2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line
Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles driven: 375
Fuel used: 17.1 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Real-world fuel economy: 21.9 mpg
Driving mix: 80% city, 20% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 20/31/24 (mpg city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas recommended
Base price: $43,395 (not including $1195 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: King’s Red Metallic paint ($395)
Price as tested: $44,985
The great: Sleek, striking styling; ample cargo space and versatility of hatchback body style
The good: Classy, nicely equipped cabin; respectable acceleration from turbo 4-cylinder engine
The not so good: Only one powertrain is available; some finicky controls
The Volkswagen Arteon is a nice car in search of an audience. Introduced for 2019 as a hatchback-sedan replacement for the erstwhile midsize CC “4-door coupe,” it boasted better passenger space and improved cargo versatility while maintaining the tradition of the CC’s classy surroundings. (The Arteon is the only current VW that Consumer Guide classifies as a “premium” version of its vehicle type.) None of that seems to have done the car much good with the buying public, though. According to industry journal Automotive News, calendar-year sales of the Arteon grew by a whopping 47 percent from 2019 to 2020—to all of 3602 units. It’s far and away the brand’s least popular product line sold in the U.S.
Twenty twenty-one Arteons hope to move the needle further with revised styling throughout and a new infotainment system. The lineup has contracted and undergone revision as well. For this test, Consumer Guide drove an SEL R-Line with 4MOTION all-wheel drive. It is now the only trim level with the choice of front- or all-wheel motivation, with a front-drive SE below it and an AWD SEL Premium R-Line above it. All SEL and Premium models come with standard sporty R-Line appearance features.
In terms of outward appearance, the test car had a new lower front fascia with a black surface that visually linked the cooling ducts at the far ends, and a new LED light bar integrated in the grille. (Both details kick in at the SEL level.) Inside, there was better integration of the infotainment stack into the instrument panel, and lower-profile heating/cooling vents spread across the dash. The new arrangement does away with an analog clock formerly found in the top center of the dash above the 8-inch info screen, and the handy control dials for the 3-zone climate system. All climate settings are now made through touch-sensitive controls. At least external power and tuning knobs remain to help make it easy to make audio-preset selections.
For some reason known only to the folks in Wolfsburg, selection of drive modes has gotten more complicated. There is a “Mode” button on the console that, when tapped, activates a display on the infotainment screen with touch points for available drive modes. At this point the driver has to look away from road to screen to identify the “button” for the desired mode and tap it—but don’t hit a bump at that moment or you might mis-hit! A console dial with closely grouped icons would be quicker, easier, and perhaps safer.
In other respects, the ’21 Arteon is like those that preceded it with a lively 268-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, effective 8-speed automatic transmission, adjustable damping for the fully independent suspension, comfortable amounts of front and rear passenger room, and a healthy 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space under the rear hatch. CG editors collectively wrung 21.9 mpg from the car in a test heavy with city miles (one even neared 23 mpg), which is similar to their experience with a 2019 SEL Premium with 4MOTION, and about in line with EPA fuel-economy estimates for this powerteam. Note that premium fuel is recommended for the Arteon.
The SEL R-Line with 4MOTION starts at $44,590 with delivery, which is $1800 more than its front-drive sibling. Only King’s Red Metallic paint, one of three extra-cost colors available, added to the bottom line of the test car. Aside from previously mentioned items, the SEL R-Line comes with the XDS Cross Differential (it uses the brakes to help maintain power to the outside wheel to improve cornering), 19-inch alloy wheels, black trunklid spoiler, adaptive LED headlights, power panoramic sunroof, leather-wrapped R-Line steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, 60/40-split rear seat, illuminated and carpeted cargo area, multicolor ambient lighting, “Digital Cockpit” instrument display, keyless entry and starting, satellite radio, navigation, wireless charging, App-Connect smartphone integration, and VW Car-Net remote services. Adaptive cruise control with stop=and-go capability and a raft of the latest driving aids and safety monitors are included as well.
Maybe it’s because people don’t associate Volkswagen with cars that cost like an Audi, BMW, or Lexus. Maybe it’s because of the rise of SUVs at the expense of sedans. For whatever reason, the VW Arteon remains overlooked.
2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)