Video | The Volkswagen Arteon Is a Strange Decision

I recently had the chance to drive the brand-new 2019 Volkswagen Arteon, which has finally reached Volkswagen dealers after considerable delays — delays so long, in fact, that the car has already been out in Europe for nearly a year. But it’s finally here, and it’s gorgeous, and it’s wonderful, and it’s … odd.

Before I get into what I mean, a little back story. The vehicle that preceded the Volkswagen Arteon was a sporty-looking version of the Volkswagen Passat, which VW called the "CC." That car came out in 2009, it was heavily face-lifted a few years ago and it was canceled after the 2017 model year. Following its cancellation, we all expected Volkswagen to just close up shop in this segment and move on to SUVs, which everyone else was doing — but that’s not what happened.

What happened instead is the Arteon, which was once again a sporty-looking midsize sedan that offers a more stylish sedan alternative to Volkswagen shoppers who don’t just want a boring ol’ Passat. There’s certainly a contingent of people this vehicle will appeal to — but in today’s world of SUV takeover, I’m shocked they’d attempt it. Still, they did attempt it, and it’s pretty good.

What I mean by "pretty good" is that the Arteon does precisely what it says it will. For one thing, it really is nice-looking; it’s handsome, well-proportioned and, indeed, far more attractive than a regular Passat. If you’re a Passat shopper, I could easily see you seeing this thing on the lot and getting very, very tempted. The interior, too, is gorgeous: upscale materials everywhere, well-designed and simply handsome. It just looks good, inside and out.

The Arteon also has some other benefits, too — like excellent technology. The one I drove was loaded with camera technology from basically every angle, it had heated rear seats and a rear climate zone, and it had a responsive, modern touchscreen with a lot of excellent functionality. There’s also a litany of safety equipment as you’d expect from a modern luxury-ish car.

As for the powertrain, it mostly does what it promises: Here in North America, the Arteon will only be offered with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which makes 270 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That engine seems potent enough, and it is, but only "potent enough." It’s not fast, it’s not particularly engaging or thrilling, and it’s probably not as exciting as the styling and market positioning of the Arteon would suggest. It’s good, but it’s not great.

And that leads us to the pricing. An Arteon starts from around $36,000, and the one I drove was listed for around $47,000, which is huge money for a sedan from a non-luxury brand. It’s cheaper than its closest rival in the Volkswagen family, the Audi A5 Sportback, but it’s far, far more expensive than the Volkswagen Passat that it’s intended to draw shoppers away from, as the Passat starts around $26,500.

That price is undoubtedly going to be the sticking point of the Arteon. Volkswagen has created an excellent car here, but the market is moving away from sedans — and most automakers are taking fewer risks with sedan models and narrowing down their lineups to just the essentials. Volkswagen releasing this stylish "alternative sedan" is a strange decision, for sure, in a market so clearly thriving on SUVs — and releasing it at this price point is even more surprising.

Still, the Arteon is very good. It drives well, it’s powerful enough, and the steering and handling are nice; not particularly sporty, but stable and secure and enough to keep you pleased while you’re driving it — and the interior and exterior styling will have the same effect. The Arteon’s problem comes with the pricing and the market: Are there really people out there looking for a stylish sedan with a 4-cylinder engine and a Volkswagen badge … for $47,000? The answer is, probably, yes — but not many of them. For the few people who want exactly that, the Arteon is perfect. For me, however, I’m surprised Volkswagen didn’t spend this car’s development dollars on increasing the size of Volkswagen’s SUV lineup — which currently stands at two to Toyota’s six. Find a Volkswagen Arteon for sale

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