Being a massive car enthusiast, it may come as a surprise that I’ve never driven a model from the current Volkswagen range. The great people at CarAdvice however recently offered me the chance to test the new Volkswagen Arteon 206TSI R-Line for a week so without hesitation I jumped at the opportunity. As a regular spectator of the Targa High Country, I’ve seen countless VW Golf GTI’s and Golf R’s putting in some very respectable times against the best performance cars from Nissan, Porsche, Audi and BMW. Given the Arteon shares the same engine as the Golf R in slightly detuned form, I was keen to see how it performed.
Upon arrival at the CarAdvice office, the first thing I noticed about the car was the chiselled front end and swooping roofline as well as the Chilli Red paint that really makes it stand out. I like how the front lights are integrated into the grille and how VW has made a four door really look like a proper coupe. The twenty inch black turbine wheels finish off the car nicely but in my opinion would look better if they were a bit smaller. Having Scott Collie from CarAdvice show me around the interior and all the features was certainly beneficial as I’m used to driving a car that’s not so packed with technology, being a 1994 BMW M3.
Some of this technology includes emergency assist, adaptive cruise control, lane and park assist, surround-view camera system, dynamic light assist, an electromechanical parking brake and auto hold. Other handy features include power folding door mirrors, keyless entry and ignition and a boot that opens automatically when placing your foot under the rear bumper. Volkswagen also really care about your safety with dual frontal, side chest and side head-protecting (curtain) airbags and a driver knee airbag are standard. It really doesn’t surprise me that the car achieved a 5 star ANCAP safety rating.
It was very easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and a perfect driving position could be achieved. I found the black Nappa leather seats to be supportive, comfortable and stylish. The ergoComfort sport driver’s seat offers electric 14-way adjustment with a massage function and the steering column has tilt and reach adjustment. The Arteon is a well packaged car with generous rear leg and head room and a large boot.
I found the 9.2 inch infotainment system easy to use where you can access entertainment and an extensive list of vehicle features. It was easy to set up Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and I didn’t have the same hassles as in the Audi S1 I drove previously. Personally, I felt that the head-up display (HUD) was a little bit tacky with it just being a thin bit of glass that comes out from the dash when operated. The Active Info Display was clear and easy to read with the digital dashboard having configurable views for navigation, infotainment, driver assistance and vehicle functions. The Arteon has a lovely flat bottomed steering wheel however I felt like the paddles on the wheel could be slightly larger. I was also impressed to see a full sized spare wheel in the boot, a welcome change to space savers.
After familiarising myself with the car, I set out for a drive to the Yarra Ranges. The car felt fast and I’m not surprised by its claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.8 seconds. The turbocharged 2.0 four cylinder develops an impressive 206kW and 380Nm and this exceeds its main rivals including the the BMW 330i and Audi A5 Sportback. It does lack some top end punch but there wasn’t as much lag as in the Audi S1 that I drove recently that shares a similar engine. The 7 speed DSG gearbox is very fast between shifts but can hunt for gears when going down the gearbox under hard acceleration. When using the shifter, I would prefer to push the level up for down changes instead of down to suit the momentum of the car but this is a personal choice. Finally, I found it frustrating that the gearbox wouldn’t hold the gear that I wanted in Sport mode.
When using Sport mode, I enjoyed using the function on the Infotainment System that shows you how much power the engine is using, G-forces and boost pressure. At idle, Sport Mode gave the car a louder exhaust note and this was also noticeable at the top end of the rev range, but overall the Arteon unfortunately is a bland sounding car. Suspension wise, I felt that the ride was too firm in Sport mode but was fine in Eco, Comfort and Normal Modes.
I drove the car on some wet roads around Healesville and there was only the slightest bit of understeer when driven with some enthusiasm through the corners, a testament to how good the 4 motion all wheel drive system is. The ventilated disc brakes were also wonderful and it felt like the electro-mechanic steering had quite a fast ratio. The Arteon felt like it was never out of its depth when the roads got twisty, even though it’s heavy at 1658kg and is much more of a prestige car than a performance one.
Overall, I think that the Volkswagen Arteon is a great car and is efficient, comfortable, practical, quiet, refined and fast. However I feel like the Volkswagen can almost drive itself therefore it’s hard to form a real attachment to it. At $65,490 before on-road costs, the Arteon is good value for money and a viable alternative to its main competition.
Thanks to CarAdvice for lending me the Volkswagen Arteon.