Overpriced VW or poor man's RS7?
If there's one thing we came away with while slingshotting the 2019 Arteon through mountain roads east of Santa Barbra, California during the vehicle's first drive event, it's that Volkswagen's newest sedan is a thrill to drive fast. Thrilling enough, in fact, that we left wishing Volkswagen would build an Arteon with a stiffer suspension and more horsepower to push the model to its full potential.
So when Volkswagen of America's soft-spoken senior manager of product and technology communications, Mark Gilles, sat next to us at our lunch stop, we peppered him with questions about potential new variants while our Arteon's piping hot brakes cooled. What he told us is promising. According to Gilles, "Volkswagen has been toying with the idea of bringing an Arteon R to the European market."
Whether that go-fast version of the Arteon would make it to America, though, is another matter. The reason Volkswagen isn't sold on bringing an Arteon R to the US has to do with its price. Since a base Arteon SE FWD starts at $36,840 and the range-topping SEL Platinum R-Line with 4Motion goes for no less than $47,705, it's reasonable to expect an Arteon R to start in the low to mid $50k mark.
"In the past we've had trouble selling a $50k+ Volkswagen in America," said Gilles, referencing the Phaeton sold from 2002 to 2006 that failed spectacularly in the US. Another reason for the apprehension is that the Arteon's delays mean Volkswagen hasn't had time to gauge how Americans like the standard 2.0-liter fastback before jumping in with a second version. That isn't the case for Europe since the Arteon has been on sale in there since 2017.
But even if Volkswagen decides to build an R in the first place, it still has to figure out what engine it'll use. The Arteon's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder already makes 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, not much less than the 288 horsepower the Golf R's 2.0-liter turbo four makes. Personally we'd like to see a potential Arteon R make somewhere around 400 horsepower, which makes the rumored VR6 motor a perfect fit.
Another option could be the 2.5-liter inline-5 in the Arteon's corporate cousin, the Audi RS3. It already shares the Arteon's transversal orientation and can likely meet its packaging constraints as well. For the time being, we'll just have to wait and see if Volkswagen lets on a bit more about the Arteon R or pray that our spy photographers catch one testing in the wild.