The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon is the latest — and one of the best — competitors in the emerging luxury bargain car category.
If that sounds like a contradiction, you haven't been keeping up with the recent wave of upscale products from affordable vehicle manufacturers. This is different than the Japanese automakers launching their own luxury brands. Luxury bargain cars are upscale vehicles still sold by the likes of Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Toyota.
Volkswagen has tried this before with the CC and Phaeton. Both were impressive sedans that competed well against German luxury cars that cost nearly twice as much. But neither caught on.
Undeterred, VW is taking another shot with the 2019 Arteon, and anyone looking for a sophisticated ride at a reasonable cost should pay attention. Put simply, the Arteon is a strikingly good looking car with a refined interior that delivers sport sedan performance and is available with all-wheel-drive — all for much less than you would expect.
At first glance, the Arteon looks more like a Tesla S than any other Volkswagen, thanks to the swelling rear end and fastback roofline, which conceals its large hatch. The front end is more conventional for the German manufacturer, although much blunter and aggressive than any other model.
The interior is more conventionally Volkswagen, with form following function, but is enhanced by a surprising amount of interior space for a midsize sedan. The materials are all high quality, rivaling those of the company's upscale Audi line. The rear seat provides enough room for three adults, but also features a convenient fold-down center console when only two passengers are back there.
All trim levels of the Arteon are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that produces 268 horsepower and 250 foot pounds of torque. Although that does not actually sounds like much these days, it produces impressive acceleration through the standard eight-speed automatic transmission, which has a manual shift mode for drivers who want more control. The combination is more than enough for any kind of day-to-day driving situations, and surprisingly fun when the road opens up, especially in the Sport mode.
Our test ride was an SE model with 4MOTION, VW's excellent AWD system. Although the entry trim level , it still came with a leather interior, a large but well-integrated infotainment display screen, and all the bells and whistles buyers would expect in a genuine German luxury car — but all for under $38,000. In case you don't know, that's a bargain.
It's easy to question why Volkswagen is even introducing a new sedan these days. Consumers have reportedly turned against them and minivans, preferring crossovers, SUVs and trucks instead. That may be the big picture right now, but there is still a market for a good, reasonably-priced car with a lot going for it. The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon fits that bill at a good price.
2019 Volkswagen Arteon SE 4MOTION
Price as tested: $38,640
Type: Midsize sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (268 hp, 250 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode
Modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Custom
EPA estimated mileage: 20/27
Overall length: 191.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,835 pounds
Final assembly: Emden, Germany
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)