2019 Volkswagen Arteon Already on the Right Track

2019 Volkswagen Arteon; Cars.com photos by Christian Lantry

CARS.COM — After a long wait, the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon has made its U.S. debut after being sold in Europe for some time. The cars we're seeing at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show are both U.S.-spec vehicles in terms of materials and features, which makes them slightly different from the Arteons we covered from the Geneva show last year.

Related: More 2018 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

Volkswagen already sells a larger, four-door car in the Passat but the two won't ever get confused for each other. The Passat is one of the more anonymous vehicles on the road, while the Arteon oozes style. It keeps the CC's fastback profile, which does give the Arteon a unique shape outside the luxury space.

In fact, the closest stylistic match I can think of for the Arteon is the Audi A5 Sportback or A7 — and that's some very good company to be associated with. I'm a big fan of the Arteon's front styling, but for those who live in states that require a front license plate, I fear mounting one may disrupt the grille too much.

The CC also had a rear trunk that was difficult to load, as it's shape gave it a small opening. On the Arteon, that's been replaced by a top-hinged rear liftgate (a powered one, at that, on some trims), which makes that process much easier.

Both Arteons here in Chicago were top-of-the-line SEL Premium models, which have luxury aspirations and standard features such as Nappa leather upholstery and heated/ventilated front seats with a massage feature for the driver. The seats were quite comfortable, both up front and in the backseat.

The Arteon's overall dimensions aren't that much larger than the CC, but the wheelbase has stretched by 5 inches, which pays off when it comes to passenger space — especially in the backseat. Though the roofline may suggest otherwise, there are large indentations in the ceiling, so there's a ton of headroom for backseat passengers and a good amount of legroom, as well. Materials quality in the backseat also matched that in the front seats, something that's not always the case.

The Arteon's interior technology matches the rest of the Volkswagen lineup, with a standard 8-inch touchscreen display that includes physical knobs for volume and tuning. Volkswagen's latest generation of screens are bright and clear, and they're a personal favorite of mine among the mainstream brands. Also standard are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If I have one gripe with the Arteon's technology, it's a lack of charging options in the backseat. There are two USB ports up front, but rear-seat passengers get only a single 12-volt charge port behind the center storage bin.

I didn't find the Arteon's visibility to be too restrictive; the rear glass is fairly large and there are decent sightlines over both shoulders. There is one problem though: You really can't see the front of the hood, so parking the Arteon nose-in will be a gamble unless you opt for the SEL Premium, as parking sensors only come as a part of the Park Assist system, which only comes on the top trim level.

The Arteon will also be Volkswagen's first U.S. vehicle to feature a reactive hood. This is a safety feature designed to protect pedestrians in the case of a collision. Sensors in the front of the car can detect if the impact is with another vehicle or a pedestrian, and if it senses that it's a pedestrian, two small pyrotechnic charges connected to hinges at the rear of the hood fire. This boosts the rear of the hood up by about 2 inches, which doesn't seem like much, but it does help to prevent pedestrian injuries by keeping them from impacting the hard points (aka the engine) underneath the hood. The system is engaged at speeds between 15 and 35 mph, aka city driving speeds.

I found the Arteon to be notably hospitable, with solid technology offerings and improved cargo and passenger room over the CC. The big question will be how it drives. Volkswagen is including a standard adaptive damping system, and that turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is a favorite of mine in other Volkswagen vehicles (such as the Golf GTI), so I have some big expectations. Let's hope that the Arteon can live up to them.

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