2021 Volkswagen Arteon

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Updated: March 12, 2021

2021 Volkswagen Arteon

The 2021 VW Arteon is a stylish, fashion-forward car that wears premium style but carries a more prosaic sticker price.

For 2021, the Arteon gets some major updates, including a now-standard 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Climate controls are now manipulated via haptic sliders; a new steering wheel also sports capacitive touch controls. The exterior benefits from mildly revised styling front and rear.

Every Arteon is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 268 horsepower. It gets paired with an 8-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is offered on all but the base trim. Expect 22 mpg city, 32 highway, and 25 combined with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models return 20/31/24 mpg.

VW packs every Arteon with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. Higher trims feature adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and active lane control; these models also allow for brief instances of hands-free driving. A surround-view camera system comes standard on the top trim.

The IIHS named the Arteon a Top Safety Pick. The NHTSA hasn’t conducted testing.

Model Lineup

VW offers the Arteon in three flavors: base SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium. For $38,190, the SE gets a good haul of features that includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone compatibility, a 10.3-inch digital dash, synthetic leather upholstery, and 12-way heated power front seats.

Moving into the $42,790 SEL R-Line brings a more stylish outward appearance thanks to an illuminated front light bar, 19-inch wheels, a black grille, and sporty trim. The interior is enhanced with nappa leather upholstery and ambient lighting. Adaptive LED headlights, a panoramic roof, and power-folding side mirrors are also made standard.

The SEL Premium R-Line- begins at $48,190. It has standard all-wheel drive, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and a massaging seat for the driver. A power trunk, parking assist, and rear climate controls round out the included luxuries.

Exterior

Remove the badge from the Arteon and it could be mistaken for one of the company’s more expensive brands. The Arteon has a fastback body with a purposeful, style-conscious design. The body is noticeably wider than the greenhouse; a clear crease demarcates where the two come together.

We think the best angle is dead-on, where a wide, low-set grille is flanked on its upper corners by a pair of sinister-looking quad headlights. An illuminated light bar now runs across the grille on the pricier two trims. It’s a neat touch that lends a whiff of luxury to the front end.

Interior

Pared down and classy, the Arteon’s interior is simple, the materials are good quality, the fit and finish is equal to what the premium automakers offer. This is a contemporary and functional cockpit.

Well, mostly functional. The new touch-capacitive controls for the climate and infotainment are finicky—move just a bit too much in one direction and you’ve either blasted your heater or silenced your radio. We miss the buttons.

Otherwise, the 8.0-inch touchscreen works well. We also appreciate the new wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which saves the two standard USB ports for when you need to charge up.

You can get a massaging driver’s seat wrapped in nappa leather on the top trim, but you don’t need to spend that much money to get a decently comfortable throne. Even the base models get 12-way adjustment and feature excellent support for long drives.

The back seat has 40 inches of leg room, but the low roofline cuts head room down to just 37 inches. For shorter folk this is a non-issue, but those over 6 feet might want to call shotgun.

The Arteon’s hatchback design ensures excellent cargo room that ranges from 27 cubic feet with the seats up to 56 cubes with them folded.

Driving Impressions

The Arteon taps a 268-horsepower turbo-4 for power. The turbo-4 lets all the torque loose before 2,000 rpm, but pushes a car weighing 4,000 pounds. We wouldn’t complain if it offered more muscle. The only transmission is an 8-speed automatic, which we approve of.

Multiple driving modes match the Arteon’s behavior to your mood. Sport mode livens things up by stiffening the adaptive dampers and holding gears longer, but this car excels as a grand tourer.

Leave it in comfort mode and soak up the miles; the chassis eats up bad roads and the precise steering never needs correction. Even the available 20-inch wheels don’t hurt the ride.

Final Word

The 2021 VW Arteon is a tony machine among VW’s more proletarian offerings. It’s rife with premium touches and a soothing ride, and its sleek shape is a winner. We’d make ours an SEL R-Line.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection