Updates to brand’s flagship bring plug-in power and an exotic shooting brake body

The subject of this week’s road test is nothing less significant than the flagship offering from the world’s second-largest car maker.

The Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake may not be the most expensive Volkswagen on sale – that status is now held by the £77,195 Volkswagen Touareg R plug-in hybrid SUV – but it is the most eye-catching, is arguably the most interesting and, in architectural terms, sits squarely in traditional flagship heartland: the four-door exec.

Shooting Brake body is different from that of the fastback Arteon from the B-pillar back. The rear wheel arches have been bulked up, too, to give the new derivative a slightly more aggressive stance.

The Arteon was first introduced in 2017, in saloon form. At the time, it felt like more than simply a replacement for the sleek Passat CC, presenting as VW’s attempt to finally fill the considerable space vacated by its old line-leading saloon, the Phaeton, which was mothballed in 2013 after two generations and precious little interest from Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series buyers.

Of course, the Arteon was very much a spiritual Phaeton successor, rather than a literal one, being a class and a half smaller, less expensive and endowed with a motor that took the form not of a 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 shared with Bentley but of a 2.0-litre in-line four. It would instead stand itself out with its striking looks and a combination of space, reasonable levels of opulence and, most of all, relative affordability for a GT-esque device.

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However, in the end it came out of the oven only lukewarm, and we concluded that it was “an interesting although slightly half-hearted crack at something genuinely different and appealing”. Duly, since then, the model has struggled to make an impact.

Four years later and the Arteon gets another bite of the cherry. We’ve invited it back for a full road test not only because of the appearance of its exotic new shooting brake body, but also because VW now offers the car with an economical but punchy plugin hybrid powertrain that enhances its on-paper versatility.

Is, then, the Arteon Shooting Brake eHybrid now a flagship VW worthy of that status?

The Arteon line-up at a glance

It might surprise you to learn that a car of the Arteon’s GT-lite aspirations is available in manual form, but the entry-level (and somewhat underpowered) petrol and diesel versions offer just that.

It is also surprising that there are no mild hybrids in the line-up, but that’s because the Arteon uses an older version of the MQB platform that doesn’t facilitate the technology.

The final surprise is that VW has launched an R version, with the same driveline as the 316bhp, four-wheel drive, torque-vectoring Golf R.


Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake First drives