Review: 2018 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI R-Line

Thomas Falkiner is blown away by Volkswagen's new fastback

08 October 2018 - 13:16 By Thomas Falkiner
The VW Arteon looks as good as it drives.
The VW Arteon looks as good as it drives.
Image: Supplied

Arty what?! Bit of an odd name but the car, I must say, looks okay.

Volkswagen is the king of cooking up, uh, how should we say it, quirky model names and “Arteon” is probably at the top of its achievement list. Apparently it means “premium model” in some obscure dialect unknown to most.

Whatever. In the metal there is no arguing the fact that they’ve created one seriously attractive successor to the now defunct CC that always sold modestly here in SA. That, already, was a pretty car in its own right but the Arteon takes things to another level. Especially when you plumb for the R-Line model that gets a more aggressive bodykit over its more subdued Elegance sibling.

I had the middle-of-the-range 2.0 TDI R-Line on test and I can tell you that there isn’t a single bad angle to it. Particularly when you specify (and you damn well should at a mere R9,950) the optional 20-inch “Rosario” alloy wheels that look like jet turbines. Taut, masculine and understated in a way only the Germans can get right, the Arteon is in my eyes perhaps the most handsome saloon car released in years.

The interior is clean, cool and luxurious
The interior is clean, cool and luxurious

It’s a sweet hunk of metal, that’s for sure. Quite big though — is that little diesel engine powerful enough?

I had similar reservations. Especially considering that said Arteon tips the scales at a hefty 1,619kg. That’s a sizeable chunk of automotive fat for the 130kW / 350Nm 2.0 TDI motor to deal with — especially when accelerating from standstill where the Arteon feels about as lazy as an old Labrador on a hot day.

Volkswagen claims a 0-100km/h-sprint time of 8.7-seconds but in real life this feels closer to 10. Yep, if you dig partaking in the odd Traffic Light Grand Prix then look elsewhere now. Once you’ve built up some momentum, however, things are actually much better as the Arteon has no issue maintaining illegal cruising speeds for hours at a time.

Its in-gear acceleration is also quite good — I didn’t have any worrisome moments when it came to overtaking slower-moving traffic when out on the open road. Mated to a six-speed DSG gearbox, the most impressive thing about the 2.0 TDI engine is its frugality. I clocked up 512km on half a tank of juice and still had, according to the trip computer, another 520km to go before refuelling.

Say what you will about diesel but in this day and age of ever-increasing fuel prices it makes more and more sense.

It sounds to me like the Arteon is something of a GT car. Does the interior follow suit?

You hit the nail on the head there, son. The Arteon is exactly that — a laid-back Gran Turismo that’s happiest when steered down the highway to some faraway destination. It’s interior reflects this philosophy by offering best-in-class legroom as well as some seriously comfortable (and supportive I might add) R-Line sports seats. This is a car that you and your passengers will have no issue spending a lot of time in. The boot is also massive.

I don’t own any golf clubs but I was able to put two women in it (and shut the tailgate) without any issues at all. For longer loads you can fold down the rear seats to free up even more space.

As far as tech is concerned the Arteon R-Line comes standard with Volkswagen’s digital cockpit instrument cluster, 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation (and Apple CarPlay) as well as adaptive cruise control and city emergency braking. It’s a nice suite of kit.

The only thing I would add in is the optional (R14,650) Dynaudio sound system that packs some serious musical punch courtesy of its 11 speakers. Trust me, you’ll never want to leave the cabin.

The R-Design treatment adds some visual aggression
The R-Design treatment adds some visual aggression

Is it good to drive — or is it a bit of a tank?

This is another area in which the Arteon surprised me. For despite its size (not to mention that lengthy wheelbase) it handles remarkably well for what it is. Sure, it comes across somewhat hamstrung through tighter tracts of asphalt but when fired down more open and flowing sections of road this burly Volkswagen feels forever planted, confident and composed.

The steering is pleasingly direct while mechanical grip, courtesy of those 245/35 R20 tyres, seems almost limitless. On the flipside of the coin, ride quality is equally adept. Dynamic Chassis Control comes standard on the R-Line and when set to Comfort Mode the dampers adjust to a level where most street scars are ironed over with aplomb: quite an achievement when you factor in those planet-sized alloy wheels and ultra low-profile tekkies.

So do you think the Arteon will sell better than the old CC did?

In my mind it deserves to as it brings something fresh to a niche segment of vehicle that has long been the reserve of the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé. Stylistically speaking it’s more interesting than either of these two rivals and is, give or take, every bit as good to drive.

Viewed in isolation the Arteon is also a fantastic all-rounder: one that’s equally at home plodding city streets as it is bounding down freeways. It’s practical, comfortable and — once you skim through the brochure and see how many features come standard for the price you’re paying — actually quite good value.

Unfortunately, for similar money you can acquire cars with a bigger brand cachet behind them. Given the choice South Africans will always prefer to have a BMW or Audi badge on their key fob. This is why I’m betting that the Arteon, like the equally brilliant Passat, will be something of a rare sight on our image-conscious roads. What a pity. – Thomas Falkiner

Fast Facts: Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI R-Line

Engine: 1968cc four-cylinder turbodiesel

Power: 130kW at 4 000rpm

Torque: 350Nm at 3 500rpm

Transmission: six-speed DSG

0-100km/h: 8.7-seconds (claimed)

Top speed: 220km/h (claimed)

Fuel: 6.8l/100km (achieved)

Price: From R649 900