2021 Volkswagen Arteon

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
February 11, 2021

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The SEL R-Line adds more flair and more features befitting a flagship sedan.

features & specs

SEL Premium R-Line 4MOTION
22 city / 32 hwy
20 city / 31 hwy
20 city / 31 hwy

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is a compelling sedan with good features, but it's overshadowed by premium sedans that are even better.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is a sedan shaped like a coupe that seats five. Successor to the Volkswagen CC, this sleek Euro-styled flagship equips itself like an Audi A5 Sportback but is priced about $5,000 less. It struggles to attract an Audi crowd or the crossover crowd looking at a Volkswagen Tiguan, and with compelling sedans such as the Genesis G80, Acura TLX, and Kia Stinger, it needs to be better than good. 

Is the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon a good car?

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The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is a good car at the wrong time. Good isn’t good enough right now. It earns a TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon?

The refreshed curvy sedan sports a revised rear with more prominent badging and a new front with a LED light strip running across the grille and through the badge. The air intakes sit a little lower to help cool the same 268-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that hiccups when coming out of first gear. Adaptive dampers are standard, as is an electronic limited-slip differential that makes for sportier ride characteristics and better handling in the snow or on the long and winding road. 

The long wheelbase and hatchback style counter the low roofline for a relatively roomy interior with enough rear leg room and cargo space with the rear seats folded down to rival compact crossovers. Standard heated front seats with 12-way power adjustments grace an understated but attractive cabin.

New for 2021, an updated 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard across the lineup. Also standard is a lovely 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster that renders the touchscreen as a plaything for the passenger. A new steering wheel and climate bar with touch-capacitive controls looks good but has mixed functionality compared to traditional dials or buttons. 

These luxury-leaning tech upgrades are complemented by standard driver-assist systems that include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, while higher trims get adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, active lane control. The IIHS bestowed a Top Safety Pick award on the Arteon, but the NHTSA hasn’t tested it. 

How much does the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon cost?

For 2021, the Volkswagen Arteon comes in SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line trims. Starting at $38,190, including destination, the Arteon tops out below $50,000, but you get a lot for that price. The $48,190 SEL Premium R-Line includes all-wheel drive, 20-inch alloy wheels, a Harman Kardon sound system, a heated steering wheel, a massaging driver's seat, cooled front seats, and heated rear seats.

Where is the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon made?

In Germany.


2021 Volkswagen Arteon


Sexy on the outside, subtle on the inside, the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon warrants a long look.

Is the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon a good-looking car?

Yes. The low roof, long wheelbase, and sloping rear window give it fastback style with hatchback functionality. Aside from a new light bar binding the LED headlights with the VW badge in the grille, the Arteon dons a conservative look that looks better each time it’s worn. It earns a point inside and out for a 7. 

The Arteon is all curves, from the roofline and wheel arches to the clamshell hood that dips low into the grille. The slotted grille extends to air intakes down low and daytime running lights up high that run down the body for twin character lines that tie the whole car together like The Dude’s rug. It looks even better with blacked out elements and at least 19-inch black wheels on R-Line models. 

Inside reflects the conservative persona on the outside. Black soft touch panels contrast with chrome or carbon fiber accent pieces on the low and long dash that’s split by thin horizontal vents. It’s staid but stylish, not unlike Audi. A mechanical gear shifter wedges a wireless smartphone charging pad at the base of the stack; it’s the only element that feels crowded.

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2021 Volkswagen Arteon


The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon handles light on its heavy feet.

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon has an esteemed turbo-4 with good output that’s bogged down by the sedan’s hefty weight, but its adaptive suspension gives it an edge on turns and against other mid-size sedans. It’s a 7 for its acceleration and dynamic ride. 

Is the Volkswagen Arteon 4WD?

Front-wheel drive is standard, but Volkswagen offers all-wheel drive for $1,800 on the SEL R-Line. It’s standard on SEL Premium R-Line. In icy conditions, the AWD system and limited-slip differential add grip and instill confidence.   

How fast is the Volkswagen Arteon?

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon commends itself best as a long-distance cruiser, but the 268-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 has a pleasant kick and diminutive paddle shifters enable quick-response passing moves. Minimal turbo lag off the line hustles the nearly 4,000-pound car to 60 mph in the mid six-second range, but there’s a hitch when the 8-speed transmission switches from first gear to second. Anywhere else it shifts much smoother, and when pushed in Sport mode, a pleasant engine sounds rocks the cabin. 

R-Line models sport a chunky steering wheel with four-corner notches, but the steering never feels too tight or too loose despite a steering assist system that provides light resistance at low speeds to make parking easier, then ratchets up the feedback in more spirited driving. 

Together with an independent suspension, the adaptive dampers on the Arteon allow for more flex on the highway and more stiffness on winding roads. Or the driver can customize the settings by leaning into either the “Comfort” or “Sport” mode. That level of variability gives the Arteon a driving dynamic missing on most mid-size sedans in the class. 

Review continues below


2021 Volkswagen Arteon

Comfort & Quality

Good interior cargo and leg room expands the utility and comfort of the 2021 Arteon.

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon makes good use of its interior space. At nearly four inches longer and two inches taller than the Audi A5 Sportback, the Arteon is friendlier for rear passengers but squeezing a fifth passenger in the middle seat won’t make anyone feel friendly in back. With the rear seats folded down the cargo volume expands from an already generous 27.2 cubic feet to 56.2 cubes, similar to many compact crossovers. Good cargo room and good front seats earn it a point each to a 7.

Even without the available nappa leather seats with massagers on the top trim, the base SE comes with synthetic leather upholstery and heated 12-way power seats that have plenty of back support and long low cushions underneath. 

Head room does not favor the tall at just 37.7 inches up front (a Honda Accord has 39.5 inches for reference) but there’s good leg room for four passengers, including 40 inches of leg room in back. 

Ambient lights set a mood in up to 30 shades, and the touch-based climate and steering controls new for 2021 are functional with the right gloves but are not as simple as dials. For example, it’s an easy push to switch views on the excellent 10.3-inch digital cluster with color mapping as detailed as Google Earth maps, but dragging the thumb across the volume and tuning sliders takes some getting used to.

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2021 Volkswagen Arteon


The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon benefits from good standard and available safety features, as well as a Top Safety Pick award.

How safe is the Volkswagen Arteon?

The Arteon is loaded with standard safety gear to avoid crashes, as well as to limit the damage if there is a crash. The NHTSA hasn’t tested it, but the IIHS awarded the 2021 model a Top Safety Pick. The TSP award, standard features, and optional content earn it a point each to an 8, and a five-star NHTSA rating would add a point.  

The Arteon comes with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitors with some added tricks. If the system detects an unavoidable impact with a pedestrian, the hood raises before impact to help reduce head trauma. In other scenarios, when airbags are deployed, the system applies the brakes so the affected car won’t ricochet into another car. In certain situations, it can shut off the fuel pump, unlock the doors, and activate the hazard lights. 

R-Line models come standard with adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, active lane control, automatic high beams, and short-term hands-free driving. A surround-view camera system comes standard on top SEL Premium R-Line models. 


2021 Volkswagen Arteon


The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is ideal if you want Audi tech but don’t want to pay Audi prices.

Volkswagen equips its flagship sedan with features missing from some entry-level luxury brands, such as a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster with excellent mapping and dynamic views; an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility; three-zone climate control; and heated, 12-way power front seats. That’s a good haul for under $40,000. 

Its 4-year/50,000-mile warranty with 2 years/20,000 miles of scheduled maintenance earns it a point on our scale, as does its Audi-like infotainment system, and its standard features. It’s an 8. 

Which Volkswagen Arteon should I buy?

The base SE comes well equipped but doesn’t offer all-wheel drive. The SEL R-Line adds some luxury features and sharper design elements that justify the $3,400 upcharge, and AWD can be added for $1,800 more. For $41,595, the SEL R-Line features the illuminated light bar, and the R-Line’s black grille, bumpers, and trim elements. It looks sportier and pops with contrasting body colors. SEL R-Line adds 19-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, power-folding side mirrors, remote start, ambient lighting, and nappa leather front seats.  

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Volkswagen Arteon?

The SEL Premium R-Line costs $48,190 and includes all-wheel drive. It upgrades to 20-inch alloy wheels, a Harman Kardon sound system, a heated steering wheel, a massaging driver's seat, cooled front seats, and heated rear seats.

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2021 Volkswagen Arteon

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon gets 25 mpg combined, or about half that of rivals’ hybrid models.

Is the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon good on gas?

It’s OK for its size. The Arteon gets an EPA-rated 22 city, 32 highway, 25 combined with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models get 20/31/24 mpg combined. Either way, it’s a 4. 

The 2021 Acura TLX fares a tad better, while the Mazda 6 gets up to 29 mpg combined. Hybrid versions of the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Toyota Camry get about 50 mpg combined.

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