Volkswagen has revealed its heavily updated Arteon, the Passat’s sleeker, more ‘premium’ cousin. Originally revealed in 2017, the Arteon followed up the Passat CC (later just becoming CC) in taking Volkswagen’s large saloon upmarket, but has since failed to make much of an impact as buyers continue to turn to SUVs. Rather than retract from the market, Volkswagen has instead doubled down, giving the Arteon range a big update inside and out, a sleek new Shooting Brake body style and even two full-fat flagship R models.
It’s this Arteon R that is the most interesting new addition to the range, featuring a new generation of Volkswagen R power and drivetrain components that are expected to be found in other new R models. The powertrain is essentially the same EA888 four-cylinder engine as the previous Golf R, but has undergone a substantial overhaul in its ‘evo4’ form, resulting in peak power and torque figures of 315bhp and 310lb ft respectively. While these don’t represent big increases on figures for the current engine (19bhp and 30lb ft), the more telling figure is where in the rev band these peaks are, hitting peak power from 5800rpm right through to 6400rpm, only a few hundred RPM from the red line. This tells us the new evo4 four-cylinder will like to rev – a rarity in modern turbocharged engines.
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Connected to the engine is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, with power being sent to all four wheels via a Haldex-style all-wheel-drive system and a new-for-VW torque vectoring rear differential. This system is a physical one rather than a vector-by-braking system, consisting of a clutch pack in the rear-axle drive unit that’s able to physically send torque to each wheel, similar in principle to the unit found in the AMG A45 S. The ‘Torque Splitter’ as VW calls it gives the Arteon R an ability to send up to 100 per cent of the available torque to each individual rear wheel, dramatically changing the dynamic characteristics of the all-wheel-drive system.
This is matched to standard-fit adaptive dampers and a specially tuned stability control system which, in a similar fashion to the yellow traction control knob in an AMG GT R, is able to be incrementally disabled via a slider within the infotainment system. Volkswagen has also focused on the Arteon’s ability to have its ESC safety net switched off completely, giving us reason to believe that the new rear differential should make power-oversteer action in the realms of possibility. In something based on a Passat! Together, all of this technology makes the new Arteon R more than just an old Golf R in a sleek body, and instead a preview of the next-generation Golf R due later this year.
Aside from these mechanical changes, the Arteon R also features bespoke exterior styling, new 20-inch ‘Estoril’ alloy wheels, an uprated brake package, an active exhaust system exiting through new quad-exhaust outlets, bespoke R interior trim and VW’s latest-generation R steering wheel with a dedicated R-mode switch and a substantial new set of gearshift paddles.
These Arteon R-specific updates are then combined with a selection of other changes across the whole range, including an adoption of VW’s latest infotainment system within a 9.2-inch touchscreen display, standard-fit digital instrument cluster, new touch-sensitive ventilation controls and a new upper dash, incorporating new trim elements and an extended application of multi-coloured ambient lighting. The new Shooting Brake and its hatchback siblings also pick up plenty of exterior design changes, such as new bumpers, wheel designs and colours across the range. New LED lighting units at the rear and a full-width front-mounted light bar connecting each headlight’s integrated running lights also sharpen the Arteon’s aesthetic. These new elements only accentuate the Arteon’s concept car-like styling, looking sleek and modern, especially in Shooting Brake form.
Other Arteon engine options include the usual suite of Volkswagen’s four-cylinder petrol and diesel units, but new for both the hatchback and Shooting Brake is a plug-in eHybrid variant which shares its powertrain with the new Golf GTE. The 215bhp hybrid model is able to switch between full electric and hybrid modes, achieving up to 30 miles on a single charge of its 13kWh battery pack. The electric motor here is combined with the same 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and bespoke six-speed DSG ’box.
Volkswagen will introduce the new Arteon in the latter half of this year, focusing on mainstream models first before the new R and eHybrid models arrive later. Local pricing and final specifications have yet to be confirmed, but while the new R promises to be the most exciting Arteon yet, we’re hedging it won’t come at a bargain price considering the current model already brushes £40,000 in its most expensive forms.