The premium large sedan segment is a bit of an odd one in Canada.
While it remains a reasonably big part of the market in the United States, Canadians have moved to the crossover sport utility in droves. Even so, those still looking to shop for cars like this are usually looking for a little extra legroom and comfort without breaking the bank. The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon Execline is the German automaker’s newest effort in this area, replacing the former Volkswagen CC. With a power operated liftgate that includes the glass, It is also now technically a hatchback, and is based on VW’s versatile MQB platform.
Starting at a base price of $47,995, the Arteon comes in only one trim level – Execline. Standard equipment includes 4MOTION all-wheel drive, a digital instrument cluster, driver’s massage seat (both front seats are heated and ventilated), a full size spare tire on an alloy wheel, park distance control, a Dynaudio 700-watt sound system, navigation, LED headlights that swivel with steering input, rain sensing wipers, and a panoramic power sunroof.
Optional and included on the test car was the $2,095 Driver Assistance Package (360-degree camera, lane assist, and park assist), as well as the $2,995 R-Line Package, which adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a unique steering wheel, and sportier accents throughout. With an as-tested price of $53,085, the Arteon starts to find itself competing against the more base offerings of the premium brands such as the Lexus ES 350, Mercedes-Benz C 300 (reviewed here) or BMW 3 Series, on top of doing battle with the Buick Regal and Kia Stinger liftbacks.
The interior of the 2019 Arteon is a nice place to be; material selection and attention to detail are top notch, with a good contrast of brushed metals, piano black, and nice-to-touch surfaces that come together to make it pleasing to the eye. Seat comfort is good for five occupants, and the rear cargo area is bigger than expected thanks to the hatchback body format. The digital instrument cluster is bright and sharp, but can be a bit busy and hard to read. The Dynaudio 10-speaker-plus-subwoofer system is one of the better factory audio setups out there, with clear highs and hard-hitting lows.
The eight-inch touch screen infotainment system on the Arteon is a snappy one that’s fairly easy to use, although the side buttons flanking the screen are full touch and could use a little more tactile feedback. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone pairing capability is standard equipment, which makes connectivity much easier and reduces (but not eliminates) driver distraction by mirroring many of the phone’s most important music, messaging, and navigation apps on the screen.
Only one engine option is available – a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four that’s been rejigged from other VW products such as the Golf GTI hot hatch and Tiguan crossover. Peak output is 268 horsepower at 5,500RPM, combined with a 258 lb-ft. of torque at a healthy 1,950RPM. As with the other cars that this engine is seen in, turbo lag is minimal and there’s power all across the rev range from idle to redline. It’s a little bit gruff sounding, and while that may be more at home in a GTI and borderline acceptable in a Tiguan, the Arteon’s implementation could use a little more refinement.
The previous generation Volkswagen CC, when equipped with the 2.0-litre turbo four, was equipped with a six-speed dual clutch “direct shift” gearbox that shifted quick, but wasn’t the most refined. For 2019, the Arteon gets a more conventional eight-speed automatic, which is a smooth shifting unit that’s nearly as fast as the old dual clutch. Curiously, the calibration here is much better than the Tiguan, which uses the same hardware. In crossover SUV form, the shift points are all wrong – not the case here, as the Arteon makes full use of the turbo four’s torque in city driving.
Rated fuel economy on the 2019 Arteon comes in at 12.0L/100KM in the city, and 8.6L/100KM on the highway. Including a highway road trip on Southern Ontario country backroads, observed consumption smashed the nominal figures at 7.9L/100KM without much effort. Premium fuel is required however, and by comparison, the Buick Regal and Kia Stinger only recommend premium. Tank capacity is 66 litres.
In terms of ride and handling, the Arteon has adjustable suspension that can be set from full soft to full firm in several increments. When set to the most comfortable point, body control goes out the window, and the VW becomes excessively bouncy without really getting all that soft. The sweet spot seems to be two-thirds the way up the sliding scale on the Dynamic Chassis Control settings, and at this point, the Arteon strikes a good balance, with good response and a ride that is well matched to the chassis. The handling performance doesn’t quite hold a candle to the Buick Regal’s lightweight willingness, or the Stinger’s sheer grip.
Overall, the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon Execline is a decent performer, and is most certainly a great looker inside and out. The powertrain is a torquey unit that will satisfy most drivers, though it won’t really win any drag races against peers like the 365-horsepower Kia Stinger. It has a greater feature set than a base Mercedes C-Class or BMW 3 Series, but its price makes it a little less compelling than the cheaper Kia or Buick. It’s not a bad car, but in more than a few ways, it’s in no-man’s land in the entry-level luxury sedan segment. It’ll likely do better in American markets, but even so, it may not be too long before cars like the Arteon fall by the wayside to crossover SUVs.