Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI 240 4Motion 2017 Road Test

Avant-garde. It's a label you'll predictably see when we mention any slightly quirky French car. We also like 'joie de vivre' by the way, but we digress. It's unlikely, however, that you'd associate the unorthodox with anything made by Volkswagen. And that's because they're a bit more 'conservative' shall we say. But open up the shiny brochure to the new Arteon and you'll see the words 'avant-garde' thrown around like eclairs at a Parisian food fight.

Volkswagen doesn't want you to view this as a traditional saloon. Instead, it's advocating it as 'a sporting gran turismo' - so similar to an Audi A5 Sportback or a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. That explains two things. One, the fact it looks quite striking, especially compared to the rather mundane Volkswagen Passat. And two - the price.

Because the cheapest Arteon you'll get (to begin with at least) will set you back an estimated £38,000. And if you want the TDI model, you'll be looking at closer to £40k. As a comparison, the A5 Sportback and 4 Series both start at roughly £33,000. Sure, they're not as powerful or as well equipped at that money, but for plenty of people, an Audi or BMW badge still has more status than a Volkswagen.

So what do you get for that money? Well the Arteon is certainly very spacious, with huge reserves of rear legroom, a big boot and uber-comfortable seats. It's also refined and relaxing to drive. Ticks a lot of boxes then - but so does a Skoda Superb. And that's a lot cheaper. The question, then, is this: is the Arteon more than just a Skoda in a posh suit?  

Volkswagen Arteon (3) (2)

It certainly stands out in terms of looks. We rarely talk too much about exterior design - one person's masterpiece is another individual's dog's dinner, but there's no disguising the fact this is a design-led car. It replaces the CC (the car formerly known as the Passat CC) but has a sharper look that's very different from the rest of the Volkswagen range, especially when viewed from the front.

Inside it feels like it's got that bit extra, too. Yes, all the switches and controls are familiar Volkswagen, but there's a new Discover Navigation Pro system - bascially a big touchscreen that dominates the dash. With its glass surround, it feels like a high-end bit of kit and it works very well too, helped by a nicely designed interface with neat graphics. The Arteon also comes with a digital instrument cluster called Active Info Display, which is the same as Audi's virtual cockpit.

The Arteon gets all the basics right. The driving position is spot-on and taller drivers will appreciate just how far back the seat adjusts. There's also good under-thigh support. The back seats are even better with acres of legroom and once again, very comfortable. That said, the central tunnel means it's a squeeze with three in the back, but headroom is good despite the swoopy roof. The build quality is - as you'd expect given this is Volkswagen's new flagship model - impeccable.

There's a choice of two engines from launch - a 2.0 TDI with 240PS or a 2.0 TSI with 280 - because a bafflingly powerful petrol is what people want in a car like the Arteon apparently. Both these come with 4Motion four-wheel drive as standard and a seven-speed DSG automatic. A cheaper 2.0 TDI with 190PS (and two-wheel drive) will be introduced later and should start at around £35k.

Volkswagen Arteon (9) (1)

With the 2.0 TDI, the Arteon isn't short of power, helped by the fact it has 500Nm of torque available from very low revs. It picks up quickly and means you're never waiting for that performance to kick-in, as you are with the TSI. It also works well with the seven-speed DSG gearbox, which isn't always the case with lower powered versions of this engine.

But there's no getting away from the fact that the TDI is still a little noisy. Not intrusively so - after all, the Arteon is designed for refinement, hence the double glazed window glass (handy when you have frameless doors) and acoustic windscreen. But if you're being very picky - and at close to £40k, we are - then with the radio turned off, you can still hear that diesel rattle slightly, even when you're just gently cruising along. 

The ride could be better too. Although that was hardly surprising given that the cars we drove were all fitted with 20-inch wheels (as you can see in the pictures). But Volkswagen has hinted that these could be standard on UK models. The Arteon comes with Dynamic Chassis Control as standard, but even when put it in 'comfort' setting, this can't quite compensate for those huge wheels. A Mondeo rides better. Still, the Arteon handles very well for what is a pretty substantial car though - it's not far off five metres long - with precise and responsive steering.

It may sound like we're being picky, but with a price tag this hefty, you expect a lot from a car - whether it has a premium badge or not. The Arteon has plenty that impresses. We really like the look of it, the quality and design of the interior is excellent, plus it's comfortable and really spacious. It also comes with plenty of kit. We can certainly see the appeal. Does it stand out against its competition - not especially - but that doesn't prevent it from being desirable in its own right. 

The Volkswagen Arteon will be available to order from August with the first cars arriving in September.

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