The 2021 VW Arteon’s avant-garde styling and luxury-grade content allow it to almost pass as a member of Audi’s upscale stable. While the carryover turbo-four powertrain struggles to excite when behind the wheel, this hatchback disguised as a coupelike sedan does benefit from sharper exterior styling, a more upscale interior, and new-and-improved features.
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The 2021 Arteon lineup adds new paint-color options that include Kings Red metallic, Oryx White, and Lapiz Blue metallic. The entry-level SE model also gains 18-inch wheels with a new design and the top-spec SEL Premium R-Line rides on newly designed 20-inch rims.
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The Arteon is powered by a 268-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pairs with an eight-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel drive. While the top-of-the-line SEL Premium R-Line that we tested wasn’t particularly quick, it’s prudent enough to keep you on schedule and effectively pass slower traffic at highway speeds.
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The Arteon is best experienced when driven at a leisurely pace, which aligns with its luxury aspirations. Not only is its interior nicely insulated from wind and road noise, but it rides with a supple nature that feels more like an Audi than a Volkswagen.
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Perhaps the most transformative part of the Arteon’s updated cabin is the new customizable ambient lighting that offers 30 different color choices. Whichever hue is chosen then appears in a strip across the dashboard, translucent panels on the doors, and even elements in the digital gauge cluster and center touchscreen.
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With a hatchback discreetly hidden within its sleek shape, the Arteon provides an impressive amount of practicality. In fact, it held nine carry-on suitcases behind the back seats and 21 total with the rear seats folded flat. That’s almost as many bags of luggage as we fit in the VW’s compact crossover, the Tiguan
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The Arteon’s interior gets a subtle makeover that includes a modernized upper dashboard, which includes removing the obsolete analog clock and relocating the buttons above the infotainment system to the bezel around the shifter.
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Although the Arteon adds new features such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as wireless charging and USB outlets for the front and rear seats, its cargo and passenger volume remain the same as the previous model year.
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The Arteon SEL Premium R-Line that we drove for this review is a top-of-the-line model with an as-tested price of $48,190. However, shoppers only have to shell out another $1755 to afford an equally well-equipped Audi A5 Sportback Premium Plus 45.
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Volkswagen doesn’t expect the Arteon to appeal to mainstream shoppers who prefer crossovers and SUVs. Instead, its flashy flagship is intended to interest individualists who appreciate the model’s exclusivity and luxury.
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Every Arteon wears Volkswagen’s new logo and a revised front fascia, but R-Line trim levels now feature an illuminated light bar the connects the headlight signatures and surrounds the VW badge in the grille.
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