2022 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line First Test Review: Noticeable, But Notable?

Pros

  • Powerful engine
  • Well-tuned suspension
  • Great exterior design

 Cons

  • Pricey across model range
  • Capacitive controls can frustrate
  • No wagon sold here

It’s easy to be cynical about the 2022 Volkswagen Arteon. This is a full-size sedan in an era when the general public favors SUVs, and VW hasn’t put a lot of marketing muscle behind its flagship four-door. So you might be surprised to hear Arteon sales have increased annually in the three years since its introduction, with VW moving more than 5,500 examples in 2021.

Sure, those are still tiny sales by industry standards, but Volkswagen has worked to make the Arteon better and better. The company has refreshed the flagship twice since it made its debut, first for 2021 with stunning new exterior styling and tech equipment, then again for 2022. VW collapsed the model’s trim structures to just three choices, all of which now wear sporty-looking R-Line styling. VW also overhauled the drivetrain, adding power and an upgraded transmission. Things finally look promising for the once ill-fated four-door. We put a 2022 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line through our testing protocols to gauge the improvements.

How Does It Drive?

Dynamic Chassis Control is standard, so we began our test by sampling the Arteon’s various drive modes. Tapping the button next to the shifter allows the driver to pick profiles. Comfort, for example, softens up the steering, drivetrain responsiveness, and suspension. It gives the Arteon a much more relaxed character and allows it to float down the road, ideal for longer drives.

The car comes alive when you crank things up to Sport mode. The damping becomes significantly stiffer, reminiscent of the way a VW GTI’s suspension is tuned. Sport mode also firms up the steering and drivetrain responsiveness, making this the ideal setting for tackling a canyon road, as we did during our test drive. Slinging the 2022 Volkswagen Arteon down a winding ribbon of asphalt revealed a surprisingly playful chassis. VW told us it poached the steering setup from the GTI during an earlier update to the Arteon, and the progressive rack is ideal for threading through corners ranging from big sweepers to tight hairpins. The Arteon still isn’t fully positioned as a sport sedan, as indicated by its R-Line badging, but it’s certainly sportier than it ever was.

That’s in part due to the new engine. VW plucked the EA888 Evo4 from the Golf R, a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that cranks out 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque in this application, up from 268 hp and 258 lb-ft. With all-wheel drive and the help of launch control, which kicks in at 4,000 rpm, we found the 2022 model is much quicker than the previous year’s car. In our testing it sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds, topping the 2021 Arteon AWD by 1.1 seconds. That’s a massive gain.

Whether set to automatic or manual shift mode, Volkswagen’s DSG seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is willing to play. It reacts quickly when called upon for downshifts and under hard acceleration. We also noted the all-wheel-drive system allows the Arteon to put the power down well and early when exiting corners.

The 2022 VW Arteon’s acceleration impressed us in the quarter mile, too. It completed the run in 13.6 seconds at 100.4 mph. Braking, however, is simply adequate for a full-size car. The best 60-0-mph stop we managed was 126 feet, which trails the most recent Kia Stinger and Toyota Avalon variants we’ve tested. Although pedal feel is good, we noted some slight lateral skid under hard braking. It’s worth noting our test car used all-season tires, so despite being fun to toss into a corner, its lap time and lateral acceleration around our figure-eight “racetrack in a bottle” test track—26.9 seconds at an average of 0.63 g—was just shy of sportier sedans. We did the same in a 2022 Kia Stinger GT Line with RWD in 26.7 at 0.68 g.

Although the Arteon isn’t a true sport sedan, it is assuredly sporty and fun to drive. It represents a massive step forward from previous versions of the Arteon we criticized for a lackadaisical drivetrain and sloppy chassis tuning. The 2022 VW Arteon has the chops to tackle the tribulations of daily driver duty, and serious drivers can slap on a set of summer tires to expand the sportback’s ultimate capability.

Does It Have a Nice Interior?

The 2022 VW Arteon’s exterior is one of Volkswagen’s strongest designs in recent years, and its interior is no letdown, either. A long, horizontal line spans the entire dash, with plenty of vents for air flow; it gives the cabin a mature and upscale look. Three-zone climate control is standard with every Arteon, so rear passengers get their own vents and HVAC sliders. Midrange and range-topping models like the car we tested receive translucent trim panels that give way to configurable ambient lighting accents. Our test Arteon also had ventilated seats, a massaging driver’s seat, and a heated steering wheel; heated seats are standard across the whole range. Our biggest criticism with the interior is that VW uses enough plastic to erode the Arteon’s otherwise excellent impersonation of a luxury car.

The cabin feels spacious, however, especially with the panoramic sunroof open. Legroom is plentiful with 41.2 inches up front and a limolike 40.2 inches in the rear. Adults were more than happy to be shuttled around in our test car. Cargo space is enormous: Opening the trunk gives way to 27.2 cubic feet of volume. That figure more than doubles with the rear seats flipped down, offering 56.2 cubic feet.

VW also equips the Arteon with an array of high-tech gear. An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and a 10.3-inch fully digital infotainment display are standard on every model. So too are wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and wireless device charging.

Our only other quibble with the cabin remains with VW’s capacitive touch controls on the steering wheel and for the climate control. The climate control responds accurately, but the steering wheel sliders aren’t quite as responsive. Fortunately, the wheel also offers actual buttons to control various functions, but some folks will still struggle with this setup. All told, the Arteon’s technology suite is comprehensive, even at the base level, so we think most buyers will be satisfied with its near-luxury cabin.

Is It Safe?

VW equips every Arteon with its IQ.Drive driver assistance tech, which includes semi-autonomous driving capability, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, emergency assist, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitoring, and rear traffic alert. Parking sensors are standard, too. Our test car was also equipped with automatic parking assist, road sign assistance, high-beam assist, and a 360-degree camera. VW does a great job integrating its safety technology features in a way that feels natural, though we’d like to see the 360-degree camera displayed with higher resolution imagery.

Is the 2022 Volkswagen Arteon a Good Buy?

This was a more difficult question to answer three years ago. However, our test data demonstrates Volkswagen has empirically improved its flagship sedan. The 2022 Arteon is a fantastic choice for folks in need of a large vehicle with a ton of cargo capacity and a big back seat but who don’t need the badge prestige of a luxury brand.

Think of the 2022 VW Arteon as an undercover Audi A7 if you must—and you might need to do so because it’s still pricier than you probably expect from VW. The base FWD Arteon starts at $41,945, and this SEL Premium R-Line example stickers at $51,140. That said, even the front-wheel-drive base model has a ton of features (even Dynamic Chassis Control), and our test car was so loaded we’d really have to reach to demand more equipment. Buyers who find themselves in the driver’s seat will likely be more than satisfied with this sleeper hit.

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