Given that the new Volkswagen Arteon first went on sale in the U.S. last April as a sort of late replacement for the discontinued CC sedan, now might seem a bit early for a face-lift. But in Europe, the swoopy hatch-sedan has been on sale since in this form since 2017, so there, the VW is due for a mid-cycle refresh, which we’re therefore getting, too. Meet the updated 2021 Volkswagen Arteon, which includes a handful of enhancements inside and out, which could be construed as bad news for Americans who bought the first-year 2020 model and good news for anyone who hasn’t yet pulled the trigger on one.
2021 Volkswagen Arteon vs. 2020 Arteon: What’s New?
On the outside, the 2021 Arteon‘s changes are subtle. The four-door hatch gets a new lower valance design and grille, which can now be specified with a thin LED light bar that stretches between the accent lighting signature of the headlights.
In back, the 2021 VW Arteon wears VW’s recently redesigned emblem and new “Arteon” badging across its liftgate. Several other visual distinctions help separate the trim levels, which have been reduced to three for the U.S. market. Additionally, three new exterior colors join the palette for 2021: Oryx White, Kings Red Metallic, and Lapiz Blue.
Fresh Interior Swag
The cabin is where the Arteon really ups its game. Volkswagen says the entire dashboard panel, including HVAC vents, surfaces, and trim details, has been redesigned—again, surprising one year in to the car’s life here in the U.S., and still so when you consider most mid-cycle refreshes (as applies to the Euro model) don’t involve chopping up a car’s interior.
A new center stack with revised air conditioning controls and an upgraded MIB 3 touchscreen infotainment interface that now supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity joins the fancier dash. Materials have been made more upscale with new leather, fabrics, and leatherette (faux leather), plus aluminum trim borrowed from the Touareg flagship SUV, which is no longer sold here.
But, perhaps the Arteon’s best party trick is its available 30-color LED ambient lighting feature that extends to the door panel trim. It’s a unique touch that definitely adds to the premium feel of the cabin. Another feature that makes the Arteon feel more upmarket—both in comparison to the dowdier U.S.-market Passat and other mid-size sedans—is its 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit gauge cluster, which is now standard across the range. For audiophiles, a new 700-watt, 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system is available.
2021 Volkswagen Arteon: Same Engine, More Safety
Though Europe gets a new plug-in hybrid drivetrain, engine and transmission options carry over from last year in the U.S. market. That means the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon’s sole drivetrain choice will continue to be a turbocharged 2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder good for 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
Buyers get one transmission choice, an eight-speed automatic transmission. SE models are front-wheel-drive only, while SEL R-Line come standard with FWD but have the option of adding VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. The range-topping SEL Premium R-Line is AWD only.
For 2021, the Arteon gets more standard safety features. Now included at no extra cost is Blind Spot Detection, Rear-Traffic Alert, and Front Assist automated emergency braking. Starting with the SEL R-Line, Lane Assist lane departure mitigation becomes standard. Combined with stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, that feature forms a suite VW calls Travel Assist, which is intended to aid the driver on long drives.
Wait, What About the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake?
Sadly, as much as we’d love to have an Arteon wagon on our shores—such a thing exists!—the business case just isn’t there for VW. With its extra pillar and longer roofline, the shooting brake offers more rear headroom and cargo space, though VW has yet to release full volume specs on the wagon model.
The refreshed 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is set to go on sale in late October, but pricing has not been announced yet. To maintain the gap between the Volkswagen and Audi brands, however, VW says to expect a roughly 10-percent lower base price compared to the similarly sized Audi A5 Sportback. That should also keep the Arteon firmly in entry-luxury price territory, where it indirectly combats the Acura TLX, Buick Regal Sportback, Kia Stinger, and the Lexus ES.