First Drive

Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake R-Line 2020 UK review

No matter the engine or the trim, the new interior is essentially a scaled-down version of that found in the Touareg SUV. It means that although VW’s obsession with touch-sensitive switchgear continues unabated, everything looks and feels very high in quality indeed. It’s not such an imaginative place, but the textures are interesting and the atmos is warmer than what Audi is currently managing. 

Visibility is also excellent for such a large car. The A-pillars are deliberately slim and the glass-house that wraps around the back of the body is generous, so the Shooting Brake is an easy car to manoeuvre. Paired with the panoramic roof standard on R-Line cars, the resulting spacious but somehow close ambience is similar to that of the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. Long journeys are pleasant. 

But that’s where the similarities end, because despite the rakish body, the Arteon simply isn’t that kind of the car. It doesn’t feel that serious. The driving position is considerably perched compared to that of the BMW 320i Sport Touring – which being similarly powerful, similarly sized and almost identically priced, is our particular Arteon’s most formidable rival –  though the half-bucket seats are at least supportive and there’s ton of adjustability in the steering column. You’d just expect something with a little more intent. After all, it’s not a Passat Estate.

Where The Arteon excels is space. There are leagues of second-row space. Really, it feels bigger than even an E-Class back there, with so much legroom you don’t know what to do with it. And as for boot space, don’t be perturbed by the official figures. The Shooting Brake’s 565 litres with the seats up is only two litres greater than the hatch, but this doesn’t account for space above the beltline, which is where the Brake makes its gains. To go bigger with this size of footprint, you’d need to pay Skoda a visit and drive something less outwardly elegant. The ski-hatch is also useful, and that the rear bench folds almost flat somewhat makes up for the huge boot-lip.

As you might be expecting to hear, there isn’t much to whet the appetite, and the economy-minded DSG gearbox mapping further dulls what modest performance potential 187bhp and 236lb ft ever had. The car will tolerate being hustled, but among front-driven rivals, the Mazda 6 holds far more appeal, and the VW’s softer spring rates and vanilla steering are best suited to loping down motorways. You could option VW’s adaptive dampers and XDS ‘limited-slip differential’ to spice things up, but their effect wouldn’t be transformative. The balance is determinedly understeery, though on the larger 19in wheels, the Arteon’s ride quality does come really quite nicely together at speed, having been a little brittle at lower speeds. 

And one what, actually, might be better suited to the 2.0-litre TDI unit, because the petrol isn’t that torquey and, when you really want to move, it’s all a bit laboured.

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