In an age of isolation and lockdown orders, there is some solstice in being able to drive. In my area, it is perfectly fine to go on long drives — in fact, the stay-at-home orders specifically call out “driving for pleasure” and that is exactly what I’ve been doing these last few weeks.
Fortunately, I’ve been driving a 2019 VW Arteon, a mid-sized sedan that has some borrowed DNA from an Audi A5 or possibly an A7. I’m in the camp that says no one quite makes cars like VW or Audi, and after testing around 700 cars in 10 years, I can attest to that. The driving mechanics of the Arteon make it a flagship model and worth the price.
VW lists the base price at $35,995 and the fuel economy at 22 city and 29 highway. My actual testing with the car over several weeks matches up nicely with this. So does my overall impression of the price range. It’s bigger, wider, and more luxurious to drive than the Passat or Jetta, but the turbo-charged engine (268-horsepower) makes it just as sporty as those cars.
A quick note about bias. In journalism, you don’t want to mention any pre-conceived notions. In testing so many cars over the years I’ve learned what I personally like and what I find to be worth recommending. It just so happens that the VW Arteon is literally both. The car is not over-priced like some sedans but not so budget-minded that the only reason to buy one is because of the low price. Punching the car many times to merge into traffic I had the sense that this car “just fits me” because it doesn’t surge in a chaotic matter. The Areteon likes to unleash itself. It accelerates effortlessly and doesn’t “dart” forward or race in a haphazard way.
After so many weeks, it became obvious the lower profile, the wide stance, and the turbo are all engineered to propel you forward because you need to get somewhere quickly and efficiently. You might have kids in the backseat or a passenger. It’s comfortable and sporty, the best of both worlds. I keep thinking of an Audi or a Mercedes-Benz as I was driving.
For tech, there’s a few neat tricks. I didn’t notice this right away but the hatch can lift slowly and elegantly like a TV that rises out of a cabinet as opposed to the awkward sudden spring-trap of some sedans. The trunk won’t bonk you in the head. And, it’s also hands-free. You hold your foot under the bumper to open it, grocery bags or a guitar (in my case) in hand.
I loved the LED taillights. I loved the instrument cluster with its racing vibe yet clearly demarcated gauges. This being a VW, when you see a curve in the road you smile and relax — everything is going to be fine, the world is not going to explode. I often found myself leaning in and accelerating up around corners, enjoying the low profile and sure grip. On a few drives on slick roads, the 4Motion all-wheel drive provided even more assurance.
There’s a tendency with a car like this to measure it against similar mid-sized cars. I had a head-scratching moment on that. The closest comparable is the sedan version of the Subaru Legacy Limited, but that vehicle does not have a turbo. It’s not fair to mention the Audi line, since they are part of the VW family and meant as luxury vehicles. I can’t afford them, either. I’m right in the sweet spot with the Arteon, a price that makes sense with extras that appeal to those of us who actually like to drive — especially when there’s a lockdown.
Responsive steering, quick acceleration — a comfortable ride. There’s no question the VW Arteon is my pick for car of the year.
The question you might ask is — is it yours?