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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The AWD ID.4 model is on its way.

Volkswagen

There was a lot of buzz when VW introduced its 2021 ID.4 all-electric crossover with rear-wheel drive earlier this year, but there's plenty more now that the Wolfsburg automaker has added an all-wheel-drive version. The 2021 VW ID.4 AWD gets another motor onboard this compact SUV that brings all-wheel-drive traction. The SUV appeals to buyers in the snow belt states but will also tickle the fancy of performance enthusiasts. Now with motors on both the front and rear axle, there is nearly fifty percent more power, with impressive gains to horsepower and torque as well as the added battery-electric boost to that scoots the 5-seater from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds (the RWD model took 7.5 seconds to achieve the same).

2021 VW ID.4 AWD An extra motor brings AWD to the ID.4.Volkswagen

On sale now, the 2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro starts at $44,870, before federal or other incentives; this is a $3,680 premium over the rear-drive model. The AWD Pro S starts at $49,370; both models are eligible for $7,500 income-tax credits. It's worth noting that current delivery estimates for the AWD Pro are running into 2022. The AWD Pro trim has been rated by the EPA at 249 miles (only 11 miles less than the Pro RWD) while the AWD Pro S has been validated at 240 miles (as compared to 250 miles). The AWD Pro has been rated at 102 MPGe for city driving/90 highway/97 combined; the Pro S gets 93/98/88. Both are rated at 2,700 towing. Competitors include the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y.

While the AWD and RWD look the same outside, one exterior badge designates the newest variant with an "AWD" badge, plus it gets 0.6 inches of added ground clearance, slightly bigger brakes and sway bars. From the front, the electric SUV has smoothed jelly-bean styling that is highlighted by standard LED headlights and standard black roof rails that sit atop the body-colored roof. From the rear, it wears hatchback-like looks.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4's cabin is tidy and upscale, no matter the model.Volkswagen

We drove both the Pro and Pro S versions, with different premium interior trims and found the Gradient Package ($1500) visually upscale and appealing. It brings a black roof with silver rails, along with 20-inch wheels and the availability of King's Red Metallic paint, as a $395 option. The Pro is well-equipped with attractive trim elements and an impressive collection of communication and infotainment technologies. Pro S comes with a glass roof with an electrically-retractable shade and front seats with leatherette upholstery and 12-way power adjustments (including four-way lumbar support and a massage system).

We drove the new ID.4 AWD over a course of 160 miles along a variety of roads to sample its handling and ergonomics. The interior has a clean and open feel with good visibility. Controls and gauges are well-placed and the seatbelts are height-adjustable, while a configurable console holds different drink sizes and has removable cupholders. A futuristic LED "Light" strip with 10 different ambient lighting selections extends across the dashboard and pulses with directional signals, incoming phone calls, navigation prompts and other in-cabin inputs (optional is 30-color lighting selection on the Pro S). Driving is also a bit futuristic with no stop/start button; the vehicle senses the approaching key and can start climate control, unfold side mirrors, unlock doors and illuminate door handles at night, among a number of other high-tech features. There is 30.3 cubic feet of stowage behind the rear seats and up to 64.2 cubic feet with the second row folded. Under the floor storage holds the charging cable and small items. Pro S has an adjustable trunk floor that can be raised and lowered and a ski passthrough.

Pushing the brake pedal triggers the ID.4 to begin motoring, with the option of a "D" mode for typical driving or "B" for a more regenerative driving experience. Travel Assist brings semi-autonomous driving. Notable is the fun and responsive torque-on-tap, well-balanced direct steering and a suspension system that allows the small compact to maneuver well through traffic and along twisty roadways, as well as an impressive turning radius. The vehicle dynamics control system is integrated with the stability control system and an electronic differential to seamlessly engage the front axle, when needed. Volkswagen has added a different asynchronous motor to the front with a permanent-magnetic synchronous motor at the back for a combined 295 hp. and 339 lb.-ft. of torque.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4 AWD will start shipping in early 2022.Volkswagen

Carried over are 82-kWh battery packs and the 5 to 80 percent fast-charging time of 38 minutes, when using 125kW fast-charging. VW says it can add 62 miles of range in 10 minutes; home charging on a Level 2 charger is projected to take approximately 7.5 hours for a full charge.

Of note: VW includes three years of complimentary charging up to 125 kW, with any ID.4 purchase or lease; VW Group's Electrify America charging network has over 650 stations and more than 2,700 fast chargers.

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The all-electric ID.4 will help its pilot and navigator tackle the grueling race route.

Volkswagen

Off-road racing and endurance races are nothing new, but the Rebelle Rally's approach is unique. The event is the first all-women event of its kind in the U.S. and takes participants through severely challenging terrain with no electronic aids allowed for navigation. This year, Volkswagen is bringing its new ID.4 EV to the event to be piloted by driver Mercedes Lilienthal and navigator Emily Winslow.

Volkswagen ID.4 Mercedes Lilienthal and Emily Winslow will pilot the ID.4.Volkswagen

Tanner Foust Racing and Rhys Millen Racing modified the VW with new suspension system, tubular control arms, fabricated skid plates, battery protection, and other off-road-ready kit. The crossover has also been fited with a Thule roof rack and Yokohama Geolandar A/T tires.

The ID.4's battery and electric motor will remain untouched. That means a combined output of 295 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The 82 kWh battery can deliver an EPA-estimated range of 249 miles on a charge, but keep in mind that the terrain the team will be tackling will have an impact on that number.

The 2021 event marks the sixth year for the all-women rally raid. Teams are faced with 1,400 miles of desert in Nevada and California, and must navigate the racecourse without the use of electronic guides, such as GPS or cell phones. From the start in Las Vegas to the finish in Glamis, CA, participants must use maps, compasses, and their own skill to navigate.

Volkswagen ID.4 Several modifications were made to the suspension and other components.Volkswagen

Even though it's the ID.4's maiden year on the market, the electric crossover has already had a successful run in motorsport. Earlier this year, another modified version of the vehicle competed in the NORRA Mexican 1000. It was also massaged by Tanner Foust Racing and Rhys Millen Racing, and VW notes that the ID.4 that we'll see in Rebelle Rally vehicle was improved using data from its first races.

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