Review: 2020 Volkswagen Arteon R-Line - Worth paying more for a reskinned Passat?
Shaun · Dec 6, 2020 10:28 AM
Remember the Volkswagen Passat CC? The sexy, low-slung, four-door coupe that lured a number of Malaysians away from the usual compact execs like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The Volkswagen Arteon is the successor to the Passat CC and it aims to accomplish what its predecessor did.
Back when the Passat CC had a facelift, the Passat nameplate was dropped and simplified to just Volkswagen CC. Then, Volkswagen ditched it altogether for its successor and called it the Arteon, clearly positioning it a rung higher than the Passat.
Does the Volkswagen Arteon warrant a new nameplate or is it just a Passat in a fancy suit? If you had asked me that question prior to my experience with the car, I would’ve leaned towards the latter. Now though, it seems the Arteon has changed my mind.
Exterior - Straight outta concept
There aren’t many cars that translated well from the original concept into production. The reasons are many and completely logical – safety, ergonomics, cost, feasibility, etc.
However, a few cars are the exception. Off the top of my head, there are 3 cars – Audi Le Mans quattro (Audi R8), Lexus LF-LC Concept (Lexus LC), and Mazda Kai Concept (Mazda 3).
And now the Volkswagen Arteon joins the exception. It looks almost identical to the Volkswagen Sport Coupe Concept GTE. Volkswagen even went to the extent of engineering an unnecessarily complex clamshell bonnet design, just so that the joint lines are aesthetically pleasing.
Wheels aren’t as massive as the concept car, but they are still 19-inch items wrapped with 245/40 profile Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) tyres. And those are pretty good stuff, but more on that later.
The rest of the car like the massive grille that neatly integrates into the LED headlamps, the muscular rear haunches and slim taillamps have all translated rather well into production.
In terms of paint thickness and panel gap consistency, it didn’t fair as well as expected. Paint thickness varied from 120s of µm on the rear passenger door to 240s of µm on the opposite side. And panel gaps deviated by 0.5 mm on most panels from each side.
Interior - A familiar place
On the inside is where the Passat-ness manifests itself. The dashboard design mirrors Passat with the full-width air vents. Well, Volkswagen has to benefit from economies of scale somewhere. But hey, look at those frameless doors.
Since the Arteon is a pre-facelift model, the central analogue clock is still there looking as classy as ever. There’s the GTI-like flat bottomed steering wheel, which I still prefer over the newer, more angular steering wheel designs.
Build and material quality are as good as they get from a Volkswagen. Actually, some of the material finishing are more pleasant than in the G20 BMW 320i. There are fewer sharp edges on the centre console and the door grab handles feel solid.
Like in the Passat, both the 11.7-inch digital instrument display and the 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment display are crisp and colours are well-calibrated. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is available, though wireless connectivity is only for Apple CarPlay.
The 11-speaker Dynaudio sound system is a worthy upgrade from the standard system found in the Passat. There are 4 sound profiles to choose from – Authentic, Speech, Dynamic and Soft.
Authentic provides a more laid back and smooth signature although personally, it sounded a little veiled. Dynamic lifts up the veil and gives maximum attack. Speech is more suited for podcasts and whatnot, while Soft is recommended to tame those brittle highs when streaming wirelessly.
Driving position is similar to the Passat, with plenty of adjustments on the seat and steering for individuals of all sizes.
Legroom at the rear is rather impressive, with 4 tennis balls for a 177 cm adult such as yours truly. Headroom however, is compromised by the sloping roofline but still acceptable.
Best of all, the Arteon has rear hatch that opens up with the window for a massive boot opening.
Driving Experience - Greater than the sum of its parts
The Arteon takes on a familiar theme experienced in the Passat. A composed and matured behaviour that err on the side of competency rather than outright fun.
There are enough tweaks to the throttle response, steering precision, suspension finesse, and noise suppression to elevate the overall driving experience. The sum of these little tweaks make the driving experience noticeably better than the Passat.
Unlike the Passat, there’s considerably less delay or hesitancy for the powertrain to get up and go upon throttle depression. It’s as if “Normal” mode in the Arteon is “Sport” mode in the Passat.
My guess is the calibration is to compensate for the additional weight of the Arteon. Speaking of the additional weight, it does blunt the Arteon’s acceleration. 0-100 km/h is tested at 8.4 seconds, 0.3 seconds slower than the Passat with identical powertrain.
The Arteon isn’t by any means slow. The healthy dose of torque at lower rpms allow swift progress in daily driving situations. But beyond that, it does leave me wanting for more top-end performance. Its chassis suggests it could handle way more than the 190 PS engine has to offer.
In the twisty bits, the Arteon steers a little keener with greater precision than the Passat and grips with more tenacity. It also feels more surefooted as well.
This heightened ability is attributed to the wider track widths and longer wheelbase. Plus, there's the rather grippy Pirelli P Zero tyres, and the electronic diff (XDS) that claws its way out of corners.
And despite the variable ratio steering, it’s completely predictable. Steering weight is spot on in Normal mode while Sport mode can feel a touch artificial.
Brakes are progressive and easy to modulate with good pedal feel. But like many Volkswagen models, the brake pedal is positioned higher than the throttle pedal which may be an annoyance to some.
So we've established that the Arteon does spirited driving competently. But what it truly excels at is cruising, just like the Passat. With 7 forward ratios, a well-insulated cabin, and good levels of low-end torque, the Arteon is an excellent choice for long-distance journeys.
It would’ve been ideal if the Arteon were to feature ADAS. But nope, not even a blind spot warning, which is particularly useful for a car as lengthy as this.
Ride Comfort - Better than the usual compact execs
The Arteon is equipped with the DCC adaptive dampers that broadens its breadth of ability. In Comfort mode, it soaks up most of our rotted tarmac with impressive composure.
Normal mode introduces a hint of bumpiness to the ride, but nothing too dramatic. Sport mode firms up the damping by a noticeable margin and all the road imperfections can be felt by the driver as well as the passengers.
Personally, Sport mode merely corrupts the ride quality without significant gains to handling. Sure, the suspension tightens up in Sport mode and mitigates excessive wallows. But even in Comfort mode, body roll is kept in check and it’s just as competent around the bends.
The 14-way adjustable driver seat required constant fiddle to get the right angle and lumbar adjustment. But once I found the ideal setting, it’s quite comfortable and supportive, especially with the extendable seat base for extra thigh support.
Rear seats are decently comfortable, but on the firmer side unlike the plush seats in the Toyota Camry.
Cabin noise level is generally low. Mechanical noises such as engine and suspension are well muted. Tyre noise does become noticeable at higher speeds or rough surfaces.
But considering the high performance tyres fitted, it’s more than acceptable. Wind noise is as well suppressed in a car as it gets. At 110 km/h, the sound level meter recorded an average of 67 dB, which is on par with the G20 BMW 320i.
Fuel Consumption - Not very fast, but frugal
After a journey of 97.5 km broken down to 70/30 highway and city driving, the amount of fuel required to brim the tank was 7.05 litres. This gives the Volkswagen Arteon a fuel consumption figure of 7.2-litre/100 km. The onboard trip computer showed an average of 7-litre/100 km, which is fairly accurate.
Back to the question, yes, the Volkswagen Arteon does feel different enough from a Volkswagen Passat to warrant another nameplate and higher price point. The individual elements may not be significant but as a whole, it proved to be greater than the sum of its parts.
At its price point, both the BMW 320i and Mercedes-Benz C200 are within reach. The 320i delivers a superior driving experience while the C200 still looks exquisite inside and out despite its age, not to mention the more desirable badge.
What the compact executive sedans can’t compete with is the amount of space you get in the Volkswagen Arteon and the practicality of a hatch opening tailgate. And you get a sleek coupe profile with frameless doors as opposed a traditional 3-box design.
Also, the Volkswagen Arteon rides better than both the BMW 320i and Mercedes-Benz C200. It’s also just as quiet on the move and handles competently, even when put up against the compact execs.
It’s just a shame the Volkswagen Arteon isn’t fitted with any form of ADAS. In this day and age when even a Perodua Axia has AEB, it’s almost inexcusable for a premium car to omit such feature.
Were it not for the lack of ADAS, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Volkswagen Arteon as an alternative to the mainstream compact execs. It’s the last of its kind from Volkswagen, and we should all appreciate it while it still exists.
The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.