VAG’s “flagship” model is a clever, attractive saloon with a real cracker under the bonnet. Charlie Flindt finds little to moan about


Volkswagen have a new flagship model – the Volkswagen Arteon. With plentiful headroom and elbowroom, an attractive design and a real cracker under the bonnet – Charlie Flindt is impressed.

For more motoring reviews, find out what Charlie Flindt thought of the latest addition to the Range Rover stable. Read Range Rover Velar.


The fact that Volkswagen is calling the new Arteon its “flagship” is interesting, not least because it’s a million miles away from VW’s previous standard bearer, the not-much-loved Phaeton. The latter was a four-door saloon that looked like a muscled-up Passat, was hugely sophisticated (aka complicated) and quietly slipped off the price lists a couple of years ago. It’s now one of the best second-hand bargains out there.

The Arteon, far from being a bland saloon, is (and I love quoting press releases) an “avant-garde gran turismo with svelte fastback styling”. Run that line through the bullshit filter and it comes out as, “a low and wide four-door saloon with a long, sloping hatchback”.

Volkswagen Arteon

The active info display.

It looks better in the metal than it does on the press release, with the multiple lights cleverly incorporated into the horizontal lines of the front grille.

More cleverness happens inside the Arteon – the “low” bit makes access a tad awkward but once you’re in, you get ample headroom and huge elbowroom. The seats are worthy of an article themselves, with multiple adjustments eventually leading to a Goldilocks moment – just right. Room in the back is a bit tighter, courtesy of the sloping roof, but the rear hatch opens to an amazingly long and surprisingly deep (considering what’s going on underneath) boot area.

After recent disappointments with VAG diesels, it’s nice to report that the Arteon has a real cracker under the bonnet. It has heaps of grunt and, most importantly in an era when automatic gearboxes change up far too early, pulls away really well from low revs. It makes a lovely, guttural noise at the same time, although I’m not sure VW would count this as a plus point; judging by the double-glazed glass in the frameless doors, the company has gone to great lengths to suppress noise. The last thing it wants is someone raving about the din of the engine.

Volkswagen Arteon

Cleverly incorporated lights.

My test car came with the excellent 4Motion system, which unobtrusively gets on with distributing the power to all four wheels when needed, giving a great sense of security and stability. The only criticism of the drive-train and suspension was that it was a bit harsh on some potholes.

There was little else to moan about. Until I worked out how to adjust the “head-up” display, it was relaying vital driving information straight to the middle of my chest – “tits-up”, you could call it. And the colour was a frankly hideous 1970s shade of yellowy bronze, probably last seen on an Allegro; I tried really hard to persuade myself that it was a unique shade of brown, just so that I could refer to it as Arteon Sienna.

This new “flagship” VW will no doubt fare better than the ill-fated Phaeton – and not just because it’s somewhat less grand and staid. The Arteon brings a whole new flair and excitement to VW – something that has been missing from the rest of the range for ages. I mean, when was the last time you pointed excitedly at a Polo or a Passat – or was it a Phaeton? I rest my case.

Volkswagen Arteon R-Line 2.0 TDI 4Motion 7-speed DSG
♦ Engine: 1,968cc 4-cyl diesel
♦ Power: 240PS
♦ Max speed: 152mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 6.5 sec
♦ Combined fuel economy: 47.9mpg
♦ Insurance group (0-20): 32
♦ Price: £39,955