2020 VW Arteon SEL Premium R Line 10

2020 VW Arteon Review: Bold Styling, Bland Performance

2020 VW Arteon SEL Premium R Line 7
2020 VW Arteon
In Our Opinion:
The 2020 VW Arteon is a stylish car, but it's a tough sell beyond that for us. During our week-long drive, our press vehicle was noisy and difficult to maneuver at slower speeds. We didn't care for the interior, which seemed haphazardly put together. Overall, the Arteon isn't a terrible vehicle (there are redeeming qualities), but it's not the best option if you fancy a bigger car.
Exterior Styling
Interior Layout
Driving Dynamics
Safety & Tech Features
Everyday Functionality
Fuel Economy
Exterior Styling
Car-Net Features
Interior Quality
Ride & Handling
Engine Prone to "Lurching"

The 2020 VW Arteon is a sharp-looking car, but that’s about all it seems to have going for it. The SEL Premium R-Line press vehicle we had recently was gorgeous, especially in the sunlight. We were eager to drive it when we first saw it but were quickly disappointed. It was fantastic to look at but a chore to drive. 

Here is how our week-long drive went with the 2020 VW Arteon. Hopefully, it will help you determine whether or not it’s the right car for you. Our press vehicle for the week was the top-trim SEL Premium R-Line.

VW Arteon: What’s New For 2020?

Not much has changed since the Arteon arrived in early 2019. VW’s Car-Net telematics system and in-cabin Wi-Fi are both available for 2020. SEL Premium models now come standard with Lane Assist and 20-inch wheels. Given the minor changes, it might be worth shopping for a certified pre-owned model instead and saving a little money.

The 2020 VW Arteon comes in four flavors: SE, SEL, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line (the SEL Premium R-Line is new for 2020). Same as the 2019 Arteon, VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive is available.

2020 VW Arteon press vehicle at the Woodhaven Bowl -A- Rama in Woodhaven, Michigan.
Our 2020 VW Arteon press vehicle at the Woodhaven Bowl -A- Rama in Woodhaven, Michigan.

Our 2020 VW Arteon Press Vehicle

Our SEL Premium R-Line arrived with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, 4Motion all-wheel drive, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Our press vehicle rocked the R-Line treatments, which included a unique front bumper, spoiler, and other exterior trim elements. The SEL Premium R-Line is standard with rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof, and an adaptive front-lighting system with cornering headlights.

The standard Technology & Convenience package includes VW’s digital cockpit, an overhead view camera, remote start, Bluetooth connectivity, and the Discover Media suite. The Discover Media array includes an eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, voice controls, HD Radio, SiriusXM, and a CD player. The 700-watt Dynaudio stereo with 12 speakers nicely accommodated our massive CD collection of 90s music. 

The Technology & Convenience package houses the Arteon’s active safety features. Park assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, a blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist, high beam control, and hill hold control were all standard on our press vehicle.  

Our Arteon press vehicle was also standard with the Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children (LATCH), three-zone automatic climate control with second-row air vents, Nappa leather, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.  

What Does The 2020 VW Arteon Cost?

Total MSRP for our 2020 VW Arteon SEL Premium R-Line was $47,705. By comparison, the 2020 Arteon starts at $35,995 with front-wheel drive. 4Motion all-wheel drive models start at $37,895.

If you are considering a new Arteon, this free and easy search tool* will help you find the best price. Depending on local incentives and inventory in your area, you may be able to purchase well below MSRP. 

2020 VW Arteon SEL Premium R-Line.
2020 VW Arteon SEL Premium R-Line.

Interior Highlights: Cold & Sterile

On paper, the SEL Premium R-Line sounds good. Our press vehicle was equipped with heated and ventilated Nappa leather, heated rear seats, a massaging driver’s seat, ambient lighting, and stainless steel pedals and scuff plates. We were especially jazzed at the inclusion of a CD player since so few vehicles have that today.

While each of these things on their own is worth having, nothing seems to mix well in the Arteon’s cabin. It’s similar to a cookie recipe with individual ingredients, like oatmeal, chocolate chips, brown sugar, and peanut butter. All good on their own, but the goal is to combine the ingredients, bake for a certain amount of time, and enjoy as an actual cookie. With the Arteon’s interior, stale baking soda ended up in the mix somewhere along the way.

The Arteon’s interior isn’t exactly “fresh from the oven.” It feels cold and sterile by comparison, with hard, brittle trim elements that appear snapped together like puzzle pieces. Hard surfaces are nearly everywhere in the SEL Premium R-Line, which does make sense admittedly for a sportier trim, but the whole recipe still seems off.

The buttons around the touchscreen feel flimsy and cheap, nor does the steering wheel inspire any real feeling of confidence. All of this is a significant flaw for the SEL Premium R-Line, especially since our Arteon press vehicle was pushing $50,000.

Interior Highlights: Redeeming Qualities

One redeeming quality is the flexibility of the Arteon’s driver display. For example, we moved the navigation map between the tachometer and speedometer to make it easier to view. Right above the map, we could see the compass, time, and temperature. The Nappa leather seats in Arteon are comfortable, so that is, most definitely, a redeeming quality. We also appreciated the generous amount of room inside the Arteon. It was something our passengers commented on as well.

The breadth of VW’s Car-Net services is another redeeming quality. Car-Net covers four significant areas – Remote Access, Safe & Secure, Hotspot, and Guide & Inform – and each has its benefit. Remote Access, for example, allows drivers to start their Arteon and check on the fuel level via a mobile app. A laundry list of helpful features like this are available for five years at no additional charge. 

Although it’s a paid subscription, we would recommend the Safe & Secure package. It includes helpful and essential services Information Assistance, Emergency Assistance, Automatic Crash Notification, Anti-Theft Alert, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance. 

DSC 7355 V2 tn
 2020 VW Arteon SEL Premium R-Line interior layout.

2020 VW Arteon: Engine & Powertrain

Under the hood of every 2020 VW Arteon is a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. The engine’s dual-injection setup (direct and multi-port) and a standard start/stop system help increase the Arteon’s fuel economy. A standard eight-speed automatic transmission helps send power to the ground.

2020 VW Arteon Fuel Economy

During our week-long drive, we put about 215 miles on our VW Arteon press vehicle. We did a good mix of city and highway driving through Detroit and the surrounding area. Our all-wheel drive Arteon gave us a combined average of 26.6 mpg, which is over the window sticker rating. When we saw our final combined mpg for the week, we were thrilled.

EPA estimates for the 2020 VW Arteon with all-wheel drive are 20/29 city/highway and 23 combined. By contrast, the front-wheel drive Arteon comes in at 22/29 city/highway and 25 combined.  

When compared to other big four-door sedans, the front-wheel drive Arteon holds its own in fuel economy. The Arteon is better than the Kia Cadenza in every department (city, highway, and combined) and more efficient than the Maxima in the city. While the Toyota Avalon beats the Arteon on the highway, the large VW sedan can match Toyota in the city.  

Screenshot from inside our 2020 VW Arteon press vehicle. After nearly 215 miles of driving, we averaged 26.6 mpg.
Screenshot from inside our 2020 VW Arteon press vehicle. After nearly 215 miles of driving, we averaged 26.6 mpg.

How Does The 2020 VW Arteon Drive?

The Volkswagen MQB architecture underpins the new Arteon. Although the ultra-high-strength steel architecture is common across VW’s lineup, the Arteon receives a few additional enhancements in the chassis department. For example, every Arteon is supported by a strut-type front suspension and a four-link independent rear suspension with gas-filled dampers. The feel of the dampers can be adjusted through a separate menu (Comfort+ to Sport+).

This is where it gets tricky for us. Similar to the interior, each of these elements on their own are excellent. In theory, the high-strength steel architecture and suspension modifications should make the 2020 Arteon feel smooth and stable on the open road. However, when combined with the car as a whole, things don’t work out that way for the 2020 Arteon.

For some reason, the Arteon is not nearly as engaging to drive as it looks. There is a fair amount of cabin noise on the open road, and it takes some effort to change lanes with the larger Arteon at higher speeds. Despite the chassis modifications, the Arteon’s steering isn’t as crisp and responsive as we would have hoped.

An Uncomfortable “Lurch”

The 2020 Arteon struggles in the city at lower speeds too. We had the same issue with the 2020 Tiguan we drove earlier this year. Like the Tiguan, the Arteon tends to “lurch” when you let off the pedal at around 20 to 25 mph. At times, it can almost feel like an engine brake or tow-haul mode is engaged, as if you were driving a truck. If you try to “push through” this particular spot in the powerband, it usually results in a hard shift, which our passengers could feel.

Similar to the Tiguan, the Arteon continued to exhibit this behavior all during our week-long drive. One afternoon, we went looking at houses around the Detroit metro. As we would slowly circle the block in each neighborhood, the Atreon would continually lurch and jerk. Suffice it to say, if we lived in Small Town America, where much of the driving happens at slower speeds, we would pass on the 2020 VW Arteon.

2020 VW Arteon SEL Premium R-Line

Should You Buy The 2020 VW Arteon?

While there were redeeming qualities, our SEL Premium R-Line press vehicle was pushing towards an MSRP of $50,000. Given the sterile interior and lackluster driving dynamics, it’s hard to justify that kind of money for the Arteon.

Based on our experience, we would recommend shopping around and taking a few other test drives first. The Acura TLX, Infiniti Q50, Kia Cadenza, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Avalon are viable options if you are looking for a bigger car. We think one of those would be a better choice versus the Arteon.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Is The VW Arteon made?

The Arteon is manufactured in Emden, Germany.

Does The Arteon replace the Passat?

No. The Passat is alive and well with a starting MSRP of about $23,000.

Is The VW Arteon AWD?

Yes. The 2020 Arteon is available with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

2020 VW Arteon Gallery

Photos: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

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