This particular Arteon’s specification differs from the norm, mind. A diet of diesel has long been the preference for big-mileage executive saloons, but our fresh-faced long-term test car is propelled by the backstop of the engine lineup: the turbocharged 1.5-litre TSI Evo petrol engine. In a Golf, it’s a compelling proposition and one we’re particularly fond of, with a levity that makes spinning it out a satisfying endeavour but enough torque to ensure you’re never asked to work particularly hard for swift progress.
In the Golf, it can also deactivate two of its four cylinders under light throttle loads between 1400rpm and 4000rpm for improved fuel efficiency, and the same is true for the Arteon. Whether its outputs of 148bhp and 184lb ft are as suited to a four-door fastback some 350kg heavier than the hatch is something we’ll discover in due course.
Combined fuel economy is quoted at 48.7mpg (the most efficient model in the range, a similarly powerful 2.0-litre diesel, is quoted at 65.7mpg) with CO2 emissions of 131g/km. With a 66-litre fuel tank, that’s good enough for a range of more than 700 miles.
Meanwhile, the claimed 0-62mph is 8.9sec, which although far from shameful doesn’t quite cash the cheque written by the assertive front-end design.
The spec we’ve gone for is the entry-level Elegance, which is one of only two available in the UK, the other being R-Line. We’ll be swapping one for t’other in a few months’ time, but for now our Arteon cuts a more restrained figure, and does without gloss black air intakes, aggressive bumpers and 19in wheels. The paint is a metallic shade called Chilli Red and costs £595.
You can buy an Arteon variously with a manual transmission and with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, but ours channels power to the front axle alone, and through a seven-speed dual-clutch ’box that can either be left alone or controlled through a pair of stubby steering-wheel-mounted paddles. 4Motion models come with active DCC dampers and a 15mm drop in ride height as standard, although our car uses a passive set-up.
Inside, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with the stark, clean, expansive architecture left slightly hanging by a range of materials and finishes – notably gloss black and aluminium – that don’t do an awful lot to excite. There’s also a strong whiff of Passat in there, which isn’t surprising given that’s the model with which the Arteon shares its basic construction.
The nappa leather seats, meanwhile, are VW’s ergoComfort models with electric adjustment for the backs and lumbar support but manual levers for height and reach. You’d get exactly the same shape in an R-Line Arteon.
We’ve been sparing with optional extras in an attempt to hone the Arteon’s appeal as a value proposition relative to its lavish overtones. It means that along with the paint, the only other boxes we’ve ticked are those for the £900 keyless entry with the electric tailgate, which can be opened by swiping your foot beneath the rear bumper, and a £315 rear-view camera. You might have expected VW to throw in a rear-view camera for ‘free’, given this is its flagship saloon, but no.
One tempting option we didn’t elect for is VW’s £985 Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system, and there’s a good reason why we’ve settled for the standard 8.0in display. Fact is, superb as the 9.2in glass touchscreen of the Pro might look, it does without any physical buttons or switches, so there are no scrolling dials for quick, sightless adjustments to volume and navigation zoom. We’re also far from convinced with VW’s efforts to implement gesture control, which are still hampered by inconsistent response.