While SA has not yet woken up to what is happening in the rest of the world, the fact is that times are changing in the automotive industry.
Electric vehicles are charging into the fray, petrol engines are being downsized and the repercussions of Dieselgate as well as environmental awareness in London, Paris and Stuttgart are killing off diesel at a rapid rate.
Which is why some will see it as controversial if I say I am a fan of diesel cars. I’m not a fan of the emissions issues, nor of the cheating that the industry did to achieve US and European emissions targets. But when you climb into the new Volkswagen Arteon and it tells you that you have a range of 880km then diesel’s biggest fan is my wallet.
The financial aspect is something that many will have to come to terms with as they trade in their diesel for a petrol vehicle, particularly with the rise in petrol prices. They will also have to accept that their carbon dioxide emissions, long the primary subject of reduction targets, will rise even though their nitrogen oxide emissions will drop.
Unless you can afford to go the zero-emissions route with electric or hydrogen (and the essential government assistance) then you will have to compromise on something.
But this is a road test and not an industry debate column so back to the Arteon.
You already know that it has a superb diesel motor, albeit one that might have a few pieces of dodgy code in its software (for legal reasons I am only saying “might”). It offers a great balance of economy and performance with less of the turbo lag that has often plagued the power plant and gearbox combination in Volkswagen Group products.
In normal mode, the 130kW and 350Nm provides reasonable get-go and superb cruising ability, enhanced by the torque spread between 1,600 and 3,500r/min which makes mid-range overtaking easy. It is relatively quiet and extremely smooth, all of which makes the Arteon less of a sports coupe and more of a cruiser.
If you want more sports then go for the 206kW petrol version, but as an all-rounder the 2.0l TDI is certainly up to the job. Switch it into a more sporty mode and things sharpen up for those out-of-town moments.
Being a little bit sporty is only part of what the Arteon is about though. Its big appeal is style and it has lots of it, much more than the previous Passat CC.
From almost every angle it looks superb, particularly with the R-Design kit. The drooped nose is dramatic but also makes the bonnet look shorter than you expect, giving the impression the car is smaller than the CC was. The doors are all frameless and the roof tapers away to that beautiful rear with a hint of a bootlid spoiler, the upmarket look of the Arteon badging and the dynamic swishing tail lights. It all looks very good indeed.
There is just one glaring issue with the styling and I suspect it is more of an engineering issue. For some reason, the bonnet has massive overbites on each side, with around 3mm extending over each wheel arch. The fact that it is on both sides suggests it is not a fitment issue but an engineering flaw. It is odd given the high standard of German engineering apparent throughout the rest of the vehicle.
Given that it has good looks, excellent boot space and even decent rear passenger space, one can’t help but wonder why anyone would buy a Passat, essentially the same beneath the skin even if VW will claim many of the parts are different.
The Passat is about to get a facelift though, which will give the sedan more of the Arteon look and will probably keep it at the top of the sales charts in its category in Germany.
Inside though, it is very much familiar Passat territory. The wide dash features lines that run from door to door, broken only by the large touchscreen infotainment system with its gesture control and the digital instrument cluster. It is on the one hand modern minimalism and on the other classic.
There are still plenty of buttons for those who prefer it that way and most things can be controlled via the controls on the steering wheel. The infotainment system works well but it required more than one attempt to get it to respond to inputs.
The Arteon has to compete with the Audi A7 Sportback of course, but SA is waiting on the arrival of the latest generation giving the Volkswagen a bit of a head start.
As four-door coupes go, the Arteon is in a class of its own, which is probably also a reflection of the type of person who will buy one. – Mark Smyth
Fast Facts: VW Arteon 2.0 TDI R-Design
Engine: 1968cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 130kW at 4 000rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1 600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch DSG
0-100km/h: 8.7-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 220km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 5.6l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 145g/km (claimed)
Price: From R649 900