When I first saw the images of the Arteon, I wasn’t particularly enamoured as it looked a bit like the Passat and a lot like the discontinued CC.

My perception changed a bit when I saw the car in the metal parked, though. The car’s curvaceous lines and more sporty front makes it visually more appealing than the aforementioned models.

One thing I noticed was that the car has a strong resemblance to the Audi A5 Sportback and, from some angles, like the Audi A7, albeit a bit smaller. This doesn’t come as a surprise because the cars are practically cousins within the VW Group. The Arteon is not a head turner, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has presence.

At the media presentation at Zwartkops Raceway, the VW marketing team went to great lengths to emphasise that this car is not the replacement of the CC but a new product offering from VW, from the ground up. The idea is that you get introduced to the brand with the Polo Vivo, then you graduate to the high-performance GTi and then once you mellow as an adult the CC is the car that you buy.

The car is 4.862mm long, 1.871mm wide and 1.427mm high, which gives occupants ample space, especially when sitting at the back. It is no limousine by any measure, but I comfortably sat at the back and there is enough legroom.

It is no doubt an elegant car and feels premium but it is going up against some very tough competition in this segment. Its German counterparts are incredibly popular and it will take some serious marketing to convince new buyers in this segment to choose the Arteon over those brands.

Up front, the interior is almost all Passat. Picture: QUICKPIC
Up front, the interior is almost all Passat. Picture: QUICKPIC

In terms of exterior design I especially like the daytime running lights integrating seamlessly into the grille. This gives it a more aggressive stance.

The Arteon comes in three derivatives, with 2.0l TDI or petrol TSI engines. The entry-level TDI Elegance pushes out a respectable 130kW and 350Nm through a six-speed DSG gearbox. That 130kW in the Elegance was palpable around the track as the car wouldn’t come out of the corners fast enough which helped me as I familiarised myself with the track. The fuel consumption of this trim is a claimed 5.6l/100km.

Then we moved up to the flagship petrol derivative R-line 4Motion which produces a decent 206kW and 350Nm of torque, mated to a seven-speed DSG transmission. In this guise I could immediately feel the difference. The car is not a sports car but it was faster and more grippier around the track due to its all-wheel drive system.

My greatest gripe with the flagship was the perceptible turbo lag. You put your foot down and seconds pass before the turbo kicks in and then the car starts moving. The strict European regulations on emissions are being felt and I hope this won’t harm the high-performance cars from VW.

In spite of the coupe roofline, the rear seats offer good space. Picture: QUICKPIC
In spite of the coupe roofline, the rear seats offer good space. Picture: QUICKPIC

The Arteon has some impressive safety features that come standard in the range-topping R-line, like adaptive cruise control with front assist and city emergency braking. The Active Bonnet is activated during a pedestrian or cyclist impact, with the bonnet raising up in a matter of seconds by up to 60mm, providing a cushion for the head.

The interior is quite a comfortable space to be in and the speedometer cluster, borrowed from other VW Group cousins, is space age with the Active Info Display, standard on the R-line, that has the navigation and other information. The tablet-like infotainment system, Design Pro, with intuitive gesture control makes it easier to navigate.

The car has a generous boot space of 563l and when the rear seats are folded then that increases to a staggering 1.557l. In case your hands are full carrying luggage, the boot can be opened by moving your foot under the car.

South Africans are brand conscious and to many the Arteon might not carry as much weight as other cars in the segment. Having said that, this a very good car from VW. It is premium enough and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. This gran turismo has a lovely silhouette and impressive hi-tech gizmos, but I would most likely go for the other German competitors.