the required premium fuel) at 5,350 rpm. The 295 foot-pounds of torque peaks at a low 2,000 rpm, and there is little turbo or DSG delay in laying down power. It gives some of the most unfettered performance I’ve experienced from a turbocharged four-cylinder and DSG.
Drive modes of Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom allow personalization to the driver’s style. Sport mode adds potent acceleration and upshifts. According to ZeroTo60times.com, the Arteon SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion can get to 60 mph in 5 seconds.
Front-wheel-drive Arteon models have an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 25 mpg in city driving, 33 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined. Models with 4Motion all-wheel drive have ratings of 22/31/25 mpg. All models have a 17.4-gallon fuel tank, which was downsized from 18.3 gallons last year.
I spent most of a 200-mile test week in Eco plus Sport or Normal plus Sport. My fuel economy around town was in the 20 mpgs, and I worked up to 31.3 mpg on highway cruising, which might have gone higher if I hadn’t reached my exit.
The latest generation of Volkswagen’s 4Motion system is standard on the SEL and SEL Premium trim levels. The system will activate before wheelspin occurs. When driven under a relatively low load or coasting, the front wheels are driven and the rear wheels are decoupled to help save fuel. However, the rear wheels will engage in a millisecond whenever necessary via the center differential.
The XDS cross-differential lock functions as a limited-slip differential and helps to compensate for understeer (front-end push) during cornering. In low traction situations, the system can briefly brake a slipping wheel to transfer drive power to the opposite wheel.
The R-Line cabin has a sporty coupe-like presence with a contemporary design and horizontal lines to accentuate width. The hefty girth of the three-spoke steering wheel fits firmly in hand with grips in the right places.
Front headroom of 37.9 inches (with the sunroof) and the seating position should accommodate taller drivers (up to at least 6-foot-5 inches in my test). The R-Line front sport seats are firmly supportive with long thigh support. But the seats also have serious side and cushion bolsters for those drivers who push the cornering limits. As a grand tourer, however, I’d have the side bolsters cut down to reduce the friction and wear as butts slide over the ridge.
Sightlines are clear at the side mirrors and down the hood, but the smallish back glass and sloped sides can be an issue. When parking, the wide-screen rearview camera with guidance lines is the great equalizer.
Ergonomics and access to controls are smartly arranged with an easy-to-use 8-inch touch screen. As VW has stepped up to add more charging USBs, its wireless charging pad is a struggle to use. It occupies a shallow tray just ahead of the gearshift lever, and it requires slender fingers to slip in a phone or pull it out, but it beats the tangle of a charging cord.
The 12.3-inch-wide digital gauge display (trickle down from Audi) is helpful for its selectable elements, such as the navigation map as background or to highlight a digital speed readout or gear position.
Small storage areas include large door panels with space for bottles.
The Volkswagen Arteon appears to have had a generous budget to support its entry-lux price. Some of the assets I appreciated are:
- Both front seats are fully power-adjustable. Some makers cheap out on the front passenger seat and give half as many power adjustments;
- Door lock sensors are in all four doors, not just the front doors, as are done by many other makers;
- Heated steering wheel;
- Ventilated front seats, not just heated seats;
- Frameless side glass for that sport-coupe appearance. And the driver can enjoy driving with the window down and not being cruelly buffeted;
- Sliding front center armrest top, which helps drivers of all sizes get comfortable;
- Front and overhead camera views, not just a rear view.
Access to the back seat is a bend-and-drop sequence, but legroom is grand-touring comfortable at 40.2 inches — and the window seats have adult thigh support. The tall but narrow transmission tunnel helps center-seat legroom, but the window seats are far more comfortable.
There is a fold-down armrest and ski pass-through to the cargo area, which is wide and deep. Fold the seatback for about 6 ½ feet in length.
I strongly dislike using the overused words “premium” or “elevated” unless referring to ice cream, gasoline, or an out-of-the-way diner. However, the Arteon fits both of those descriptors.
As a sedan, it is a step up from a family car and a step below the luxury class.
While an SUV is an appliance valued for its view from the inside outward, the Arteon has a sophisticated presence, seen from the outside in.
The purposeful and balanced German engineering is the unspoken asset of the Arteon. It is a soaring grand tourer, built for 100 mph continental cruising and arriving at your destination with unrumpled style.
Owners will enjoy for the long term its cabin size, power, and nimble footprint.
Body style: large-midsize, 5-seat liftback sedan with 4Motion all-wheel drive
Engine: 300-hp turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with auto stop-start at idle; 295 lb.-ft. torque at 2,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed direct-shift automatic transmission with performance modes of Eco,
4Motion Fuel economy: 22/30/25 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel recommended
0-60 mph acceleration: 5.0 seconds
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 17.4 gallons
Cargo space: 27.2-56.2 cubic feet
Front head/leg room: 37.7/41.2 inches
Rear head/leg room: 37/40.2 inches
Shoulder room f/r: 56.5/54.7 inches
Length/wheelbase: 191.5/111.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,929 pounds
Turning circle: 39 feet
SEL Premium standard equipment includes:
Exterior: 20-inch alloy wheels with 245/35 all-season tires, adaptive (turning) headlights with cornering lights, LED headlights-taillights-daytime running lights, hands-free remote power rear hatch, fog lights, power folding, heated, power adjustable side mirrors with position memory and passenger-side auto-tilt function, power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof, and R-Line front bumper and badging.
Interior: Keyless access locking with push-button ignition, rearview camera with overhead view), electronic parking brake with auto-hold function, Volkswagen Digital Cockpit Pro with 10.25-inch configurable instrument display, wireless charging pad, 60/40 split-folding back seat with armrest and center pass-through, auto-dimming rearview mirror, three-zone automatic climate control with air filter, comfort sport seats with power lumbar and driver seat massage function, heated seats front and rear, ventilated front seats, leather-trimmed upholstery and leather-wrapped multi-function (heated) sports steering wheel with touch control and shifting paddles, multi-color adjustable ambient lighting, stainless steel pedal caps, Titan Black headliner, remote engine start, Harman Kardon audio system with center speaker and subwoofer, satellite radio with 3-month subscription, headlight high-beam control, two front USB-C data ports and one rear USB- C charging port, 8-inch touchscreen navigation, adaptive cruise control, App-Connect smartphone integration via wireless & USB, myVW connected vehicle services from Car-Net.
Safety features include: Six air bags, electronic brake-pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist, electronic stability control, anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock, and engine brake assist, blind-spot monitor.
Driver-assist technologies include: Travel Assist and emergency assist, dynamic road sign display, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, lane (steering) assist, park assist with park distance control front and rear, and pedestrian monitoring.
SEL Premium R-Line base price: $50,990, including $1,295 freight charge; price as tested $51,385
Options on test car: metallic paint $395
Where assembled: Emden, Germany
Warranties: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper including powertrain; 2-years/20,000-miles free scheduled maintenance; 3-years/36,000-miles roadside assistanceRead more