Just two years have passed since Volkswagen’s flagship sedan, the Arteon, began arriving at U.S. dealerships nationwide. Volkswagen recently announced a face-lifted version of the car, despite its relatively brief presence on our shores, bringing a sizable slate of updates for the 2021 model year.
For the uninitiated, the Arteon was designated as the successor to VW’s curvaceous, Passat-derived CC sedan. Based on the Golf’s MQB platform, it’s a genuinely striking car in the metal, and the exterior updates for 2021 make this style-forward car even more so.
Let’s start at the front end of the car. Prospective Arteon owners can now elect an illuminated grille, thanks to new LED daytime running lights that connect to form a single style line across the front of the of the car. The new light strips surround a redesigned VW logo and take the place of flashy chrome inserts—Volkswagen claims that “Light is the new Chrome.” Buyers who opt for the base SE get a new chrome strip above the front spoiler, while the R-Line (shown above) trim gets more aggressive-looking intakes in the lower apron.
Speaking of trims, VW will offer the Arteon in three for the U.S. market: SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-line. That means that opting for anything but the cheapest model gets you the more sporting (and busier-looking) front end. Two new wheel designs, one 18- and one 20-inch, add to the tweaked styling. Out back, the revised logo rests atop new typography for the Arteon’s badge lettering.
Three new colors join the mix for 2021—Onyx White, Kings Red Metallic, and our personal favorite, Lapiz Blue. The white and blue will only be available on R-Line trims, (read: the top two) while the deep, handsome red can be had on all new Arteons.
Inside, a more exclusive cockpit design hopes to mimic the handsome styling of the exterior. VW incorporated an entirely new dash panel for the Arteon, with handsome new surfaces (embossed stitching on an imitation-leather dashboard remains, sadly) redesigned air vents, and an updated center stack. The main controls feature a new touch “slider” to handle all climate functions, in place of physical dials. Gone are physical buttons for functions like window defrosting and seat heating.
A new multifunction steering wheel, first featured on the Atlas Cross Sport, also ditches real buttons for touch-sensitive surfaces to operate the 10.25-inch screen that comes as part of the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. Volume controls are also touch-sensitive, should you want to crank up the Björk from the new-for-2021, 700-watt, 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system offered on the SEL Premium R-Line. This will be the first U.S. VW to offer a Harman/Kardon system.
The 8.0-inch center touchscreen features VW’s MIB3 infotainment system, which offers conveniences like wireless App-Connect and multi-phone pairing. No more USB cords to jump into Apple CarPlay! Because all good luxury cars have ambient lighting, VW follows suit, giving the SEL and SEL Premium fancy translucent aluminum decor with 30-color illumination.
Powertrains remain unchanged for the nip-tucked Arteon; the only engine on offer in the States is the EA888 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four. The mill churns out a respectable 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, while an eight-speed automatic transmission handles gear changes. The SE will be front-drive only, while the SEL R-Line will allow buyers to opt for VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, and the top-tier SEL Premium R-Line will be offered exclusively with 4Motion.
Will these changes bring the Arteon flourishing success? VW only sold 788 examples in Q1 of 2020, and that was as the COVID-19 pandemic was bringing the auto industry to its knees. Sales reports for Q2 will shed even more light on the extent of the slowdown. While the regular Atlas and the new Atlas Cross Sport do a satisfactory job of filling the big-box segment for the dearly departed Touareg, the Arteon is in a tougher spot as VW’s designated halo car in North America, where people aren’t exactly lining up in droves for sedans with raked rooflines and under 30 mpg highway.
Still, it’s a pretty thing to look at. When the face-lifted Arteon finally arrives on our shores in November of this year, we’ll take ours in Lapiz Blue, please.