Five years after the remarkable but ill-fated Phaeton ceased production, Volkswagen seeks to tempt the executive sector with its less ambitious Arteon, leading Rob Marshall to focus on the changes made to the face-lifted version’s familiar running gear
You might be forgiven for thinking that the Arteon is entirely new, when the model was introduced in 2017. This makes it likely that the earliest examples could enter your workshops fairly soon, if they have not done so already. Despite being a relatively high-end offering, the imposing Arteon is based on tried-and-tested Volkswagen Group components from lower in the range. Its MQB platform is shared with numerous other transverse-engined models, from the current Tiguan SUV to Audi’s TT. Its mechanical entrails are also scattered across VW’s empire.
Last year, the model received a series of cosmetic and technical updates. While a Shooting Brake (estate) body now complements the existing Fastback (hatchback), the running gear is also enhanced. While some performance enthusiasts may be disappointed at the lack of an exciting ex-Bentley W12 unit, there is no doubt that most aftermarket technicians appreciate the familiar range of upgraded TSI and TDI engines, which makes-up the bulk of the Arteon family. A petrol-hybrid PHEV will be announced soon but much of that debuted already, powering another model.
Considering, somewhat unfairly, that Volkswagen took the majority of the flack over diesel-gate, the fact that it continues to develop compression-ignition technology is a brave (and correct) strategy. Based on the EA189 unit, the Arteon’s 2.0-litre EA288 is available with either 150PS or 200PS outputs. As Volkswagen is keen to avoid another embarrassing and costly scandal, both versions boast not one but two SCR systems, in a bid to suppress NOx emissions by up to 80%. The system works by having one oxidising catalytic converter bolted directly to the engine. The first SCR catalytic converter is housed within the diesel particulate filter, positioned directly next to it. This set-up not only facilitates an extremely rapid warm-up time but also enhances NOx treatment at reduced exhaust temperatures, experienced during low-load conditions, such as driving in built-up urban areas.
The second SCR and accompanying AdBlue injector is situated further downstream within the exhaust front-pipe. There, exhaust gas temperatures can be up to 100oC lower but NOx emissions are treated more effectively in this position during high-load conditions. Volkswagen claims that the twin-dosing layout means that at least one of the SCR converters is at its optimum temperature range, dependent on the driving conditions. The manufacturer also notes that AdBlue consumption remains the same as that in an equivalent single SCR system, because the twin-dosing set-up works more efficiently.
The base 1.5-litre TSI Evo petrol engine is a member of the familiar EA211 family, which replaced the earlier 1.4-litre TSI, when introduced in late 2016. This GDI unit boasts an Early Intake Valve Closure (EIVC) combustion cycle, with a relatively high 12.5:1 compression ratio and Volkswagen’s Cylinder deactivation technology. Considerable effort has focussed on reducing friction, and therefore fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, assisted in no small part by the low-viscosity 0W20 oil. Volkswagen claims that the 1.5-litre TSI Evo is the first production GDI engine to possess an electronically-controlled variable geometry turbocharger. While this unit has been fitted already to other Volkswagen Group products, the motoring press has reported a number of complaints about these engines, hesitating badly as they warm-up. We understand that a software issue is to blame, for which Volkswagen has made various updates, but we have come across several reports that the issue persists, despite the efforts of UK dealers.
Engine by Ralf
Alternatively, the Arteon can be specified with a 2-litre EA888 direct-injection turbocharged petrol unit, developing 190PS or 320PS for the high-performance R-TSI model. A notable development is the B-Cycle method of combustion, employed on the 190PS version. Named after one of the company’s powertrain engineers, Ralf Budack, the development varies inlet valve durations to boost efficiency. Where Atkinson/Miller Cycle engines keep the inlet valve open for a set period after the engine rises from Bottom Dead Centre (BDC), thus expelling some of the air via the intake, the Budack Cycle closes the inlet valve before the piston reaches BDC. The benefit of these cycles is that the piston encounters less resistance after it starts to rise on the compression stroke. As the compression ratio and in-cylinder temperatures are reduced, the engine becomes more efficient and produces fewer CO2 emissions, especially under part-load conditions.
Yet, the Budack Cycle makes the engine is less powerful. Volkswagen’s solution involves adjusting the inlet valve timing during high load/full throttle situations so that the timing returns to that of the more conventional Otto Cycle. It achieves this by switching to another camshaft lobe that possesses a different profile. The method by which it does this is interesting but not novel, as fans of Honda’s VTEC will attest. Even so, the simplest ideas tend to be the most reliable. While controlled via the engine management system, a hydraulically-actuated sliding pin is employed that effects the change between lobes.
New but inherited tech: the Arteon eHybrid
A high-voltage front-driven Arteon PHEV (Plug-In Electric Vehicle) is due to benefit from the Passat GTE’s drivetrain. Therefore, it is a high-voltage Parallel Series hybrid design; both the engine and electric motor drive the wheels together, or independently, through a 6-speed DSG dual wet clutch automated manual gearbox. The 1.4-litre TSI engine develops 156PS, with the electric motor contributing 115PS. The lithium-ion battery aids weight distribution on this front-wheel-drive PHEV, by being positioned just ahead of the rear axle. We presume this reduces the petrol tank capacity slightly, as it does with the Passat GTE. According to official WLTP figures, the e-Hybrid Arteon can be driven for up to 39 miles on pure-electric alone but it will be a while before independent repairers start to see that model in any numbers.
Summary: Charging more for an Arteon hatchback than a Passat saloon is certainly a break from convention. Yet, beneath the attractive suit lies the same entrails of the less expensive but more conservative models. While the Arteon is likely to remain relatively rare, technicians need not be apprehensive. Prices start from £33,965 for the 1.5-litre TSI 6-speed manual to £41,980 for the 2.0-litre TDI 4Motion 7-speed DSG. Prices for the Shooting Brake and Hybrid models have yet to be released.