- New 300-horsepower turbocharged engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Both are borrowed from Golf R hot hatch
- Which is better? We make our case for the Arteon
The 2022 Volkswagen Arteon is like a deserted tropical island. It is beautiful to look at, and because it sits isolated in the sea of automotive competitors, it has taken on unique characteristics. At a glance, it resembles a stylish midsize sedan like the Mazda 6, but it has a rear hatch like the Kia Stinger and it is priced like a lightly optioned BMW 3 Series. What do you call something like that?
The Arteon has continued to evolve since its debut in 2019. Last year, it received a face-lift and a revised interior, and the year before VW added a Wi-Fi hotspot. For 2022, the Arteon is upgraded with a more potent 300-horsepower four-cylinder and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission — both borrowed by the awesome Golf R performance hatchback. The R-Line appearance package available in previous years is also included as standard equipment.
While simultaneously mentally secluded on my proverbial desert island and physically behind the wheel of the 2022 Arteon, I asked myself, "Since the Golf R and Arteon now share the same engine and are similarly priced, which one is the better pick?" To be clear, I'm talking about the midtrim SEL R-Line, which comes with 4Motion all-wheel drive and is priced similarly to the Golf R.
Let's get one thing out of the way before we continue. If you want the absolute best performance from this engine, you should buy the Golf R, hands down. The Golf R makes 15 more horsepower, weighs about 450 pounds less, and has a suspension better tuned for canyon carving. The 2022 Arteon does accelerate faster and handles better than before, but you'd feel that extra weight driving it and the Golf R back to back.
But ultimately, performance is not everyone's motivating force. With this in mind, let's take a look at a few reasons why the 2022 Volkswagen Arteon might be a better fit for some people than a Golf R.
There's no denying the practicality of the hatchback design offered by both vehicles; it makes loading items into and removing them from the cargo area much easier than a traditional trunk. The Arteon has 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, compared to 19.9 cubes in the Golf R. And when the rear seats are folded down, the Arteon has 56.2 cubic feet versus the Golf R's 34.5 cubes. And if you plan on traveling with friends, the Arteon has 5 more inches of rear legroom than the Golf R.
While it lacks the outlandish styling of, say, the Honda Civic Type R or Hyundai Veloster N, the Volkswagen Golf R still grabs your attention. This is a hot hatch with a big rear spoiler, blue brake calipers, sport seats, and a notable grumble emanating from its quad exhaust tips.
Meanwhile, the Arteon offers a far more subdued vibe with its traditional sedan profile, allowing it to slip under the radar in traffic. You can take it to a business meeting with colleagues or clients and not feel embarrassed when you press the ignition button. It's sort of the opposite of a "midlife crisis car" and more of a "midlife stability car." You can put the power down when needed, but you don't need to constantly flex your muscles. It's truly the best of both worlds.
We're not head over heels in love with the Golf R's haptic touch-sensitive buttons for the audio and climate systems. These controls — set in a small crevice between the center screen and the dashboard — are hard to spot and tricky to reach while the car is in motion. Plus, the current temperature is only visible in a small font on the bottom left of the center screen. And to top it off, the buttons are not backlit at night. All of these drawbacks combine to deliver a subpar user experience.
While the climate controls in the Arteon are still haptic buttons, they are placed at the base of the center console where you'd normally find them and are easier for the front passenger to see and reach. The temperature is displayed in a larger font, and all the icons are backlit. A number of commonly used controls like heated seats and fan mode are single button presses, versus in an onsceen menu in the Golf R. And while it seems weird to promote a volume and tuning knob as a "feature" in 2022, this is where we find ourselves since the Arteon has them and the Golf has a haptic volume slider located in the same crevice as the temperature controls.
I know at least one person out there, in defense of the Golf R, is saying "What's the big deal? It's only a few buttons. I'd rather have a faster car!" Yeah, it's a small nitpick in the grand scheme of things, but think about how often you adjust the temperature and volume in your car on a day-to-day basis. I bet it's more than the amount of times you're ripping 0-60 runs or screaming through the canyons. I rest my case.
There's no denying the performance of the Golf R, but the 2022 Volkswagen Arteon has enough going for it to make it a worthwhile alternative.