Long-term test (Introduction): Volkswagen Arteon 2,0 TDI R-Line DSG

I have a confession to make: I adore sedans. As much as crossovers appeal with their do-anything ability and adventurous designs, few vehicle styles are as pleasant as four-door notchbacks (aside from station wagons, but that argument is dead in the water in SUV-obsessed South Africa). 

A well-developed sedan is spacious, refined, large of boot, a joy to drive and generally cheaper than a raised equivalent. Take Volkswagen’s Arteon as a prime example (I know it’s actually a hatchback but, for the purposes of this argument – and because it looks like a sedan – indulge me). 

Launched locally in the middle of last year, Wolfsburg’s largest non-SUV ticks a number of crucial boxes, as I’ve found out in my short stint behind the wheel of our new 2,0 TDI R-Line DSG. This is the midpoint in the range, bookended by the 2,0 TDI Elegance for a nicely round R50 000 less and the flagship 2,0 TSI R-Line for, you guessed it, R50 000 more. 

We tested the TSI in September 2018 and cocked an eyebrow when it hit 100 km/h in just 5,80 seconds. The TDI has a more laissez faire attitude to performance, taking about three seconds longer to reach triple figures. Straight-line performance isn’t the point, however. Here, mid- range brawn thanks to 350 N.m of torque – plus frugal drinking habits and impressive NVH suppression – make it a fantastically accomplished long-distance cruiser, as myself and three friends recently found out on a journey along the Garden Route. 

The two tall fellas seated aft could stretch their legs, while the 416-litre boot swallowed all our provisions for the weekend. 

The trip also afforded me a chance to familiarise myself with the R-Line’s wealth of standard equipment, from head-up display to a massaging driver’s seat (odd that the passenger chair lacks this function), adaptive cruise control ensuring we remained in the traffic department’s good books, plus sat- nav and smartphone mirroring. There are a lot more toys, which I’ll delve into in future updates. 

Quirks? Well, the ride is certainly firm on those striking 20-inch wheels (although body control is excellent, so the trade-off feels just-about worth it) and, measuring nearly five metres long, manoeuvring the Arteon in Cape Town’s congested City Bowl takes some care. 

Otherwise, Volkswagen’s sleek “sedan” has shown few vices. Unlike some of the crossovers that, ahem, cross our path... 

After 1 month
Current Mileage:
1 201 km
Average fuel consumption:
6,99 L/100 km
We like:
sleek looks; well-built cabin; standard specification
We don’t like:
ride a touch reactive on 20-inch wheels

Long-term test (Update 1):Volkswagen Arteon 2,0 TDI R-Line DSG

The Arteon experienced a baptism of fire this month when it joined two premium-midsize sedans on a road trip. On paper, the BMW 320d and Mercedes-Benz C220d may not seem like direct competitors for the larger VW but all three sport 2,0-litre turbodiesels and cost similar money. It stands to reason anyone in the market for an Arteon might consider the others. While the 3 Series enthrals with its dynamism and the C-Class with its ride and refined power unit, the Arteon’s design, massive interior and generous kit tally ensure it remains part of the conversation in such illustrious company. 
 

After 2 months
Current Mileage:
 3 105 km
Average fuel consumption: 
6,71 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 2):Volkswagen Arteon 2,0 TDI R-Line DSG

You may have noticed a recurring theme across the board in this month’s long-term updates: fuel consumption. While I’ve made a concerted effort to source more affordable vehicles for the CAR garage, a related benefit has been a fleet filled with more fuel-efficient cars. While Ryan’s Fiesta 1,5 TDCi has been the star of the show, finally dipping under the 5,0 L/100 km average-consumption mark, the 1,8-tonne Arteon has also done its part to kerb our wallets haemorrhaging cash into the pockets of fuel companies. Despite a life relegated to urban commuting, which does a heavy internal-combustion car no favours, this 2,0 TDI has been averaging an impressive 7,49 L/ 100 km. And don’t for a second assume I don’t regularly revel in the engine’s powerful response from low revs and its quirkily appealing timbre... Diesel is quite clearly not yet dead. One aspect of modern cars that deserves a slow, painful death is that most maddening of dust magnets: gloss-black plastic.

The Germans especially love applying this finish to all manner of interior surfaces that most regularly come into contact with fingers. Just have a look at the images accompanying the road tests of the Audi Q8 and BMW 330i and Z4 on the previous pages.

Keeping the Arteon’s glitzy facia clean has become a personal crusade at which I will most likely fail. What’s wrong with matte plastic? Or, better yet, plastic finishes resembling metal? The rest of the cabin, though, is superb. It’s easy to use, generously proportioned (offering up to 100 mm more rear legroom than the 3 Series and C-Class) and lavishly equipped. It’s just a pity using those lovely features leads to a facia festooned with fingerprints... 

After 3 months
Current Mileage:
3 326 km
Average fuel consumption:
7,49 L/100 km
We like: 
frugal consumption despite traffic-clogged commutes
We don’t like:
glossy interior finishes

 

Long-term test (Update 3):Volkswagen Arteon 2,0 TDI R-Line DSG

 Every short-term test vehicle subjected to our road-test programme undertakes a 100 km fuel route incorporating a mixture of highway and urban driving. To ensure the results are fair and comparable to rival vehicles, the driving method is exacting: the tester is conservative with throttle and braking without aiming to shatter an economy-run record; and the test takes place roughly at the same time of day to replicate traffic conditions. 

Our long-termers, however, aren’t tested on the fuel route because, well, they complete a far more strenuous and in-depth assessment: three or six months to give an accurate, representative average fuel figure. However, curious what the Arteon and its 2,0-litre turbodiesel would achieve, I asked intern Jarryd Neves to take the big VW on our set 100 km route. My average to that point was 7,42 L/100 km, so I was at best expecting Jarryd to achieve a high six. What I wasn’t ready for was 5,0 L/100 km on the dot. That’s more thrifty than the brand-new BMW 320d was on its fuel run. 

Jarryd’s efforts have seen the overall consumption settle at 7,39 L/100 km. This could have been even lower had VW’s engineers equipped the six-speed dual-clutch transmission with a higher top gear. 

It’s easy to drown out the timbre by cranking the Dynaudio sound system. If you have the means, it’s a worthwhile addition at R15 100. While certainly not as powerful as top-end car audio systems, up to 8/10ths the reproduction and punch are first-rate. 

I must also mention the ErgoComfort front seats. Doing their name justice, they provide excellent support and even sport a massage function. They’re hoisted a tad high for my liking but otherwise they’re class-leading. 

 

After 4 months
Current Mileage: 
4 911 km
Average fuel consumption: 
7,39 L/100 km
We like: 
steadily improving consumption; fantastic front seats...
We don’t like: 
...that are set too high; short final gear