It’s only been on sale in the U.S. for a little more than a year, but the Volkswagen Arteon is getting some updates for 2021. The changes give the Arteon some mild revisions inside and out, which VW hopes will keep the premium sedan-ish hatchback appealing to the increasingly shrinking pool of buyers looking for such an animal. If you’re having trouble spotting the differences VW has made for 2021, don’t feel bad: They’re exceedingly subtle, at least outside. The bigger changes come inside, where a significantly updated cabin brings good and bad elements to the party.
Outside, the new Arteon gets a new lower front bumper with separated outboard air intakes instead of one continuous opening. The R-Line trims get a full-length LED light strip to split the upper and lower grille openings, plus different air intakes below. As before, non-R-Line models get a full-length chrome strip on the lower bumpers. Out back, the new-look VW badge sits on the trunk lid, while twin dual tailpipes are easier to spot thanks to divided finishers. There are also new 18-inch and 20-inch wheels depending on the trim you order.
The powertrain is completely unchanged from the prior model and consists of one possibility: a 268-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. SE trim models will be front-wheel drive only, while the SEL R-Line makes all-wheel drive optional and the SEL Premium R-Line trim makes it standard. An adaptive suspension is still standard, as is the limited-slip differential.
Inside, the changes are a bit more substantial. The interior receives a serious boost to its premium status with new vinyl-covered surfaces, plus new trim, vents and dashboard design. New ambient lighting with 30 selectable colors reveals itself through translucent panels in the doors and console. Wireless support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, while the new MIB3 multimedia system also makes its first appearance in the Arteon, along with a new optional Harman Kardon 12-speaker premium stereo; Volkswagen is phasing out the joint branding with Fender in favor of Harman Kardon instead.
Two areas of disappointment stand out for the updated Arteon. First is a new steering wheel and climate controls that are debuting in other models, too, in which VW opted for touch-sensitive instead of the traditional buttons and knobs. The automaker feels this gives the car a more upscale, Audi-like look, but touch-sensitive controls for steering wheels and climate controls have proven to be massively problematic in brands that already tried this (see: Ford, Lincoln and Cadillac, in particular). At least the radio will keep its buttons and knobs, showing VW has indeed paid attention to the angst that Honda caused over going completely touch-sensitive for some of its audio systems not long ago. (VW’s images of the European-market Arteon have touch-sensitive stereo controls, but the automaker’s U.S. officials confirmed the Yankee-bound car will have physical ones.)
The second disappointment is the announcement of an absolutely beautiful wagon version, or “shooting brake,” as VW calls it, using the traditional British vernacular for the body style. Why is that disappointing? Because it’s not coming to the U.S. market, as y’all don’t want to buy wagons anymore. Enjoy your new Volkswagen Tiguan crossover instead, America. No cool wagon for you.
Price and Release Date
The rest of the Arteon still remains as it was before — a premium sedan meant to go up against the Acura TLX, Infiniti Q50, Kia Stinger and Nissan Maxima. No pricing is available yet, but the car should hit dealers this November, according to VW.
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