2023 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0T SEL R-Line Review By David Colman
There's so much to love, but it’s got issues
Photos and Story By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
In touting their all-encompassing welfare net called IQ DRIVE, VW's Arteon website invites you to "Discover the confidence and peace of mind that comes with driver assistance technology that helps enhance safety." But if you buy a new Arteon and consult your 329 page Owner's Manual, you won't find a single listing for "IQ DRIVE." Apparently, VW thinks you should already be familiar with this arcane system. After all, didn't you memorize your window sticker? It listed 8 sub-headings for IQ DRIVE, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Stop and Go, Lane Assist, Emergency Assist and so on. You remember that window sticker, right? It's the one the guys at the dealership tossed when they prepped ($1295) your $46,700 Arteon for delivery.
This brand of disconnect between ad writers and end users is not at all uncommon in the automotive industry, and certainly not a problem unique to VW. However, as I constantly struggled to deactivate the Arteon's Adaptive Cruise Control ("ACC" in case you need to look it up in the Owner's Manual), I couldn't help but reflect on the way technology has complicated rather than enhanced the chore of driving. After prolonged consultation, the Owner's Manual set me straight on the fact that I was pushing the wrong tiny button on the left spoke of the steering wheel to delete ACC. The point is, it's all too easy to get lost in the complexity of VW's "Digital Cockpit Pro." That's why I stopped counting at 30 when researching the different displays you can select to appear on Digital Cockpit Pro's "Configurable Digital Instrument Display." I just resigned myself to the choices some previous driver had selected. Unfortunately, that meant staring at a numerical figure for "miles since last refuel" that was inexplicably twice the size of the digits showing MPH.
Aside from the foregoing quirks, the Arteon proved itself a useful partner for perfecting dance steps on back roads. For starters, it's well endowed in the tire and wheel department, with a set of 20-inch, ten spoke, smoked metallic gray alloys supporting Continental Pro Contact all weather radials (245/30R20). These Contis (TW 500) plant such a short sidewall (2.75 in.) that the rims look like they're sitting directly on the pavement. But the combo works wonders when you're strafing a set of curves. VW long ago mastered the art of suspension tuning, and driving the Arteon is like a graduate-level seminar for drivers schooled in the art of the GTI. Without question, the top-drawer Arteon owes its back road chops to a number of factors beyond those Conti's contact patches. In the handling department, VW has brought GTI-level precision to the adaptive suspension system of the Arteon's four-wheel independent setup. The system auto-adapts to your driving style, or you can select a preferred mode from Comfort, Normal or Sport settings. The XDS Cross Differential system adds another layer of keen oversight.
No matter which setting you choose, the Arteon exhibits an athletic prowess that will remind you more of a GTI than its familial connection to the now departed Passat sedan. If you opt for the SEL Arteon like the one we tested, you will reward yourself with all-wheel-drive (4MOTION) that is absent on the SE entry-level version. No matter which Arteon you select, you will enjoy 300hp and 295lb.-ft. of torque produced by the same 2.0-liter turbo four that powers so many VW and Audi products today. This is strong engine, coupled to a manually shiftable 7-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. The powertrain propels the sleek sedan to a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds and a standing start quarter-mile run of 13.3 seconds at 103mph.
Inside the cabin, the sport-oriented steering wheel offers a fat rim that is newly heated on 2023 SEL models. VW has provided a pair of gunstock style perforated grips on either side of the rim which feel just right when you're driving straight. However, when flinging the Arteon from side to side on a curving road, the bulging protrusions below the pistol grips make twirling the wheel awkward. The seating surfaces in the SEL are finished in two shades of leather (Mistral Gray and Raven), with a predominant "W" pattern to the stitching that looks intriguing. While the front seats are quite supportive and comfortable, the rear seats (which fold flat) are hard and unsupportive. However, flattening them creates a 27 cubic foot storage area, usage of which is augmented by the size of the wide-opening, remote-controlled rear hatchback.
If you can come to terms with the irksome ergonomics of the Digital Cockpit Pro and the questionable contributions of some of the IQ DRIVE "features," then the newest Arteon makes sense as a useful and quick driver's companion. Without question it is an attractive looker, especially when finished in the optional ($395) Kingfisher Blue Metallic of our test sample.
2023 VOLKSWAGEN ARTEON 2.0T SEL R-LINE
• ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbocharged and intercooled, iron block and aluminum head, direct fuel injection
• HORSEPOWER: 300hp@5350rpm
• TORQUE: 295lb.-ft.@2000rpm
• FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/31MPG Highway
• PRICE AS TESTED: $48,390
HYPES: Svelte, Sleek and Saucy
GRIPES: Recalcitrant Controls
STAR RATING: 7.5 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman