Several years ago, I was visiting some supplier companies in Germany. One evening in Nuremburg, a young PR person took me to dinner in the sort of small, dark, wood-intensive restaurants that I think most Americans associate with Germany. While I wanted to be a good guest, there was one thing that I had to ask her: “How is it that you drive a Suzuki?” I had noticed a number of small cars of various makes crowded into parking spots (some of which included the sidewalks) as we’d made our way to the restaurant, which seemed unusual given the otherwise orderly nature of almost everything.
This obviously isn’t painted Manganese Gray Metallic—but it still has presence. (Images: VWoA)
I had been under the impression that people who worked for German companies all had Mercedes. (I was also shocked every time I saw a C-Class taxi.)
She explained to me that many of those big—invariably black—sedans that I saw on the autobahn and elsewhere were generally executive cars, not owned by the individuals, but by the companies they worked for.
And she referenced the parking and the amount of taxation associated with larger displacement vehicles which made her very happy with her diminutive car.
Style Meets Substance
That remembrance came back to me when I saw the Arteon 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line, with a Manganese Gray Metallic exterior, almost matte black 20-inch alloy wheels, Titan Black leather interior: It strikes me as being an executive car, something that one would power down an autobahn mach schnell.
It reminded me of something that would be appropriately cast in a Jason Bourne movie, slightly sinister and mysterious.
If you’re looking for a car with distinctive character, this top-of-the-line sedan has it. And then some.
Where Are They?
What’s more, while it probably doesn’t make the folks at VW very happy, it is sufficiently rare such that you’re unlikely to find several of them parked at your local Costco: for the first three quarters of 2020 there were just 2,641 Aretons delivered in the U.S. and while I generally look at sales numbers for this year as not being particularly representative of anything given the pandemic, that 2,641 is actually a 78% improvement over sales for the first three quarters of 2019, when just 1,483 were sold.
Which really is inexplicable.
This car really brings the goods.
Power & Structure
It has a 268-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that is mated to an eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic shifting functionality. While you might think that it is a big car for a four cylinder engine—it is 191.4 inches long, 73.7 inches wide, and 56.5 inches tall and has a 111.7-inch wheelbase—it gets the job done. Because the car driven here is a SEL Premium R-Line, it has standard all-wheel drive.
Some of the nicest 20-inch alloys you’ll find on a sedan.
There is an extensive use of ultra-high and ultra-high hot stamped steels to construct the chassis, which is important to know only in that they contribute to a rigid structure: there is the solidity that one doesn’t necessary find nowadays.
It has the VW “Digital Cockpit,” which means instead of a standard instrument panel, there is a high-res 10.25-inch screen. And for infotainment purposes there is an 8-inch capacitive touch screen in the IP (it is surprising to see that selections come up on the screen as you move your finger toward it).
Going back to the aforementioned trip to Costco, know that the Areton offers 27.2 cubic feet of cargo volume (55 cubic feet if you fold the second row seats), and the SEL Premium R-Line model has the ability to open the trunk with a foot under the rear fascia (assuming you have the fob) and to close it, there are two options: one button closes it immediately while another closes it only after you’ve walked away, thereby allowing you to take out that giant package of paper towel or the like without having to reach up to close the trunk. Clever.
There is a suite of safety systems, including forward collision warning, blind spot monitor, lane assist, rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise and so on.
There is also a “Parking Steering Assistant” that will park the Arteon—in a parallel or perpendicular spot—with the driver providing brake and throttle control only.
Without question, this is a car that can be driven with comfort and confidence. Whether there are a whole lot of execs running Aretons in Germany or not (I suspect that the now not-so-young PR person might be in exec car space by now), it is something that more Americans—executives or middle managers or others—should spend some time considering.
The MSRP for the SEL Premium R-Line is $47,695, and it is worth it.
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