Refreshed Arteon Brings the Heat to Fix the Miss of the Original

The launch of the Volkswagen Arteon should have been a big hit. Sleek four-door coupe styling and what is arguably better styling than the more premium Audi A5 along with some of VW’s best tech. Instead, it arrived as a bit of a thud, one that many buyers probably didn’t even notice. Volkswagen’s planning to give it another chance with a big refresh for 2021. But no, that doesn’t mean that we’re getting the wagon.

It was a big deal, and Volkswagen had done the usual dog and pony show of plenty of media drives and exposure for the Arteon. Then WLTP delays pushed the car back the better part of a year, and when it finally did arrive, the VW execs on our call talking about the model admitted that there wasn’t enough advertising and that the lease deals – this is a heavily leased segment – didn’t compete with the likes of the Infiniti Q50 and Acura TLX.

So this time they’re working on being “potentially more aggressive” with leasing offers as well as doing more marketing, plus, maybe even more importantly, getting more cars to dealers and more driver butts into seats. Most noticeably to customers, though, are big improvements to the interior. VW says that on the inside, the Arteon is now up to the standard of the Touareg, the company’s current flagship model, and in this style-heavy segment, the improvements are massive.

Changes to the exterior are limited to some slightly revised front bumpers, a chrome spoiler strip for SE, and a snazzy new continuous LED light strip on R-Line cars. There are new 18 and 20-inch wheel designs and the rear sees the new VW logo and a new font for the Arteon badges. New color options include the Lapiz Blue you’re likely more familiar with from the Golf R, an R-Line exclusive.

Inside, while the overall shapes are much the same, the devil is in the details and those details have been made much better. There’s now embossed stitching in the fake leather like on the dashboard and doors. The materials have been upgraded throughout the cabin, and there’s a new 30-color LED mood lighting system that wraps through from door to door.

The analogue clock is gone, as are the analogue HVAC controls. Instead, those lower controls are now digital touch-sensitive buttons. The 8.0-inch infotainment screen is new and while the one in the photos doesn’t have a volume knob, the US cars will have one. Behind that screen, Wireless App-Connect allows wireless versions of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. VW’s digital cockpit display is standard and the steering wheel has gained capacitive touch buttons. The audio system on SEL Premium is a new Harman/Kardon-branded system with 12-speakers and 700 watts.

Active safety has been improved as well, with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, front assist and lane assist, and emergency assist. The powertrain is unchanged, a 2.0L, 268 hp turbo-four with AWD on the options list and an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic.

Trims have been simplified, and there is SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line. SEL adds lane assist and traffic sign recognition, SEL Premium gets 20s and the good stereo. Pricing wasn’t announced, but VW hopes to keep it close to the current car, and at least 10 percent less than an Audi A5. The new Arteon should hit dealers in early November.

Lastly, yes, there is a new Arteon Shooting Brake. Yes, it’s stunning, and no, the US and Canada won’t be getting it. So why are they building it? VW says 2 in 3 buyers will take the wagon over the sedan in Germany. In the US, we assume it’s somewhere around 1 in 100. Since they’d have to re-crash the whole thing to sell not many for not much of a premium, it’s staying home. The Arteon’s already a hatch, and it already has 55 cubic feet of cargo space, impressively 3/4 of what the Tiguan offers. Which, combined with a much nicer interior, is a pretty good trade.