Volkswagen’s latest car looks like an Audi

Volkswagen Arteon at the Geneva Motor Showcase two thousand seventeen

Behold the Volkswagen Arteon, ostensibly an upgrade over the staid Passat — but let’s be fair, a Passat has never looked this acute and dashing. To my eyes, this fresh sporty sedan from VW shares more heritage with Audi’s A5 Sportback (or its edgy R series) than Volkswagen’s own lineup. Bearing the R-Line branding to indicate its sportier aspirations, the Arteon is introduced as a gran turismo that combines spectacle with convenience. But still, it’s hard to get away from the notion that Volkswagen is going upmarket by borrowing strongly from one of the many brands in its stable.

The extended, contoured rubber hood, long wheelbase, and lowered roofline of the Arteon all speak to Audi’s pedigree of appealing to a junior audience with a taste for more aggressive-looking and performing cars. LED headlights and taillights come as standard. At its heart, however, this is still just a souped-up Passat, and most of the interior is a direct match for that car. The Arteon has Volkswagen’s Active Info digital display, and you can kit it out with surround cameras to feed ambient visuals into your “digital cockpit.” Automated parking assistance and a bevy of connected car features are also available for the discerning digital nomad.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this Volkswagen. It feels refreshingly bold and certain in its styling, but also sinfully derivative. Yes, Volkswagen wields Audi, but the incestuous transference of aesthetics across brands seems to break some unwritten rule. Then again, Toyota does it with its own-brand and Lexus cars, so maybe that’s alright. While at the Geneva Motor Display, I also spotted a Bentley painted in the two-tone style of a Bugatti (both brands belong to VW’s vast portfolio):

A Bentley attempting truly hard to look like a Bugatti. (Which is presumably okay since VW wields both brands).

As a design fan, I love being able to recognize cars and private devices by their signature design elements. Beyerdynamic headphones are effortless to spot without ever observing the company’s logo on them, and the same is true of many Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, and, of course, Hits models. What Volkswagen has done with the Arteon is, on the entire, a good thing, in my mind, but it does disturb this notion of a familial design harmony. Guess this just means the company will have to restyle the Golf and Polo to look like this too.

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