Since its debut in 2019, the Arteon has been called Volkswagen’s flagship “sedan” – never mind that it looks like a coupe and is actually a hatchback, or “sportback.”
The midsize Arteon, especially in the R-Line spec, was a welcome improvement over the CC it replaced – and even the Passat – in quality and performance. Of course, it cost a few shekels more, too.
But now it dares to take aim at its higher-end cousin, the Audi A5, and its equally capable foe, the BMW 4 Series. VW boosted Arteon’s horsepower for 2022 and added a quick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, replacing the eight-speed automatic. This comes just after last year’s style refresh inside and out, and a much-improved infotainment system.
The Arteon surely has a competitive look. Its striking feature is a clamshell hood that overlaps the grille and fenders. Flashy air vents are in the lower corners and daytime running lights encircle the headlamps and streak across the grille. Flared wheel arches add a feeling of strength to the profile.
Every Arteon gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine capable of 300 horsepower (up by 32 hp) and 295 pound-feet of torque. The sportback is quick enough, getting to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds with a reported top speed of 128 mph.
Despite the power boost and sportback moniker, don’t expect sports-car performance – it’s not particularly engaging to drive. But it’s well-behaved for everyday commutes and errands, and it handles the corners competently. Four drive modes – Normal, Sport, Eco and Custom – assist in fine-tuning performance.
An adaptive suspension system also is standard and does a good job of making adjustments on corners and on rougher surfaces. Fuel economy is about average for the segment: 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined with 4Motion.
Upgraded technology headlines the Arteon cabin. A new 10.23-inch digital instrument cluster, called VW’s digital cockpit, works in unison with an 8-inch infotainment screen. That means the navigation screen can be moved in front of the driver for easier glances.
The infotainment system is relatively easy to use and responds quickly to inputs, but the screen graphics and images lack the sharpness of some others in today’s marketplace. It has a Wi-Fi hot spot and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The R-line also has wireless charging and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
The cabin has a cleaner, elegant look with new, high-quality materials and features, leather and aluminum accents, and ambient lighting offered in a whopping 30 colors.
Arteon seats five and is roomy for its size. In the R-Line, seats are trimmed in leather, heated and ventilated. The driver’s seat has 12-way power adjustments plus massage feature. A nice addition for this segment are puddle lights under both front doors.
In the rear, seats are heated and offer plenty of leg and shoulder room. Surprisingly, most will even have good head room in spite of the sloping hatchback roof.
Cargo room is outstanding, offering 27.2 cubic feet of space. The second row folds down, too, opening a total of 56.2 cubic feet. Those figures rival some SUVs. There’s additional space under the floor, too.
Volkswagen’s safety features are contained in its Travel Assist, a group of advanced-technology features including adaptive cruise control with emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-keep and blind-spot assist. A forward camera reads road signs and displays them at the display center. A rear-view camera stays remarkably clear since it’s cleverly hidden beneath the VW logo.
The Audi and Bimmer may have the Arteon beat in agility and pure driving fun, but the Arteon SEL R-Line surely belongs in the conversation when it comes to style and technology.
Barry Spyker was the automotive editor and columnist for the Miami Herald.
2022 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line
MSRP: $45,810 (Includes R-Line styling, leather interior, panoramic sunroof, advanced safety tech)
What’s all the excitement about? Arteon gets power boost and new 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbo four, good for 300 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque
How’s the performance? While not athletic, it’s nicely poised on highway and around town; 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 28 highway, for 23 combined w/AWD