GRR

Goodwood Test: 2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake Review

One of the best looking estate cars around..?
29th April 2021
Ben Miles

Overview

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The Volkswagen Arteon sits just above the Passat in the VW range. Not quite a big saloon, not quite a big coupe it’s a sort of big fastback that replaced the Passat CC-ish but also didn’t. The Passat CC was always a bit of an oddity, bigger than a Passat but not really different enough to matter and by 2015 they were selling fewer than 4,000 a year. The Arteon was a move to make the concept work a bit better. It looked more like its own car than just a swoopy Passat and tried to be a bit more upmarket. In 2020 they gave it a facelift, keeping most styling cues but giving it a new face, and adding a “shooting brake” estate for the first time.

Just to point out here, this is not a shooting brake, but the phrase has been so utterly tortured by car makers that it barely holds meaning any more. This is an estate, a damned good looking one, but an estate no less.

We like

  • Cruises with consummate ease
  • Great looks
  • Massive boot and great interior

We don't like

  • Sluggish gearbox
  • Rubbish touch buttons
  • Getting quite expensive

Design

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The Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake’s styling just works. The Arteon’s liftback lines were always ripe for being hoisted into an estate shape, tapering to more of a point than a boot. And the implementation of the boot has been done well, rather than a bluff back the Arteon has retained a more curvaceous rear than a Passat equivalent. While that will undoubtedly slightly compromise boot space, it’s worth it, given the Arteon’s already gargantuan 590-litre boot is ample enough, and the space above the parcel shelf that has been created has not been taken into account in the official figures.

Sadly the Arteon does retain some fake, built-in exhausts, but the rest of the shape, including the almost reverse Hoffmeister kink of the rear three-quarter window line and the strong belt line running from the rear arch to the back and across the rear, is pleasing. The front is all grille, with the lights blending into the massive mouth, but thankfully not in a “1990s Ford Granada” style, it’s more an acknowledgement that the definition between lower and upper grille is pretty much pointless in 2021.

Performance and Handling

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The car we drove was in R-Line spec, but despite its proliferation of “R” badges, it was not any kind of sporting machine. While there is due to be an Arteon Shooting Brake R, this is not it. The top-spec car we drove was fitted with the 200PS (147kW), 400NM (295lb ft) four-cylinder diesel engine. A 2.0-litre turbocharged unit mated to a seven-speed DSG it means the Arteon is capable of hitting 62mph in a not un-sprightly 6.9 seconds and going on to 148mph.

Don’t expect anything particularly fun from the Arteon Shooting brake just yet. The power delivery from that diesel engine is fine, it’s smooth and torquey but nothing to light the world up, and its let down a little by a slightly dim-witted gearbox. The box is rapid on its shifts and perfect for using in manual mode – VW has made excellent DSGs for years now – but the software in automatic mode is really keen on holding onto gears. Our car seemed obsessed with third and fifth gears, to the point of holding on to fifth even when some sharp acceleration had requested, which resulted in a pretty leaden response. The ‘box means that throttle response is pretty stunted, but given it’s a cruiser it’s less important than ride comfort really, and there is a sport gearbox mode with slightly sharper responses if you really need. The Arteon’s front-wheel-drive nature does mean that if you shove your foot to the floor and summon all the torque there will be torque steer, and a slight scrabble from broken traction under a heavy request. It also means the back can feel skittish if pitched into a corner unladen, but that’s to be expected.

The Arteon’s key driving feature is its smoothness. That sluggish response and slow gearbox do mean that nothing the Arteon does is ever a jolt. The damping is also excellent, riding all but the very, very worst roads with almost unnerving ease for a car in this price range – honestly the Bentley Flying Spur struggles to be too much more composed. The steering is also light and easy and the ride on long journeys is excellent. Visibility is also excellent for such a big car (the Arteon Shooting Brake is just under 5m long).

Interior

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This is basically an as you were update from the old Passat, except Volkswagen’s obsession with haptic feedback non-buttons has crept in. It is a massive improvement over the interior on the current Golf’s confused insides and takes more of an inspiration from the Touareg.

The slightly buckety seats are excellent and comfortable, and the now totally expected all-digital dash is well thought out and easy to use. Interior space is excellent and the massive panoramic roof helps make it feel light and airy despite the full black on black nature of everything. Infotainment is excellent, it’s a well-used VW system by now, awoken by a hand moving toward it and the addition of wireless Android Auto makes a massive difference to the cabin, leaving no need for an abundance of wires messing up the place, although sadly wireless charging is not standard.

The haptic buttons on the wheel do work, but they stop working the moment you turn the car off, which is annoying the first time it happens if you just want to turn the stereo down while stationary. The touch buttons for the climate control are also too easy to miss-hit, together they do bring down an overall excellent interior a little. In the back rear legroom and headroom are very good, even for someone over six foot and, as you should expect from VW, the materials and build quality are all to-notch.

Technology and Features

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The top spec R-Line trim comes in at £41,765 on the road and means keyless go, an electric boot lid, start/stop, electric heated mirrors, three-zone climate control, ambient lighting, the big 10.25-inch touchscreen and adaptive cruise control. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not only standard, but come with wireless connection at no extra cost.

On the outside R-Line means some extra detailing, including that rogue “R” badge on the front, as well as a few little ones on the inside. The rear-view reversing camera, head-up display, dynamic chassis control and Harman/Kardon sound system are all optional extras.

Verdict

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If you want an estate, want it to be pleasant to look at, be smooth to cruise around in and a pleasant place to be, the Arteon is hard not to recommend. It’s a shame that the interior is let down by that continuing obsession with non-button buttons as otherwise everything else inside the Arteon Shooting Brake is excellent. The boot is pretty massive – the numbers don’t actually take into account the extra room above the belt line provided by the estate back – and it’ll cruise with the rest of them.

You do wonder though whether a price north of £40k as standard makes it dangerously close to some much more executive equipment. Indeed the car we drove was already nudging £50k (it was £48,720 including extras), at which point you do wonder if the sluggish gearbox and annoying touch buttons are a bigger issue than they’d seem on a sub £40k car.

Specifications

Engine

2.0-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder

Power 200PS (147kW) (peak not provided)
Torque 400Nm (295lb ft) @ 1,750-3,000rpm
Transmission Seven-speed double-clutch, front-wheel-drive
Kerb weight 1,650kg
0-62mph 7.9 seconds
Top speed 148mph
Fuel economy 147g/km
CO2 emissions 50.2mpg
Price £35,395 (£41,765 R-Line spec, £48,720 as tested)

Our score

4 / 5

This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.


  • Autocar
    3.5 out of 5
  • Top Gear
    3.5 out of 5
  • Car Magazine
    3 out of 5