2018 Chicago Auto Show: VW’s Arteon Wows the Media

By now you’ve probably poured over the press release and peeped the pictures of the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Arteon. Having safely returned from a very snowy Chicago (things were a bit dicey travel-wise), be aware the press release only tells part of the story. You see, the Arteon is a bit of a new beginning for Volkswagen. From roundtables with top VW executives, the sense of pride they have for this car is clearly evident. We’ll get to the ‘new beginning’ stuff in a bit.

Impressions: 2019 Arteon
As with most press releases, Volkswagen pulled out all the stops for the dramatic reveal. On the large stage in their booth at Chicago’s huge McCormick Place Convention Center sat two long, low, and wide cars covered in shimmery silver sheets. The fastback shape was easily made out. The LED daytime running lights shined right through the fabric. Lights were low, and high energy music pulsed as the media gathered. Volkswagen’s North America Region CEO, Hinrich Woebken took the stage, gave a short update on company business, and within minutes the sheets were pulled off to reveal two Arteons; one in metallic golden mustard, the other in a deep shade of red. Both are quite striking.

The first thing you notice on the Arteon is the bold grille and front fascia. The wide chrome slats accentuate the width of the car and flow directly into the headlights. On each side of the grille are generous air intakes that further widen the car visually. It’s a bold and confident design. We’ll add that while the grille appears a bit strange or perhaps too bold in photos, it is quite different in person. It is aggressive and elegant at the same time. And it fits the car very well.

The second thing that strikes you is the size of the car. The low hood, rakish roofline, long wheelbase, and fastback silhouette draw your eye from the front to the back and you quickly realize this is a large-ish car. At 191.4 inches long, it falls directly between the Audi A5 Sportback (186.3″) and the Audi A7 (196.2″). While it is only 2.4 inches longer than the CC, in person it looks quite lengthier. Some of that visual length is due to the longer wheelbase, but the shorter front and rear overhangs help as well. The proportions of the Arteon elevate the model. It looks more upscale, more purposeful. It has presence.

The third thing you notice is the character line that runs all the way around the car. Volkswagen’s Executive Director of Design, Klaus Bischoff, states the design team strived to keep this incredibly precise element intact from the concept to the production model. When viewed in person, this shoulder line is quite complex: it has an incredibly tight radius as well as an undercut. The more you look at it, the more you notice how light plays off it. In fact, the more you look at the car as a whole, the more details you notice. It’s easy to eavesdrop at events like this, and we heard many media and industry people saying the more they looked at the car, the more they liked it. This design has depth.

Some other things Mr. Bischoff pointed out to us: the Arteon letters centered on the rear hatch enhance the upscale appearance of the car. The centered model name is a design feature that will be found on additional models in the near future. The LED CHMSL stretches nearly the entire width of the rear hatch, further emphasizing the width of the car. The third window in the C pillar visually stretches the length of the car. And the integrated rear spoiler is one of the most aggressive metal stampings on the car.

The interior of the car is incredibly nice We’ve seen at least one criticism from a major magazine grousing about ‘hard black plastics’ and we wonder if they even sat in the car. As enthusiasts ourselves, we can assure you the interior is solidly upscale. Most plastics are soft-touch. Those that aren’t are down low, and are nicely molded with a deeply grained matte finish. The aluminum trim is just that: genuine (aggressively etched) aluminum. The light plays off it beautifully, The switchgear all has German precision with confident snicks and detents. Klaus pointed was quite proud of the dash vents; extra precision was taken to integrate them into the dash trim. The rearview mirror is frameless: subtle but upscale touch. And the wide center console rises up to the dash, somewhat like newer Porsches.

As you’ve probably read, the supple leather seats are heated, cooled, and even have a massage function. They are firm and supportive, just like all VW seats. And despite the aggressive roofline, the rear seat is very roomy. With the front seat set at a spot for a roughly 6-foot driver, another 6′ 1″ journalist said he had plenty of room in the back.

The Arteon is a very intriguing car. It has an overall personality that is both sporty and upscale. This fastback will now be the flagship for the brand in North America, and we think it has the potential to pull people away from other brands. In fact, members of the media asked more than once compared it to more expensive Audis and BMWs. The Arteon will definitely get people’s attention. And if the standard Arteon doesn’t get your pulse going, there are rumors an R-Line model may appear at the New York Auto Show in April. There’s also a 400HP Arteon R allegedly in the works.

While the Arteon is a very dynamic design, Klaus Bischoff stated it is not a new design direction for the company. He says we’ll see elements of this car’s design in other VWs in the future, but his team is already working on the next iteration of the Arteon and the Jetta. Bischoff said these current models are the start of the future of Volkswagen’s styling. He is working to move the brand’s styling forward into the future, and these models are some of the first steps on that journey.

Volkswagen Vehicles on Display
In addition to the star of the show, Volkswagen is showing at least one of each of its models. The other front-and-center model is the 2019 Jetta. On display is a Silk Blue Jetta SEL, and what appears to be an SE in Tornado Red. At a separate event held offsite they showed us a Habanero Orange Jetta R-Line (along with a charming fully-restored 1982 MK1 Jetta). When seen in-person, this new Jetta is quite an improvement over the current model. The styling is more dramatic; the side sculpturing is very attractive. The bold grille accentuates the width of the car. The rear tail lights are highly sculpted and intricate. Speaking of sculpted, the integrated rear spoiler is inspired by the one on the Arteon.

In addition to the 2019 Jetta, the 2018 Passat GT is on display. The red line grille, 19″ wheels, and black roof nicely enhance the look of the car. We think the GT will really catch people’s eyes when it comes out.

They’re showing the updated GTI, Golf, Golf R, Sportwagen, and a very handsome Golf Alltrack in Great Falls Green Metallic with the Marrakesh Brown interior. The Beetle Dune and all-new Beetle Coast convertible are present.

In addition to their cars, they have a full line up of SUVs. The two that caught our attention are the Atlas R-Line and the Tiguan R-Line. The R-Line package really transforms the look of these SUVs. If you are a fan of the European Tiguan R-Line than you’ll love the U.S. version. The body kit and large wheels create a striking CUV.

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