“We’ll be more than happy to sell it to anybody who wants to buy it.”
Neil Lyndon mulls over the need for another new Volkswagen
At the recent launch in Scotland of the new Volkswagen Arteon, those words were the company’s answer to the question “Who is going to buy this car?”
It may be witty and laconic, but this corporate line only raises another question.
And that secondary question is:
“What kind of person, exactly, can you imagine wanting to buy an Arteon?”
I have tried and tried but, no matter how I badger and bludgeon these poor, desiccated old brains I can’t come up with an answer to that question.
The Volkswagen Arteon is, beyond doubt or question, a terrifically good car; but it’s extremely difficult to see any reason for it to exist.
Based on the comely sports coupe concept GTE which Volkswagen exhibited at Geneva in 2015, the Arteon is like a big brother to the CC and an elegant sister to the Passat. With a cd resistance figure of 0.265, this plaything of Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen’s head of design, is even more aerodynamic than the CC. Yet Volkswagen insists that, close as the Arteon is to both those models, it won’t replace either of them. “It’s the jewel in the crown,” they explained. “It’s the top of the line. It’s the brand leader. It creates a halo.”
“Oh, right,” we said. “So how many do you expect to sell?”
“Not many,” they answered.
Volkswagen has a proven knack for producing outstanding cars that everybody on earth will have owned at some time in their life. The number of people in Britain who have never owned a Golf is probably fewer than the number who have never had a cup of tea.
At the same time, however, Volkswagen has an unmatched track record for producing utterly brilliant cars that nobody wants to own. No prizes for guessing that I am thinking, especially, of the late lamented Phaeton.
In the futuristic factory they created specially for the purpose in Dresden, Volkswagen built this magnificent luxobarge for 14 years from 2002-2016. During that period, however, Volkswagen actually sold so few Phaetons that you have probably never met anybody who bought one. It’s even possible that you might never even have seen one on the road (which is a very remarkable thing to say about a mass-produced car) – or, if you did, you probably would have mistaken it for a Passat, which it closely resembled.
After that Phaeton experience, it might have been expected that VW would have learned a lesson about making cars for which there is no obvious market demand but, no, here they go again with the Arteon.
And, like the Phaeton, the Arteon drives superbly, is fabulously comfortable and roomy (with a full metre of legroom in the back seats) and has a boot as big as the hold of a trawler.
The 240 PS R-Line two-litre BiTDI 4Motion version I drove at the recent launch event in Scotland was undoubtedly one of the more impressive cars I have encountered this year. With 0-60 mph in fractionally over six seconds. In a few minutes at the wheel, I could well understand why it has beaten Jaguar’s XE in some head-to-head comparisons. Ride, steering, road-holding and turn-in are all at such high levels of communication and security that it seems perfectly reasonable for Volkswagen to apply the words “Gran Turismo” to this car. The levels of comfort (Nappa leather upholstery is standard) and specification are so lavish that the £39955 all-in price of the car I drove seemed like a bit of a snip.
Volkswagen has thrown the whole contents of the bath along with the baby at the Arteon, fitting it with some of the most advanced gizmos in the entire automotive world. Such as two-cylinder deactivation at cruise speeds to save fuel and an emergency assist system for anybody who goes into a coma or suffers a stroke at the wheel which will take over, drive the car into a position of safety and bring it to a complete halt. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is not yet included in the list of options but, no doubt, its own the way.
Not many cars on the market have more to offer than the Arteon, so it’s somewhat sad to think that so few people will ever give themselves the chance to enjoy and appreciate its virtues.
One thing we can say for sure, however: if anybody does ever buy a new one, it’s then going to be a sensationally good deal second-hand.
I might be first in line.
Car reviewed: Volkswagen Arteon R-Line TDI 240PS DSG 4Motion – Base Price On the road £39,955 before options 0-60mph 6.5 secs Top speed 152mph Fuel Economy combined 47.9mpg CO2 emissions 152g/km Engine 1968cc 4-cylinder Max Power 240PS@4000 rpm Torque 500Nm@1750rpm Transmission Dual clutch manual sequential auto mode
A terrifically good car
Roomy and comfortable
A Gran Turismo car
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