CARS & TRUCKS

VW Arteon The evolution of VW

The Volkswagen CC was among the best-looking cars in the automaker’s portfolio, although its styling always wasn’t completely resolved with proportions that seemed slightly off the mark. But the CC lent credibility to the German automaker’s claim of being something more than a standard mass-market brand, and it was peddled by VW as the missing link between the workaday Passat and the Phaeton, which, after a brief appearance in the United States, became an exclusive-to-Europe offering.

The Phaeton ended its 14-year production run last year. But VW hasn’t given up on serving the financially comfortable and style-conscious customers who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Passat but who appreciate everything else VW stands for: generally high-quality workmanship and materials, lively engines, and balanced chassis tuning. And so we now have the Arteon, the CC’s successor, which will be offered in the U.S. market as a 2018 model.

Designed by Tobias Sühlmann under the tutelage of Klaus Bischoff, it is an elegant interpretation of the standard four-door sedan, although VW is touting it as a grand tourer. A six-blade grille integrated with slim LED headlights dominates the front end and accentuates its width, and the entire car hews closely to the lines of the Sport Coupe Concept GTE that VW showed in Geneva two years ago.

At 191.4 inches long, 73.7 inches wide, and 56.2 inches tall, the Arteon is roughly Passat-sized, coming in just a bit shorter, wider, and lower. Not just elegant but practical, it features a large rear hatch that can swallow 20 cubic feet of cargo (four cubes more than today’s Passat), and folding the rear seats increases the total to 55 cubic feet. It comes with a suite of available technology that places it right up there in premium terrain. In upper trim levels, there’s the option of an Audi-like fully digital cockpit with TFT screens, a head-up display, an infotainment system with gesture control, and an LED lighting system with innovative predictive cornering lights.

But the Arteon’s most premium feature may be its driving characteristics. This is not just a rebodied Passat; it represents the latest iteration of VW’s modular MQB architecture, a lightweight and dynamically impressive platform. On global markets, VW will offer a slew of turbocharged inline-fours, starting with a 148-hp 1.5-liter TSI engine and two versions of the familiar 2.0-liter TSI with 188 or 276 horsepower; there also will be a 2.0-liter diesel with 148, 188, or 236 horsepower. Front-wheel drive and 4MOTION all-wheel drive will be offered. Details are scarce for the U.S. market plan, but expect the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger, perhaps at both power levels, and probably the choice of front- or all-wheel drive paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, although a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is slated for other markets. We were told when we drove a prototype late last year that engineers also have been testing a V-6 version, but if it appears in the lineup, it will arrive later.

The prototypes we drove were camouflaged, but now the wrap is off and it looks as impressive as we’d hoped. Presented in regular and Elegance trim levels and offered with an R-Line package featuring new fascias, the Arteon should be one of the most interesting offerings in its segment.