The sight of big, Teutonic coupes barrelling along the outside lane of the Autobahn will be a familiar one for anybody who’s driven in Germany. Now, though, there’s a new set of 155mph headlights that might soon be flashing at you with monotonous regularity.
The lights in question are full LED affairs that belong to the svelte, bright yellow four-door coupe you see here. It’s called the Volkswagen Arteon, and though many have hailed it as the replacement for the old Passat CC, VW is adamant that this is an altogether different proposition.
Although it shares much with the Passat, it’s closer in size to the Skoda Superb, which manages to bridge that gap between family-sized and large saloons. Unlike the wafty, comfortable Superb, however, the Arteon has been designed to be that little bit more luxurious than your common-or-garden VW.
The bodywork is taut and flowing, and the broad, gaping grille accentuates every millimetre of the car’s width. It’s tidy and minimalist, and from the rear there’s a whiff of E-Class Coupe about it. Copycat or not, though, there’s no doubting its attractiveness.
Considering the striking exterior, then, the cabin is an abject disappointment. We were hoping for a world of clever equipment, sumptuous leather and fresh design. And while you’ll find some of those things if you look closely, we were struck by the familiarity of it all. The steering wheel is from a Golf, the infotainment system fell straight out of the Skoda parts bin and the digital instrument display is merely a disappointingly neutered version of Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit. Even the dash itself is far too familiar.
Worse still, the underwhelming cabin is an indicator of the way the Arteon drives. There’s no verve to the steering, and though the new suspension means the Arteon rolls less than the Superb on which it is based, it doesn’t ride as well. Of course, that wouldn’t be a great problem if the VW felt fast and sporty and exciting, but it doesn’t.
Our test car came in the racy R-Line trim with the 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine. It’s the same engine used in the Seat Leon Cupra and you’ll also find it in the Skoda Superb 280, but while it’s raucous and punchy in those models, it feels breathless and asthmatic in the Arteon.
Officially, it’ll get you from a standstill to 62mph in 5.6 seconds and you won’t stop accelerating until you hit 155mph, which isn’t bad going, but the manner in which it drones its way up the rev range and the lack of real grunt will leave you feeling pretty disappointed.
We reckon, therefore, that your best bet is to go with the 237bhp diesel. It may be less powerful than its petrol-powered brethren, but its extra torque gives the Arteon a greater feeling of urgency and, because you get four-wheel drive as standard with both of these engines, the chassis can handle the added get-up-and-go.
The diesel engine will be more efficient, too, but if you really want to save money you’ll need an even less powerful motor. The 148bhp diesel doesn’t have the performance figures of its stablemates, but it has enough go to get the Arteon up to speed in a sensible space of time and it’s cheaper to buy and run than either of its siblings.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t need cash to get your hands on an Arteon though. With a list price of around £33,000 for the basic diesel and around £40,000 for more upmarket versions, it’s just as expensive as the Audi A5 Sportback and even larger premium saloons such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
At least you get plenty of toys for your money. Standard kit includes 18-inch alloys, radar-guided cruise control and three-zone climate control. You get the digital instrument display, too, and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation.
In truth, though, none of this matters. The Arteon occupies a strange automotive no-man’s land, offering neither luxury nor value, and it’s outclassed by rivals from Audi and BMW.