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A 4.9 m long, low-roof VW that can cost Audi money: is there really much sales potential for such a car in the Europe of 2021? The Arteon Shooting Brake is even built in two factories – one in Germany and the other in China – so Volkswagen is being especially ambitious with this model. Still, if looks alone sold cars, there would be a long waiting list for this new estate. 

Even though it’s been around for almost four years, the CC’s successor isn’t exactly on every street. Last year, which we all know isn’t the best one to use if you want to judge any car’s success, VW sold 13,363 examples in LHD and RHD European markets, a year-on-year fall of 32%. That’s probably not too bad a performance all things considered, and when you look at another premium priced Volkswagen which did a little bit better – 14,103 Touaregs were delivered (-45%) – there’s probably some good levels of combined profitability there.

What about China? The total number of locally made VW brand passenger vehicles sold there in 2020 was 2,607,965. More than a million of those were the Lavida, Bora and Sagitar, these three being in the country’s top ten most months. And the Arteon? Actually it’s called CC there but whatever the name, 28,428 isn’t a shabby result by any means, and that was a 19% rise over 2019. And therein lies a clue to the appeal of this model: China received the estate before Europe, the car landing there last July.

There numbers show why Volkswagen persists in the premium priced big vehicle segments, and also the logic behind its announcement that there will be a couple of similarly sized EVs later in the 2020s to replace the Arteon/CC and its Shooting Brake derivative. We don’t yet know the names of these cars but perhaps with the US in mind, the hatchback body might be switched to a sedan. The production plant has been disclosed already though, one of the Group’s German factories having been noted in a media statement last November:

“At the Volkswagen’s brand plant in Emden, the transformation is also progressing rapidly: while the construction work for the switch to electric mobility is fully on track, the second electric model for the site has now been defined. In addition to the ID.4, the four-door all-electric Volkswagen Aero is scheduled to be manufactured there from 2023”.

Logic suggests that the Aero (it may instead be called ID.6 Aero or maybe even Arteon) and a related wagon (‘Aero B’) will succeed today’s hatchback and estate. The Aero B isn’t due until 2025 and it should also be pointed out that the Trinity project is different to Aero and Aero B – that’s likely to be bigger and more costly, so we’re talking about a car which will be aimed at the Nio ET7.

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This is all rather interesting in that there will therefore be multiple cars in the 4.8-5.2 m long segments, these being the next Passat (estate only in Europe); Aero sedan or fastback plus Aero B; and Trinity, which we presume will be a high tech electric fastback-crossover.

Those timings demonstrate that Volkswagen sees a six to eight year production life for the Arteon and with the way both cars look, if they end up sticking around until 2024 or 2025, powertrains aside, they surely won’t be very dated.

It’s also entirely possible that the eHybrid versions which were added in late 2020 could give both hatchback and SB a second sales wind in 2021 and beyond. These PHEVs can be driven just shy of an official 60 km in EV mode and at up to 130 km/h on the energy stored in their battery packs. The 1.4-litre petrol turbo engine and single motor have combined power of 160 kW (218 PS) and 400 Nm of torque. Both accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 7.8 seconds and have top speeds of 222 km/h.

I haven’t driven an eHybrid yet but I did recently give the Shooting Brake a try in a different form, and one which surprised me with its economy. This was the 140 kW (190 PS) and 320 Nm (236 lb ft) 2.0-litre petrol turbo which comes with a seven-speed DSG.

You can have 4MOTION on some diesel variants but for the 2.0 TSI, drive is to the front axle only. The dual-clutch transmission works well to minimise any torque steer but some of the vagueness which can bedevil certain Volkswagen Group vehicles fitted with this gearbox is present on this one too. It’s more frustrating than maddening: you must get used to being gentle with the throttle pedal at parking speeds. Why? Because it needs just the right amount of pressure to disengage the automatic brake and glide smoothly into a space. Too light a touch and nothing happens, too heavy and you’ll cause an unwelcome surge.

The WLTP-rated Combined economy is 35.6 mpg yet I got just under 40 mpg which is first rate for a car of this size weighing 1,617 kg. The Shooting Brake’s low aerodynamic drag is one of several reasons why the 2.0 TSI drinks less than you’d expect (interestingly, unlike the 1.5 TSI it doesn’t have cylinder deactivation), and also a factor in a CO2 average of 179 g/km and the top speed being 145 mph. Zero to 62 mph takes 7.8 seconds.

I mentioned the petrol PHEV, 1.5 TSI and 2.0 TDI (150 PS and 200 PS versions) alternatives, these being either added or updated as part of the facelifted line-up announced towards the end of last year. In the UK, there are 26 configurations (13 fastbacks and 13 estates) and three trim levels: SE Nav, Elegance and R-Line plus the 235 kW (320 PS) R range topper that reached dealerships recently.

Both bodies offer back seat space that has to be seen to be believed – especially leg room – and don’t think that the low-ish roof line means tight headroom: it’s quite the opposite. I also think that the dashboard, which thankfully hasn’t gone the way of the Golf, ID.3 and ID.4 with so many buttons and switches ditched in favour of fiddly virtual ones, gives it more appeal to many, me included.

Once the EU-UK-EFTA market begins to come back from the present dip, I’d say that the Arteon might do that rare thing; namely become more popular during the second half of its life cycle. The PHEV plus the new estate should see to that, while standard equipment levels and pricing look more competitive than in the pre-facelift years.

The new Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake line-up starts at GBP32,765 (150 PS 1.5 TSI). The as-tested 2.0 TSI R-Line costs from GBP38,420 before options.