What is Volkswagen of America’s halo product? Most of you would probably say the Golf R or maybe the Atlas. Those of you would be wrong because until now, Volkswagen considered its halo car to be a vehicle you probably forgot was still around, if you remembered it at all. The Volkswagen Arteon tried to represent the best sedan Volkswagen could make, but few people bought them and now they’re dead. That would be bad enough but reportedly, the Arteon is dying a year sooner than it was supposed to. It’s a shame because it might have been the coolest modern Volkswagen nobody bothered to buy.
Technically, this news is coming in pretty late. It was first reported by Carscoops and confirmed by Volkswagen of America on December 8th, but nobody else noticed the Arteon’s departure until now. Perhaps that’s just another example of how little staying power the Arteon had. Volkswagen’s halo car died quietly without fanfare, not even from the media. If you aren’t feeling the gut punch yet, maybe you should know that Volkswagen of America originally slated for the Arteon to depart at the end of this year, so Volkswagen sped up the funeral procession.
Now that the show is over for the Arteon, here’s what so many car buyers missed out on and why you might consider one of these on the used market.
Officially, the Volkswagen Arteon’s roots trace back to the Passat CC, later condensed to just CC. However, classic VW nut Jason Torchinsky would argue that the foundations for the Arteon were laid decades ago when Volkswagen built the Type 4 fastback in 1968.
Let’s talk about the Type 4 for a moment. Volkswagen says that by 1968, the Beetle had been selling millions of copies each year, making the VW brand a household name around the world. The brand was evolving its lineup, too, and it had decided to take the Beetle platform and morph it into a larger vehicle better suited to serve families.
In September of that year, the 411 hit the road, introducing a number of firsts for the brand. The Type 4 marked the first time Volkswagen created a sedan. It was also Volkswagen’s first unibody car and the first Volkswagen to use MacPherson struts and coils up front. And like the cars that would come after it, the Type 4 was advertised as an upscale experience for the whole family with features like draft-free air circulation, thermostat-controlled heat, six-way adjustable front seats, and crumple zones. VW even compared the Type 4’s suspension to the Porsche 911, but to highlight stability.
The Type 4 passed the torch to cars like the Dasher/Passat, another vehicle marking more firsts for Volkswagen, including water-cooling, front-wheel-drive, and styling from ItalDesign’s Giorgetto Giugiaro. As Jason once remarked, the Passat was also an important point in VW’s history because it’s the point when Volkswagen’s acquisition of Auto Union tech saw the light of day.
Sadly, the Passat dropped a fastback option at the 1988 launch of the B3. It would then march on for about two decades before the fastback style finally made a return to the Passat.
As MotorTrend reported in 2008, the Volkswagen Passat CC’s design team, led by Oliver Stefan, noticed that the Passat had a wagon and a sedan, but not a more “emotional” variant. To make the CC a lavish sensation for your eyes, Stefan and his team decided to carve a curvaceous coupe-inspired body out of the Passat. Sure, the vehicle’s windows got squished, as did room for rear passengers, but Volkswagen produced a shape that suddenly made most other vehicles in the Volkswagen lineup look comparatively frumpy.
It also wasn’t enough that designers just made a sleeker Passat, Volkswagen also took the rest of the vehicle upmarket, making a sedan halo car. During the CC’s worldwide release in 2008, Volkswagen claimed it was the world’s first car in its class to have an active lane keep assist system as well as the “Dynamic Drive Control,” which offered different suspension and steering adjustments. This was a car loaded down with tech from automatic distance control, automatic braking, and a parking assist.
Volkswagen capped the CC off with its own upscale interior, frameless windows, and ventilated seats, a feature that Volkswagen noted was last featured on the Phaeton super sedan. Automotive media was sort of obsessed with the CC. It wasn’t the perfect sedan, but it sure looked good. The CC was powerful, too, offering a 2.0-liter 200 HP turbo four as the base engine in America and the 3.6-liter VR6 with 280 HP as the top engine. You could even have your luxury paired with a manual transmission.
Sales of the CC were healthy at first and the car got a facelift with more tech, but that didn’t stop deliveries from sliding under 10,000 units by 2014. By 2016, sales were an abysmal 3,237 units. Volkswagen already had what it thought was the answer. In 2015, the Volkswagen Sport Coupe Concept GTE made the show circuit, showing off an even sexier future for the CC. This became the Arteon in 2016 before hitting the road in Europe in 2017 and America a year later.
Officially, the Arteon is the CC’s spiritual successor. However, the Arteon went even further than the CC. The Arteon is low, wide, and goes even further upmarket than the CC did. When the Arteon made its debut at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show, Volkswagen of America called the vehicle its halo car.
Part of what made the Arteon so amazing is just how different it looked from anything else in the Volkswagen lineup. The Arteon made just about everything else, except maybe for the GTI, instantly look ten years older. Or, was the Arteon coming in from ten years into the future? Senior exterior designer Tobias Sühlmann penned lines for an elegant, graceful vehicle that could just as easily wear a more prestige badge. Some of the visual feast is due to the lengthened wheelbase. The MQB platform-based Arteon has a 111.9-inch wheelbase compared to the CC’s 106.7 inches. The Arteon looked lower, leaner, and ready to glide down any of America’s autobahns.
There are not many mainstream cars that make me practically crack my neck trying to take a look, but the Arteon, much like the Phaeton of old, does. As Jason perfectly captured in his review at the old site, there is not an angle of the Arteon that is bad to look at. The attention to detail is also phenomenal.
Sadly, I never got to drive an Arteon before its death, but Jason did:
I’ve seen other reviews of the Arteon that suggest that its driving dynamics don’t quite match its looks, and that when compared to similar but more expensive cars from BMW, for example, it’s slower and less engaging. Now, that’s not necessarily wrong, but I think it also commits the very common automotive-journalist sin of ignoring the context of how these cars will most likely actually be driven.
Sure, I don’t think I’d pick the Arteon as my track car of choice, but this really isn’t something that’s likely to come up for, um, anyone who’s looking at an Arteon. This car is very clearly designed to be a fast, comfortable, roomy everyday and road trip car, not a canyon-carver. That said, I found it occasionally fun to drive. The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four makes a respectable 268 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque, and at no point did the car feel slow to me.
I’m told it’ll go from stopped to 60 mph in about six seconds, which is plenty fast, and when I stomped on the throttle it made satisfying noises and pulled like a champ. Not neck-snapping or bladder-voiding, but if you’re not satisfied with how quick it is, you’re probably looking at the wrong kind of car.
Like the CC before it and the Type 4 decades ago, Volkswagen also made the Arteon’s interior a nicer place to be than the typical VW of the era. Volkswagen upped the tech in the Arteon, too, adorning the vehicle in LED lighting, filling the cockpit with screens, adding in Nappa leather, three-zone climate control, massaging seats, rear heated seats, and a long line of driver assists.
Sadly, the American-spec Arteon did lose a couple of the best goodies the CC offered. While the Arteon was offered with a manual transmission and later, a slick wagon, VW never bothered giving them to Americans. I know that for many of our readers, the lack of a manual alone sours the deal. But I do think Jason is right that the Arteon isn’t really supposed to be a killer sport sedan or a vehicle for enthusiasts, but a flashy car to cruise America in.
Despite all of this, the Arteon was seemingly a miss, even with non-enthusiasts. In the launch model year of 2019, Volkswagen moved 2,449 units. That increased to 3,998 units in 2020 before peaking at 5,537 in 2021. Then, sales fell off a cliff and just 1,178 Arteons found a new home in 2022. There was a sales rebound in 2023 if you can call it that, as 2,349 Arteons were sold.
The Halo Few Bought
Back in 2022, Volkswagen of America announced that the Arteon would die at the end of the 2024 model year. This was reportedly part of Volkswagen’s Accelerate Forward plan, an effort for Volkswagen to become a leaner, more profitable version of itself by shedding slow-selling models and focusing on the meat and potatoes everyone is buying. Given the Arteon’s position as one of the brand’s slowest sellers, killing it made sense. However, as confirmed back in December by Carscoops, Volkswagen decided to pull the plug a year early. In the letter obtained by Carscoops and confirmed by Volkswagen of America, the brand is letting the Arteon go and is looking forward to the release of the ID.7 to fill the hole of Volkswagen’s bigger sedan.
It’s not exactly known why the Arteon failed to launch with buyers but the price can be a clue. A 2019 Arteon started at $35,845, which was a pretty big leap over the $26,190 2019 Passat, another slow seller that somehow died first. A loaded Arteon also sailed past the $44,200 base price of the Audi A5 Sportback. Perhaps, just like with the Phaeton two decades ago, buyers weren’t ready to pay Audi money for a Volkswagen badge. Of course, there’s also the fact that sedans have been losing the battle against crossovers, and the Arteon is unapologetic about not being a crossover.
If you’re suddenly feeling the urge to buy a dead VW halo car, I have good news. Volkswagen is still selling new 2023 Arteons. Who knows how many are left, but time will eventually run out. As of now, the cheapest way into a new Arteon is the SE R-Line, which retails for $44,360 after destination charges. There’s also the SEL R-Line for $48,530 and the SEL Premium R-Line for $51,425.
Whatever the reason people didn’t pony up the cash for an Arteon, the Arteon will eventually join the Phaeton in the pages of rare Volkswagen sedan history. Perhaps, like me, you’ll be excited to see one in traffic, just to be saddened that it is gone. It’s a shame because it sounds like the Arteon was one of the coolest cars Americans didn’t buy.
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