The Arteon is an interesting prospect, as it seemingly takes a sideways glance at the long-in-the-tooth Passat and says, “hey, check me out in my fancy suit and flash boots”. In reality, it’s Volkswagen’s answer to the premium offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, hence why it is styled to within an inch of its life, but it seems to massively outshine a model that VW is still selling.
This, the swoopy-backed Shooting Brake model offers a smidge more space than the standard hatchback sibling, with -get this - two additional litres when the rear seats are intact. Drop the rear seats and owners get almost 100 litres of additional (and a lot more useable) space to play with.
Did I mention it’s a handsome beast? Despite the fact it isn’t the dictionary definition of a shooting brake, it remains one of the most interesting estate cars money can buy. Granted, we aren’t throwing things like the Audi RS6 Avant and Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate into that mix, but when stood next to the current crop of German executive vehicles, it makes quite the impression.
The bonnet features several sharp creases that extend from the angry-looking LED lamps and wrap their way around the wheel arches before flowing back to that neatly sloping roofline. The rear is wide and squat, while R-Line models ride on impressive 19-inch Montevideo Black alloy wheels.
Klaus Zyciora, Head of Volkswagen Group Design, claims that the Arteon offers a mix of sports car styling with “the space of a fastback” and this Shooting Brake is arguably the best interpretation of that so far. It looks fast and offers plenty of interior space, what more could you want?
Despite packing the ubiquitous 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine, this R-Line model is never really going to set pulses racing. Stick the thing in Sport mode and the steering sharpens up a tad and the seven-speed DSG gearbox holds onto cogs a little longer (there’s even a wee rasp at the top end of the rev range) but that’s about as exciting as things get.
The 0-62mph dash is dispatched in a respectable 7.8 seconds and it is possible to wind things up to 145mph, although it’s more likely that you’ll leave things in ‘Comfort’ or ‘Normal’ modes and enjoy the excellent ride. Despite the 19-inch wheels, the Arteon Shooting Brake crests over poor roads superbly and delivers occupants to their intended destination feeling - to use an automotive cliche - as refreshed as the moment they got in.
Volkswagen has already said it will launch a plug-in hybrid variant in the coming months, which could be even smoother than this model around town, while there are plans for a fully unhinged 320hp Arteon R version, but ignoring the pedestrian performance, this is still a lovely thing to drive.
The front seats are snug and cosseting without being too firm or overtly schporty, while head and legroom is excellent for anyone riding onboard. In fact, the rear feels positively cavernous and paired with the gigantic panoramic roof on this model, it’s possible to recline and get lost in the passing sky.
Poeticism aside, the only real bugbear with the Arteon’s svelte design is that the steeply reclining roof at the rear can make loading little ones slightly into awkward child seats slightly more difficult. It is one of the main reasons so many families opt for the higher riding SUV format, but it’s definitely something that’s easy to get used to.
Aside from this, the interior is largely a lovely place to be. It shares most of its technology with the Touareg premium SUV, so there’s the Digital Cockpit Pro system, with its 10.25-inch high-res TFT dash display screen that sits where analogue instruments would normally. You have to dig deep to find the cheaper plastics, as most surfaces are covered in contrast stitching, leather and flashy chrome touches.
Infotainment is taken care of 8-inch colour touchscreen with the latest graphics, including 2D or 3D mapping. You’ll also find DAB radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink covering pretty much every smartphone on sale today.
Despite the promise of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a racy R-Line badge, you won’t find much in the way of scintillating performance here. It’s likely a deliberate ploy by VW, considering they have a proper R model on the way, but the steering is too wooly and progress too leisurely to ever trouble the driving experience offered by a BMW 3 Series Touring, for example.
But that’s not really the point here, as the Arteon is set up to cover long distances in comfort and it does this admirably. The seven speed DSG gearbox is so well refined and honed, it swaps cogs without complaint and the petrol engine is quiet unless you really mash the accelerator pedal. In fact, it's a fine departure from the numerous Audis and BMWs that firm up the suspension. increase wheel size and reduce rubber in search for performance, when most owners want a smooth ride to the shops and kids in the back that aren't close to losing their lunch.
Instead, the experience is leisurely. For example, Travel Assist allows for Level 2 autonomous driving, which is essentially a clever version of cruise control that takes care of most of the driving duties at speeds up to 130mph. There’s also a trailer stabilisation function should you want to drag something behind your Arteon. Everything is really easy.
It’s all very effortless and wrapped in such a handsome exterior, it feels like a much smarter offering than its hatchback sibling. At only £800 more, it also feels like an easy decision to make, and better still, it is priced to slightly undercut those previously mentioned German rivals.