Behind the Wheel

2019 Volkswagen Arteon Review: VW phones it in with its latest sedan

The Volkswagen Arteon is the automaker's new premium sedan.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Look at the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon and you have an idea of what it is. Driving it, your suspicions are confirmed. The Arteon is just another Volkswagen sedan. Nothing about it creates a visceral reaction for the driver nor does it excite. The Arteon simply exists.

Taking a look at the sales numbers, Volkswagen customers don't seem too thrilled with the new addition to the VW lineup. It's selling only marginally better than Fiat's core models through the third quarter of 2019. The Arteon is the worst-selling Volkswagen model in the U.S. that isn't the discontinued Touareg or CC.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon The fastback model has a low and wide stance.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

There are plenty of reasons to be non-plussed about the Arteon, which competes directly with the Audi A5, Genesis G70, B W 3-Series, and Kia Stinger in price point and market positioning. At its front, the model shares looks with the rest of the Volkswagen family, which has become increasingly boring to look at. This from a company that made its name selling the Rabbit, Karmann Ghia, and Thing.

It has a low and wide stance, which is exactly the direction many new sedans are going these days. Its wide crossbar grille extends across the front of the vehicle giving the front a segmented by cohesive look that is reminiscent of the ugly dashboard int he Lexus LS. The Arteon comes standard with LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights. Premium accents like puddle lights and power-folding side mirrors are available as you move up in trim levels.

The front-wheel drive Arteon has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine under its hood that is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission here in the U.S. It produces 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is a fine amount but not enough to release any endorphins.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon The long bars of the grille carry over into the headlight design of the Arteon.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Its handling isn't particularly engaging nor is it dull. Middle of the road is what Volkswagen seems to like to be with their sedans and they've done it again here.

A manual transmission is available in the car Europe and it shows in the Arteon's center console styling. The console top lays lower than the position of the average American car, which would be great for drivers who needed to rest their elbow near the shifter on the ready.

Other than that quibble, the interior remains functionally appropriate though its aesthetics and materials choices are not optimal. Simply put, the Arteon looks designed straight from the Volkswagen parts bin and serves as a reminder that there are other, more nicely appointed vehicles a buyer could choose from.

The car's 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit is a highlight, replacing the instrument panel, and the standard 8-inch infotainment touch screen is as status quo as they come for Volkswagen. It's completely function and for most buyers, that's exactly what they're looking for.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon The interior of the Arteon is completely function but it doesn't excite.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The Arteon is available with rear climate controls which are a nice touch and Nappa leather upholstery is also available in higher grades. That finery can't hide the Arteon's general lack of comfortable seating space. On the upside, there's a good amount of passenger and cargo space.

The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon starts at $35,845 but climbs close to $50,000 when you opt for higher trims and premium add-ons. Driving a Arteon makes one wonder what else is out there. In an evolving car market space where Hyundai is taking design and innovation risks that are paying off while Nissan and Toyota are adding value to their models at every turn, it's hard to reconcile settling for the Arteon. It's not surprising that most customers are passing it by.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Bruce Pascal is one of the most devoted Hot Wheels collectors on the planet.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

The first Hot Wheels arrived in stores in 1968 and it wasn't long until they became the number one toy. Bruce Pascal was seven years old at the time and remembers the toy immediately becoming popular with his circle of friends.

"It's hard to explain the craze today, but Hot Wheels was huge. All of my friends were saving up to buy all the Hot Wheels they could," Pascal said.

While he was growing up, Pascal, like kids across the country, kept his Hot Wheels in a cigar box. As he grew up, the cigar box gathered more dust, sitting on a shelf for 30 years until Pascal rediscovered the collection in 1999.

Volkswagen Beach Bomb Hot Wheels The pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb is the most sought-after Hot Wheels car in the world. Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

"That excited feeling I had as a boy was rekindled instantly," said Pascal. "My friend offered to pay me $200 for the cigar box. I declined and held onto them, but it was his offer that made me start researching the value of Hot Wheels and pursuing collecting as an adult."

His search became a bit obsessive. Pascal began calling other collectors, taking out newspaper ads, and even used a 1969 telephone book of Mattel employees to see if any former workers had rare toys they would be willing to part with for a price. He collected everything he could, including Hot Wheels memorabilia like blueprints, original drawings, sales brochures, and wood models.

His collection grew from that cigar box to thousands of Hot Wheels. Yet Pascal was not satisfied. He still had not found the one Hot Wheels vehicle that was alluding him, the most valuable Volkswagen ever produced - the pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb prototype.

The model was a bit of a folly. When VW and Hot Wheels initially created it, the car's narrow body and surf boards out the back window made the vehicle unable to stay upright when rolled. So, it was redesigned and the sides became more weighted and the surfboards were moved to the sides of the vehicle. This was the model that made it into production. The Beach Bomb was sold with a sticker sheet of flowers to decorate the vehicle, an offering that was very of its time.

Volkswagen Beach Bomb Hot Wheels There are only two of the pink models in existence.Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

The original prototypes with the surfboards out the back window are extremely rare, as only Hot Wheels employees had access to them. Of these prototypes, the pink ones are the rarest of all. There are only two known to be in existence.

"I already had heard about [the Beach Bomb] in purple, green, red, light blue and gold. I even had heard about an unpainted model," said Pascal. "But pink was extremely hard to find. Most Hot Wheels models were marketed to young boys, who the brand assumed didn't want to play with pink. They created just a few pink [Beach Bomb] models to market to their female audience."

Eventually, Pascal networked his way into purchasing both pink Beach Bombs models. He has since sold one of them to another friend and collector, but the one that is in the best condition has stayed with him.

Today, Pascal owns over 4,000 Hot Wheels models and about 3,000 pieces of memorabilia, but the pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb remains his most prized possession.

"I won't say how much I purchased it for," said Pascal, "but it is worth an estimated $150,000 today."

To help prevent sun damage, the Beach Bomb remains in a dark, Plexiglass case. Pascal displays the model in his personal museum in Maryland, where he gives private tours to other Hot Wheels enthusiasts. He has also loaned the model out to other automotive museums and events for display.

"I want other people to experience the Beach Bomb. I've found so much joy in learning about classic cars and Hot Wheels, and I hope I can spark some of that in other people. It's a treasure to find these rare models," Pascal said.

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The vehicle is, for now, merely a concept.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

Cruising, the art of driving slowly through cities so you could see and be seen, was popular in the 90s. So popular in fact that jurisdictions nationwide passed ordinances banning the practice, which could create traffic woes. In a new video, General Motors and its Cadillac brand look to bring back cruising, this time in what appears to be a gussied up version of the Cruise Origin autonomous vehicle.

The structure of the Cadillac Halo portfolio concept vehicle looks like the shape of the Cruise Origin. This people mover, however, wears fancier clothes complete with exterior chrome design treatments and Cadillac badging. Its body is white while glass that appears clear from the inside is tinted black to eliminate some outsider peeping. The whole rig rides on large black wheels and is lighted by thin LED strips at the corners that follow vertical body lines.

General Motors Cadillac Halo concept car interior The vehicle's cabin has luxe accommodations.Photo courtesy of General Motors

There's a front window, rear window, and expansive glass roof. On one side, instead of side windows there are wall spaces with ambient lighting and wraparound hard plastic.

The video makes the Cadillac personal autonomous vehicle look like a living room on wheels. Occupants face each other on what looks more like a wraparound sofa than a traditional car seat and share legroom. There is also one recliner-like captains chair at the back that sits alongside a chaise lounge-like seat whose bottom fades into the rest of the bench seating.

The entire cabin is finely appointed with what looks like real wood and metal accents, sculpted seating, and flattering ambient lighting. The five-seater has seat belts for every passenger.

At the front of the vehicle is a long, horizontal screen that is raised, but can be lowered to near-flush showing what appears to be vehicle drive information. A larger screen that appears to be in the same location (which may just be a computer-generated error o GM's part) shows destination, time, occupant, weather, and climate zone control information.

General Motors Cadillac Halo concept car interior A large screen shows a picture of the occupants along with vital information.Photo courtesy of General Motors

When the screens are nested in the cabin, a hologram-like fire graphic can (apparently) be displayed.

There's an infotainment touch screen screen that illuminates on an embedded piece of plastic next to a seat that allows occupants to control navigation.

Voice control and gesture control are both included.

Though unseen, the video alludes to the fact that the vehicle is capable of "aromatherapy and light therapy". Many luxury cars allow buyers to add a fragrance to their vehicle so the aromatherapy aspect isn't too far out in left field. The vehicle's biometric sensors monitor vital signs to adjust humidity, temperature, lighting, aromatics, and ambient noise, according to a presentation by GM.

Though just a concept, it would be very GM-like for the company to be looking for ways to rebrand and reuse current platforms and mobility solutions.

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