LET’S FACE IT: VW CC was a daft name for a five-door coupe. Possibly calling its replacement the Arteon isn’t any more sensible, but at least people won’t be asking you how the convertible roof opens. Instead, they’ll be too busy sympathising that you couldn’t afford to buy a proper premium car to quibble over the appropriate pronunciation. Those of you who are hoping the Arteon would sparkle as a cut-price alternative to the likes of the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback – perhaps powered by that fizzy new 1.5-litre TSI engine from the Mk5 Golf, for a little added lightness of being – are in for a disappointment. When it arrives in the UK in September there will be just two engine choices, a 2.0-litre diesel with 236bhp and a 2.0-litre petrol with 276bhp, both with 4Motion all-wheel drive and DSG as standard. List prices will be upwards of £38k.
The inclination is to go ouch. But it’s not as if you won’t be getting value for money. Whichever of the two trim levels they’ve gone for – Elegance or more aggressively visaged R-Line – Arteon occupants will be generously looked after. It has the longest wheelbase in its class and rear legroom approaching the Skoda Superb’s, albeit in combination with a roofline curvy enough to put a crick in taller necks. If you’re up front you won’t care, though. From the outside this is the most striking VW in years – from the way the LEDs merge into that egg-slicer grille to the astonishingly sharp creases along the flanks, it’s every bit the 2015 GTE Sport Coupe concept made actual. Inside, the dashboard blends faultless quality with the sleek modernity of VW’s new Discovery Pro infotainment system, with its 9.2-inch glass screen and slick user interface.
Tripping over modern towards the cutting edge, VW has also crammed in its very latest safety systems – including GPS-con-trolled headlights and an Emergency Assist upgrade that will steer the Arteon to a stop at the side of the road should you pass out at the wheel. Oh, and the adaptive cruise control speeds up and slows down according to traffic signs and nav data, while the autonomous lane assist is probably the smoothest we’ve ever experienced. So, for much of the time you can quite literally let the Arteon pilot itself. And to be honest, you might as well. For despite GTI-spec Progressive Steering and an adaptive suspension system with an absurd amount of adjustment (we counted 43 possible settings from below Comfort to beyond Sport), by far the most disappointing thing about the Arteon is that it isn’t anywhere near as exciting to drive as it is to look at.
There’s plenty of performance – the preferable 276bhp TSI shrugging off 62mph in 5.6 mellifluously metallic seconds worthy of such fancy phrasing – and said suspension is impressively adept at smoothing out the interaction between bumpy surfaces, optional 20-inch rims and your arse. But there’s no bite to the handling, and no sense at all that the Arteon is ever going to get under your skin.