Anyone who frequents our comments will know readers don't always agree with the expert reviews published on CarAdvice. Our team of road testers and journalists are lucky to drive lots of cars, but that also means we approach things from a certain angle.
With that in mind, we're starting a new project with our readers. Rather than hogging the keys, we're slinging them to frequent site visitors, commenters and members of owner groups. The idea is to get a range of perspectives on a certain car, and pull them together in one place.
The first car up for assessment is a Chilli Red Volkswagen Arteon 206TSI R-Line.
Martin Lau: I've been interested in cars since I got my first matchbox car! Having owned a WRX (I currently driving a BMW 330i) my niche area is in the sports sedan market. Coming from a science background, I love seeing how cars are evolving over time, and it always excites me when manufacturers introduce new tech in their vehicles.
Rhys Fairall: I’m a self-proclaimed automotive fanatic, who lives and breathes anything attached to four wheels or two. From Matchbox and Hot Wheels to the real deal, plus just about everything in between, I’ve been all things automotive for as long as I’ve been able to walk.
I’ve built friendship circles through a shared passion for cars and motorcycles with some of the best people you could ever hope to meet. My spare time is filled with automotive chit-chat around mates, which can go on for hours. I’m that guy that’ll thrive off telling you fun facts about any car, especially when it’s something no-one really needs to know or care about. I’m all about the details.
Daniel Davis: The earliest memory I have of motorsport was watching the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in 1990, where Prost and Senna crashed into one another at the first corner. After this race, I took a keen interest in F1 and also got into watching rallying, thanks to the brilliance of the late Colin McRae in the mid-1990s. After go-karting for the first time as a child, the feeling I got from that experience was something that cemented my interest in cars and driving.
About the Arteon
Designed to replace the unloved Passat CC, renamed CC late in life, the Arteon is a slinkier, sexier take on the family-oriented Passat. It still has four doors, but the roof line is lower and the wheelbase longer. Just look at that grille, too.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine making 206kW and 350Nm. It's put to all four wheels through a 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, and a seven-speed DSG transmission is standard.
There's plenty of standard equipment, too. Autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring are all standard, along with an emergency assist system that, if required, can autonomously pull the car to the side of the road and call emergency services.
Anyway, enough from us. Over to the readers, who filled out a questionnaire upon returning the Arteon to CarAdvice.
What is your daily driver?
Daniel: My current daily is a 2014-model Ford Ranger with the turbo-diesel 3.2-litre, five-cylinder engine. I use the car for work and find it reliable with loads of torque. I own a 1994 BMW M3 E36, but only use it on the weekends.
Martin: My current daily driver is a 2017 BMW 330i. It's currently my only car, so I use it to commute to work, do the grocery run, and go on road trips.
Rhys: Stepping out of my 2017 Skoda Octavia vRS Wagon, the opportunity to spend time with Volkswagen’s new Arteon R-Line came as an exciting opportunity. Despite a number of similarities between the two vehicles – they’re both built on the popular MQB platform and share near identical motors – they are very much designed against different price points, and intended for different target markets.
Why did you want to drive the Arteon?
Daniel: Being a massive car enthusiast, it may come as a surprise I’ve never driven a model from the current Volkswagen range. As a regular spectator of the Targa High Country, I’ve seen countless VW Golf GTI and R drivers return very respectable times against the best from Nissan, Porsche, Audi and BMW. Given the Arteon shares its engine with the Golf R in slightly detuned form, I was keen to see how it performed.
Martin: How can you say no when someone from CarAdvice emails about test-driving a rocket on the road? I've always had a thing for high-performance four-door sedans, and was stoked when offered the Arteon. I really wanted to compare it to my 330i, which is similar in price.
Rhys: When CarAdvice put forward a week with the Arteon, I was immediately eager to accept. As exciting as the car is, I was looking forward to the opportunity to test my ability to review a vehicle, as I’ve always held an interest in the field.
What was the first thing you noticed about the car?
Daniel: The first thing I noticed about the car was the chiselled front and swooping roof line, as well as the Chilli Red paint. I like how the front lights are integrated into the grille, and how VW has made a four-door really look like a proper coupe. The 20-inch black turbine wheels finish off the car nicely, but in my opinion would look better if they were a bit smaller.
Martin: First thing I noticed about the Arteon was its striking Chilli Red paint. Upon entering the car, I was greeted by a heavily fingerprinted (Sorry, shoulda cleaned that for you – Ed) touchscreen standing out from the centre console, as well as the Virtual Cockpit displaying the speedometer, rev-counter and a GPS map. There was plenty of room in the back, both head- and leg-wise. This was very surprising, as I was always dubious of sloping roofs on four-door coupes.
Having driven the BMW 330i for a while, I was familiar with the plethora of technology offered on the Arteon, however I believe upon first glance Volkswagen has really nailed the sweet spot when it comes to the cameras around the car. Not only does that provide a bird's-eye view for easy parking, it allows you to select each camera individually. You can even look at the wheels when parking to avoid scraping them.
Rhys: Come collection day, the first thing that caught my attention was the colour. I say this not just because of how well-suited metallic Chilli Red is to the Arteon, but because I had previously asked what colour the car would be and was told it was black (Blame Melissa for that – Ed). That aside, the size of the Arteon was immediately apparent. It oozes class from a first glance, as the sculptural lines, creases and flowing design of the body give a real sense of class.
Was it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel?
Daniel: It was very easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, and a perfect driving position could be achieved. I found the black Nappa leather seats to be supportive, comfortable and stylish. The driver’s seat offers electric 14-way adjustment with a massage function, and the steering column has tilt and reach adjustment. The Arteon has a lovely flat-bottomed steering wheel, but I felt like the paddles could be slightly larger. It’s a well-packaged car with generous rear leg and head room and a large boot. The car also has a full-sized spare wheel.
Martin: After adjusting the seat to suit my height, it was very easy to find a supportive position to drive for long periods without any aches or pains. Not being a fan of massages, though, I never really got to appreciate the massage function, and found it quite distracting when I was driving. However, I can understand how comforting this might be for people on the drive home from work.
My only complaint was that the buttons that turn off the auto start/stop and driving modes are on the other side of the gear stick on the centre console. It wasn't something that was too much of an issue, however, and I quickly got used to it.
Rhys: Jump inside and the premium feel carries through. Sure, it’s not completely doused in leather like the market-leaders in top-end luxury vehicles, but it feels solid and well thought out. The materials inside provide a sense of quality, and the fit and finish are exactly what you’d expect of a Volkswagen – it all feels just right. Seat and mirror controls are intuitive and easy to operate, and the addition of a memory function is a nice touch. It’s easy to feel at home inside the Arteon, although my home doesn’t include a massaging seat like the car.
Was phone pairing easy, and are all the buttons in a logical spot?
Daniel: All the buttons for phone pairing were in a logical spot. I found the 9.2-inch infotainment system easy to use, and it was easy to set up Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. I didn’t have the same hassles as in the Audi S1 I drove previously. Personally, I felt the head-up display (HUD) was a bit tacky, just being a thin bit of glass that comes out from the dash. The Active Info Display was clear and easy to read with configurable views for navigation, infotainment, driver assistance and vehicle functions.
Martin: Pairing was an easy task, and the vehicle recognised my phone within seconds. The audio and microphone are in an ideal spot in the car, and the other person on the line could clearly hear my voice. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy CarPlay was to use, and couldn't go back to using Volkswagen's default entertainment system – not that anything was wrong with it.
Aside from the auto start/stop and driving mode button being on the wrong side, the buttons were easy to access and clearly labelled. Going back to the touchscreen took some time after using the rotary knob on my 330i, but I found the system is simple to operate with just a few swipes. Gesture control to change pages or songs was an absolute treat to use, but I still prefer the rotary knob.
Rhys: Conveniently, the Arteon’s infotainment system is almost a replica for that of my Skoda, so it took all of a few moments to get paired up and on my way. I have found the Volkswagen system to be one of the more intuitive on the market, so I’m sure I wouldn’t have had trouble figuring it out even if I hadn’t done it before. Better yet, the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a fantastic addition in this regard, as you don’t even need to worry about pairing Bluetooth, it’s all hooked up automatically when you plug in. Technology these days!
Did you find the car comfortable? Why/why not?
Daniel: With the driver’s seat offering a multitude of adjustment, the car is incredibly comfortable. It’s the first car I’ve driven with a heated, massaging seat, which is definitely a welcome change. The tri-zone climate-control air-conditioning works well and both front seats (and left and right rear passenger seats) are equipped with tri-mode heating. I also like the LED strip built into the door trims. I found the ride was firm in Sport, but fine in Eco, Comfort and Normal modes.
Martin: After adjusting the seats and the lumbar support, I found the car incredibly comfortable. I'm no giant, but the R-Line seats offer excellent support for your back, and also laterally for minimal swaying in the corners. I found the ride a tad on the firmer side, even in Eco or Comfort modes, and a lot more firm in Sport mode, but nowhere near uncomfortable. Over long distances, I think the Arteon would be an incredibly comfortable car.
Rhys: Now paired up and ready to hit the road. The previous driver very kindly left the Arteon in Sport mode, which certainly had the car feeling a bit abrupt on the rough inner-city roads, but that was quickly resolved by flicking the drive mode across to Comfort with the push of a button. Comfort mode softened and smoothed everything out a little bit – perfect for the quality of Melbourne’s suburban tarmac. Definitely the most comfortable way to get around town. Pretty content at this point.
Image: Adrian Baker, Zero.Ctrl Photography
Did the car seem faster or slower than expected?
Daniel: After familiarising myself with the car, I set out for a drive to the Yarra Ranges. The car felt fast and I’m not surprised by its claimed 0–100km/h time of 5.6 seconds. The engine does lack some top-end punch, but there wasn’t as much lag as in the Audi S1 I drove, although it shares a similar engine. The seven-speed DSG is very fast between shifts, but can hunt for gears when you kick down hard. When using the shifter, I would prefer to push the gear lever up for down-changes to suit the momentum of the car. Finally, I found it frustrating that the gearbox wouldn’t hold the gear I wanted in Sport.
Martin: The Arteon felt a lot quicker than I anticipated, and Volkswagen has held true to its claimed 0–100km/h in 5.8 seconds. Although extremely quick in numbers, it did not feel quick in the cabin, and I frequently found myself going faster than I initially thought.
I found the seven-speed DSG to be lightning between shifts, bit it still had minor remnants of 'jerkiness' on acceleration/deceleration that I thought plagued earlier DSG vehicles, though this was far from being a nuisance in the Arteon.
Rhys: Out of the tighter sections of town and closer to home, I got to open the Arteon up a little bit. The familiar 2.0-litre TSI motor has plenty of get up and go, and gives the impression there's something much larger under the bonnet. There’s a noticeable lag with a brisk take-off, and a moment's hesitation when giving the Arteon the boot from cruising speed, neither of which I would consider unacceptable or difficult to live with.
That’s the price you pay for the economy of a small engine with the power of a big one – a worthy compromise. The aforementioned lag can be avoided if you’re in a spirited mood by simply switching the car into Sport and jumping on the paddle-shifters yourself. It’s more fun like that, too.
Image: Adrian Baker, Zero.Ctrl Photography
What were the most and least enjoyable parts of driving the car?
Daniel: I really enjoyed the responsiveness of the turbo engine, and the amount of grip the 4Motion system offered, particularly in the wet. The car was also well balanced and composed through the corners. I liked how the car could be a comfortable daily driver, but also offer some weekend fun.
It was good to play around with different settings, but I didn’t feel a great difference between them. I’m not really experienced with DSG gearboxes, but this was the least enjoyable part of the car. I just found it to skip through gears too often, and it felt like it would sometimes select the wrong gear, particularly on down-changes. The exhaust note of the car is a bit disappointing, but did sound slightly better in Sport.
Martin: I really liked how the car doubles as a family getaway, with ample space for passengers and luggage, as well as offering the sporty performance when pushed hard. Although, the locked-down feeling in the cabin mitigates the rush of adrenaline you usually get when pushing it through corners. I think the Arteon has the capability to turn any trip, whether it's the shopping or a road trip, into a relaxing drive.
I guess this was also the least enjoyable aspect of the Arteon. Yes, it's quick, but it didn't feel like I was driving a true performance sedan, as I felt too safe and cocooned in the cabin, even after turning off the lane assistant. This was amplified by its relatively lacklustre exhaust note and well-insulated cabin.
Rhys: Narrowing the best parts of driving the Arteon and those least enjoyable is not the simplest task. The versatility of the Arteon is one of its best party tricks, and its ability to switch from comfortable highway tourer to eager sports saloon is impressive. There are few cars I’ve experienced that feel as composed and alive on a winding road as the Arteon, while feeling so plush and relaxing around town or on the highway.
When it comes to making noise, the Arteon does it the wrong way around. It would be great to have a bit of a growl in Sport, like it’s a Golf R. The silence in that sense takes away a little from what a capable car it can be when you’re having a crack on your favourite twisty run. On the flip-side, I wish there were a button I could have pushed to kill the road noise. On rough tarmac it’s borderline ridiculous. Pirelli P-Zeros aren’t the quietest tyre ever made, but you can’t blame them totally. It’s just lacking sound deadening for a car of this class.
Image: Adrian Baker, Zero.Ctrl Photography
How does it compare to your daily driver?
Daniel: There are plenty of differences between the Arteon and my E36 M3. The Volkswagen is a lot newer and has a lot more driver assists and safety features. The BMW is now 24 years old and trim pieces have definitely seen better days. In regards to the driving experience, the M3 feels more composed over bumps and develops its power higher in the rev range, whereas the Volkswagen feels strong from 2000rpm. The 0–100km/h times on paper are comparable between the two cars, but I feel like the Arteon is faster.
Martin: On paper, my BMW 330i and the Arteon may look similar, but I found them very different. The Arteon is definitely the winner when it comes to safety and comfort, as the 330i is quite harsh over long periods. After asking some passengers, however, they very much preferred riding in the Arteon as the level of comfort and interior cabin space were superior to the 330i.
When it comes to the driving experience, however, I think the 330i offers a lot more sporty feedback to the driver compared to the Arteon. Putting it in Sport mode and blitzing it through corners with its intrinsic oversteer due to the RWD, I feel the 330i gives me more excitement and exhilaration as a sports sedan, something the Arteon couldn't do.
Rhys: Compared to what I’m used to, the Arteon feels like a higher-class car. It’s got a prestige feeling to it the Skoda doesn’t, especially when you’re cruising along in one of the more comfortable settings. The Arteon doesn’t feel as eager as the Skoda to drive, which is a fair reflection of the intended crowd. Comparatively, the Skoda feels a bit like an excitable puppy dog, whereas the Arteon is a little more feline. It can be exciting and playful, but does so with a little more class and doesn’t have to be like that all the time.
Image: Adrian Baker, Zero.Ctrl Photography
Where did you take the car?
Daniel: I drove the car on wet roads around Healesville, and there was only the slightest bit of understeer when driven enthusiastically through the corners – a testament to how good the all-wheel-drive system is. The ventilated disc brakes were also wonderful, and the electro-mechanical steering has quite a fast ratio. The Arteon never felt out of its depth when the roads got twisty, even though it’s heavy at 1658kg and is more a 'prestige' car than a performance one.
Martin: I took the car into the Yarra Valley, where I got to experience some long straights as well as some twisty bends. I also took the car into the city, where I assessed how the car handled in some of the tight one-way streets of Fitzroy.
Rhys: The opportunity to drive the Arteon around for a week certainly wasn’t going to go wasted. A short weekend drive was in order – to Mount Hotham perhaps? The idea was to properly experience the car in a range of environments and see how it adapted to the mixture of open highway and winding country roads.
The desire to drive didn’t stop us from seeing the sights. The High Country is quite possibly my favourite part of Victoria, so making the most of the opportunity to take in the sights and enjoy the local cafes wasn't about to go to waste.
I’ve never actually done the drive in a car before – it’s always been motorcycle territory for me. It’s a dreamland on a motorcycle, but how was the car going to cope? Far better than I had anticipated. In Sport mode the Arteon stiffened up, coming alive on the winding country roads. I can confidently say that we didn’t come across a single road or surface that the Arteon didn’t take in its stride.
If you had the money, would you buy one? If not, what would you prefer?
Daniel: Overall, I think the Volkswagen Arteon is a great car – it's efficient, comfortable, practical, refined and fast. However, I felt like it can almost drive itself, and as a result it was hard to connect with it, therefore I probably wouldn’t buy one. At $65,490 before on-road costs, the Arteon is good value, but I’ve always preferred rear-wheel-drive cars over front- and all-wheel drive.
Martin: I felt the vehicle is aimed at families who want a quick, safe and sporty getaway car with ample room in the back for kids and luggage. At $68,990 drive-away, this puts it in very dangerous territory, competing with the likes of the Mercedes C250, BMW 330i and the Audi A4. I wouldn't buy the Arteon as I just can't seem to enjoy the performance it provides, even though it delivers plenty of it.
Rhys: I made a habit of asking people how much they thought the Arteon is worth. The range was $60–90K. Considering it falls bang in the middle of that, you could say on perception it's well priced. I think it’s brilliant. I’m fortunate enough to have regular access to a current-generation Volkswagen Golf R. It’s worth about $65K, and it’s a hoot to drive, but it has too many shortcomings for my lifestyle – hence the Skoda wagon.
The Arteon is barely more expensive, but it feels 95 per cent as exciting to drive with none of the Golf's compromises. In addition, the Arteon lives up completely to being a little bit different. It doesn’t blend in, but it doesn’t scream 'look at me' like a Honda Civic Type R. It’s exactly what I want a car to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Skoda, but if I had my time over and the budget allowed, the Arteon is a no-brainer.
You might have noticed only three voices in the story, in spite of the fact we gave the car to four readers. Stay tuned for a full review from our final guest driver next week. If you'd like to get behind the wheel, submit an owner review and show us what you've got!
Thanks to Daniel, Martin and Rhys for checking out the Arteon. Head to the gallery for more of their images, along with some of our own.