Never mind a 3 Series/C-Class, a VW Arteon is a better Audi but VW can’t say that
Hans · Jul 14, 2021 11:11 AM
"That is how we are challenging premium car makers without becoming one ourselves," is how Volkswagen's product planning boss Dr. Elmar-Marius Licharz describes the VW Arteon.
What's the idea behind having a VW taking attention away from Audi is something we won't really know.
What's certain is that it's a deliberate, calculated move. A car doesn’t just exist the way it does because some designer or some engineer woke up one morning with an epiphany of what a great car should be, at least not in today’s world.
Like any consumer products, today’s cars are designed by a committee – a phrase that’s often used in a derogatory manner by car enthusiasts - but that’s not true because the even the most successful sports car of all time, the Porsche 911 is designed by a committee.
Long before engineers put together the first driveable prototype of a new car model, a design brief outlining the product’s objectives and targets must first be put together, and only then can designers and engineers start their work and not go wildly off-course during the development phase.
Who is the product aimed at and in which markets? What is the product supposed to achieve and do? What do the target buyers expect? How competitive is the market space? What is the market size and what’s the volume projection?
Every assumption must be backed by solid data gathered from car clinics, with carefully selected members of the public, from demographics that best represent the target market.
Extensive interviews are conducted and their answers are quantified, mapped into complex matrixes. Custom-made low volume hyper cars aside, there is not a single commercially successful car model that doesn’t follow this process.
Somewhere along the planning stage, VW was convinced that there is a market for a premium car without a premium badge (did they take a page from Mazda's playbook?).
Which brings us to the focus of this topic, the captivatingly beautiful Volkswagen Arteon, now refreshed for 2021, and beefed up with more power too (280 PS / 350 Nm).
Yes, its mechanical underpinnings are shared with the Passat but that’s like saying a Rolls-Royce Ghost is just a BMW 7 Series in a new suit.
Take one look at it and its price and you can see that the VW Arteon has its gun sights aimed at the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz Class, and of course, its fellow member of the Volkswagen Group family the Audi A4.
How did VW brasses convince their Group’s board that the Arteon won’t outshine the venerable Audi A4 is something we will never know.
After all, they did told the Skoda team to pullback on the Skoda Superb, because the second generation model, with its twin-opening boot was becoming too successful for the Passat and Audi A4.
The group’s namesake Volkswagen division’s product boss, Dr. Elmar-Marius Licharz, head of the mid- and full-size vehicle lines, has already admitted to the Arteon’s goal of challenging the likes of BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, without saying it directly.
“It’s the perfect car for people who appreciate great style and great value for the money,” said Licharz at the Arteon’s global debut. “That is how we are challenging premium car makers without becoming one ourselves.”
"Increased wheelbase, length and width all place it above the Passat. And it is precisely this good blend of emotional design, size and utility that makes it a clever alternative in the upper midsize and business class segment. It's a perfect car for people who appreciate both great style and great value for money.
"Until now, customers had to make a choice, it was either or. The Arteon now offers both.”
Also, the Arteon name, a portmanteau of “art” and “eon,” the suffix that is only used by VW’s flagship luxury models, is a clear mark of its stature within the group.
The only other VW model with “eon” suffix is the Phideon, which is only sold in China, as a replacement for the now discontinued Phaeton.
What is less said about the Arteon is that it is one of the few cars to survive the transition from concept car to production car stage almost unchanged.
“The fact that the Arteon has gone into production with only minimal design changes from the show car demonstrates Volkswagen’s appetite for innovation. Exactly like the concept car, the Arteon generates that ‘I want it’ feeling, said Head of Design Klaus Bischoff.
The clam shell bonnet for example, is very rare for a car in this class. Bischoff says the bonnet is very expensive to produce and require five separate stamping process, versus the typical premium sedan’s two or three times.
“It is one of the largest bonnets in the entire Volkswagen Group”, said exterior designer Tobias Sühlmann, implying that it’s more complex than produce than an Audi A4.
“It is really like that of a sports car. When you open the bonnet you see the wheel housing shells. That is unconventional for a car of this type.”
So we know that the Arteon is a moving art on wheels, but does it ride as comfortable as one?
Tomasz Bachorski, Head of Volkswagen Interior Design says the Arteon’s design brief was to be an avant-garde business-class gran turismo-type car, so cabin quietness is benchmarked against luxury cars, despite using frameless doors, which traditionally results in a noisier cabin.
“In the case of the Arteon, its frameless doors are fitted with high-quality door seals that adapt perfectly to the body shell. This makes the cabin quietness as good as a premium sedan,” said Bachorski.
The new 2021 Volkswagen Arteon will be launched in Malaysia this Friday, and you can catch it on a livestream here.
Prices are estimated at RM 245,000 to RM 255,000. That money buys you 4Motion all-wheel drive, 280 PS / 350 Nm, DCC adaptive suspension, xDS electronic differential lock, 700W 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Separately, BMW Malaysia has recently updated its entry BMW 320i is Live Cockpit Pro digital instrument cluster and a larger 10.25-inch infotainment screen.
Mercedes-Benz Malaysia is also expected to launch the all-new W206 Mercedes-Benz Class before the year ends (W205 C200 is already sold out), but unlike the Arteon, cheaper CKD variants won’t appear until late-2022 so expect to pay circa RM 300k for an entry C200.
While we wait for the launch of the new 280 PS Arteon R-Line 4Motion, below is a recap of the outgoing Arteon, with a lower tune 190 PS engine.