VOLKSWAGEN has made various attempts over the years to break into more premium territory with upmarket models and 2019 brought us new versions of the flagship Touareg SUV and this, the Arteon.
Quite why the well-positioned German brand would want to venture any closer to the realms of its fellow Volkswagen Group owned brand Audi is a matter of profitability and what we have here is a lower, wider, altogether more striking version of the Passat saloon poised to compete with the likes of BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe and the Audi A5.
In the VW showroom and on the streets it’s a car that immediately stands apart from the sales rep’s Passat, with a 4,862mm length, 1,871mm width and a height of 1,450mm, making it 95mm longer, 39mm wider and 26mm lower than the Passat.
Its more rakish A- and B-pillars and wider front grille immediately mark it out as being more dynamic and premium.
But with the mid-range Arteon Elegance two-litre TSI 190 tested here coming in at £35,205, it is pitched as a direct rival for its more premium badged competitors who have such traits central to their DNA.
Competing with them will be a big ask, especially after the shower of options on my test car took the full list price to over £44,000.
Step inside the Arteon and premium car buyers may balk at the realisation that its dashboard is shared with the humble Passat.
Don't jump to conclusions, though.
A crisp 8.2-inch Discover Navigation Pro system is intuitive and looks the part and VW’s Active Info Display is standard, replacing analogue instruments with a 12.3in screen which can be configured to clearly show lots of additional information, including satnav maps and phone contacts.
The infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology and online connectivity for weather, parking and information about local amenities.
An optional head-up display (£510) was fitted to my test car but the system that projects onto a piece of plastic at the top of the dashboard rather than the windscreen isn't among the best.
Keyless entry and engine starting, three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control with automated emergency braking and a lane departure warning system are all among the tech perks too.
Among the better options fitted to my test car was the £1,010 'Dynaudio Confidence' soundpack, which included a 16 channel amplifier, 700 watt output from 11 speakers and a subwoofer.
The Arteon’s Nappa leather upholstered interior is a stylish place to be and offers typical VW functionality, but lacks any stand-out traits that set it apart from the Passat and elevate it into the realms of Audi and BMW.
And while rear legroom and the 563-litre boot are a real bonus, I found the scope for adjusting the driving position limited for my 6ft 1ins frame, a shallow footwell combining with limited steering column adjustment to leave me quite severely short of legroom.
Thankfully the Arteon proved an enjoyable drive.
Even though the Elegance is less driver-oriented than the R-Line trim, it felt agile and adjustable for such a big car, serving plenty of grip from the driven front wheels.
Eco, Normal, Sport or Individual modes are offered by VW’s driving profile selection and Sport introduces a welcome increase in steering weight to deliver greater confidence when the going gets narrow and twisty.
Claimed performance should mean that the 190PS petrol-powered Arteon will reach 62mph in 7.7 seconds and reach a 148mph top speed and it felt good for it, the familiar seven-speed DSG dual clutch transmission shifting impeccably on the move but still proving a little less smooth at manoeuvring speeds.
This is a strong, multi-talented engine, though, and for the most part it feels smoother and more sophisticated than a diesel alternative, while offering plenty of pace when called upon.
According to the trip computer I also beat VW’s claimed 36.4mpg combined fuel consumption, breaking into the low 40s on longer runs…
CO2 emissions of 144g/km mean that company car drivers may steer clear of the petrol, however, even with the new option of VW’s more efficient 1.5-litre EVO engine.
There is no doubting that the Arteon represents a solid premium upgrade of the Passat and introduces some much appreciated elegance to Volkswagen’s showrooms.
Despite my issue with the driving position, I enjoyed the well-appointed and equipped interior and the unexpectedly enjoyable dynamics backed by the strong performance of that TSI engine.
But after Kia set its sights on the same part of the market with its rear-wheel-drive Stinger statement car, there are bolder breaks from the premium car norm ready and waiting for those with a desire to be different.
And with pricing so closely aligned to such well-established and desirable premium rivals, it’s a car that has its work cut out to capture the attention of the aspirational car buyer.