The 2019feels at home on the German autobahn outside of Hannover cruising at triple-digit speeds. I catch a glimpse of a car in the rearview mirror rapidly approaching, prompting me to dive right to let them pass. I expect the white to rip by, but it doesn’t. Instead, the Bimmer slams on its brakes to pace me as the occupants snap photos of my Turmeric Yellow Metallic five-door liftback.
More photos follow. Another couple at a rest stop gushes over the looks of VW’sreplacement as they circle it, capturing pictures from all angles. I guess I can’t blame people for taking notice, because Wolfsburg has indeed created quite a looker with its coupe-like profile, clamshell hood, broad rear shoulders and 20-inch wheels. My R-Line-equipped test car also boasts extra visual punch, thanks to its more-aggressive bumper treatments.
It would be disappointing if something that looks this good didn’t pack respectable performance. Luckily, the Arteon doesn’t suffer from All Show, No Go Syndrome — it gets moving in a hurry when I pin the throttle to merge onto the speed-limit-free expressway. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder spits out 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on my German-spec tester. Not only is the little engine potent with no turbo lag issues, it also belts out an ear-pleasing growl.
A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission routes powers to all four tires on my 4Motion-equipped car. The dual-clutch gearbox is marvelous, bringing quick, well-timed shifts in full-auto to the party, as well as a fantastic manual shift mode. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know if the car we’ll get in the US will swap cogs as cleanly — US-bound Arteons will receive traditional eight-speed automatics, sending power to either the front or all four wheels.
With the adaptive three-mode Dynamic Chassis Control suspension in its firmest Sport setting, the car exhibits solid high-speed stability down Autobahn straights and around gradual curves. Thefeels comfortable at the roughly 112-mph pace I settle into. Steering remains weighty and responsive, the suspension easily damps out impacts from the few bumps I encounter, and the cabin remains impressively quiet. You may never find the need — or at least the opportunity — to dip into the triple digits while driving in the US, but the Arteon’s chops at high speeds suggest that it will be a more-than-competent companion for your interstate slog.
Off the motorway, on curvier pieces of pavement, the MQB-based Arteon continues to impress. Around corners, the body stays nearly flat, while the chassis boasts quick handling reflexes and a ton of grip, owing in no small part to the car’s meaty, sticky 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros. If you like 20s, I’ve got bad news — cars destined for the States will only be available with 18- and 19-inch wheels, but that should help preserve ride quality on America’s less-than-German-quality roads.
For regular driving, dialing up the Comfort detent in the Driving Mode Selection system brings about a smoother ride, lighter steering and more relaxed drive train behavior. It feels a touch too lazy for my liking — I prefer the car’s Normal setting for performance behavior that’s just right.
Slow-moving traffic and a lack of safe passing opportunities on two-lane roads gives me the opportunity to slow down and take a closer look at my cabin surroundings, which are attractive. The Nappa leather seats are firm and comfortable over the course of my half-day of driving, but a touch more side support is still on my wish list. Materials are of good quality throughout, with even hard plastic bits featuring attractive finishes. Like many VW products, small details such as the felt-lined storage cubbies and door pockets lend the cabin a more premium feel.
Compared to the outgoing CC, the Arteon’s 5.2-inch-longer wheelbase provides additional cabin space. Two average-size adults will have serviceable head- and legroom in the rear seats, but rolling three deep in back will be a bit snug and is likely best reserved for shorter trips. But if you’re more concerned about carrying packages than people, with the backseats folded, there’s an impressive 58.8 cubic feet of cargo space available.
There’s no shortage of tech goodies, either. Handling infotainment duties is a 9.2-inch center touchscreen with gesture controls. It’s a responsive system that pages through all the various navigation and audio menus quickly. An 11-speaker Dynaudio audio system sounds greats but lacks traditional knobs for volume and station tuning, which is absolutely maddening.
What’s the good news? The infotainment screen coming to the US will have regular knobs on it. What’s the bad news? The available display will measure only 8 inches, not 9.2. However, a smaller screen is something I’m willing to live with as long as I get intuitive controls.
If you are hell-bent on having a monster screen in your Arteon, you’ll be able to opt for the 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit, providing you with an adjustable gauge cluster, a setup we’ve already seen on VW’s new Atlas three-row crossover.
On the safety front, all the typical goodies are here, including adaptive cruise control with stop & go, 360-degree bird’s-eye camera coverage, and a rear traffic alert system that warns you about approaching side traffic when backing out of parking spots and driveways. The available Lane Assist system does a good job of gently steering me back into my lane when unintentionally drifting, and Front Assist isn’t overly sensitive, only activating when warranted.
If the Arteon sounds like an interesting candidate to occupy a spot in your garage, be prepared to strap in for a wait, because this beauty won’t hit Volkswagen showrooms here until the summer of 2018. With North American sales still so far out, final details on exact specs and equipment offerings aren’t available yet, but my drive in the German market car provides a decent idea of what we can expect.
As a replacement for the aging CC, it’s probably a safe bet to guess the 2019 Arteon will wear a base price in the $35,000 range when it finally arrives. Volkswagen says that it is targeting entry-level premium cars like the $33,950 Acura TLX and $34,855 Infiniti Q50, so the Arteon may carry a slight price premium compared to its Japanese competitors. If it does, I suspect many will think the extra scratch for the VW will be worth it for its styling alone. After all, would anyone on the German autobahn slam on the brakes to take pictures of a TLX or Q50? Somehow, I doubt it.