Volkswagen may be selling crossovers like crazy, but the brand has remained committed to selling sedans in the American market, offering up Passats and Jettas with fresh facelifts and potent, GTI-inspired performance packages. Now, Volkswagen has unveiled another update to its sedan line: the refreshed version of the Arteon, the brand’s attractive flagship model that starts at nearly $40,000.
If it seems awfully soon for a mid-life facelift for this sleek sedan, you’re not wrong; it’s just two years into its North American model run, its arrival delayed due to emissions testing issues in Europe. Still, it seems VW is hoping the second time’s the charm for the Arteon — or at least that more buyers hear about it this time around.
Here in the U.S., changes to the Arteon are very mild, suggesting VW believes the problem may be more a matter of marketing than with the car itself. The Arteon gets a sportier-looking front end and an improved interior, with the brand’s new digital cockpit coming standard. Volkswagen also simplified the trim lineup to three options: a base SE model, an SEL R-line trim and a Premium SEL R-line trim. That’s a far cry from the changes other markets see coming to the Arteon; in Europe, for example, there’s a sexy new station wagon version, as well as a zippy 315-horsepower Arteon R performance variant and a plug-in hybrid version.
Will those modest changes move the needle? Time will tell. The Arteon earned good reviews, but it always seemed a model in search of buyers even without the advertising. Unlike the CC it replaced, VW is making no play to enthusiasts with the Arteon; there’s not even a manual or dual-clutch gearbox available, the way there are in other areas.
Besides, sedans in general are a tough sell these days. There are almost certainly buyers who prefer style over substance, don’t care about driving dynamics and would be willing to pay $40,000-plus for a Volkswagen…but they’re more likely to buy the new Atlas Cross Sport SUV than a sleek, Audi-esque hatchback. (Or possibly just skip right up to the similar-looking, similarly powered Audi A5 Sportback, which starts at $42,900.)
Still, the Arteon’s stylish looks mean it’s sure to find some buyers who want a car with the style of a coupe but the versatility of a sedan and don’t need a premium badge on the nose. And if nothing else…if sales remain sluggish, odds are good its rarity means it’ll command a nice premium on sites like Bring a Trailer someday.
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