Chalk up another one for the hatchback comeback. Volkswagen has gone five-door for the Arteon, another of those upscale stylish "four-door coupes" that have proliferated since Mercedes started the trend with the original CLS.
Although the name is new, the Arteon, making its North American debut at the Chicago auto show last week and also appearing at the Canadian International Auto Show, is actually VW's second-generation entry in this niche.
It replaces the former CC, which shared its genes with the previous-generation Passat.
The Arteon is built in Germany on VW's ubiquitous MQB architecture, on a stretched wheelbase (2.84 metres) that enhances its long-and-low proportions and provides unexpectedly generous rear-seat legroom. In overall length, a little under 4.9 metres, it fits right into the mid-size category (and likely provides clues to the next-generation Passat).
In a world obsessed with CUVs, VW North America chief executive Hinrich Woebcken says, exciting passenger cars are still vital:. "The Arteon is Volkswagen's brand shaper," he said.
Speaking of shape, Volkswagen design chief Klaus Bischoff drew attention to the Arteon's clamshell hood design, which only a couple of years ago "you would see on a concept car but would never make it into production."
Bischoff adds that the design is intended to have an aura "that reflects the character of its driver, rather than defining it. They know who they are and they don't want to be anybody else."
A 268-horsepower version of VW's 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine will power the front or (optionally) all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Available premium features will include Nappa leather, cooled and massaging seats, and parking-steering assist. Plus, of course, all the expected contemporary driver-assist safety aids.
The Arteon is due to go on sale late summer. Prices are still to be announced, but Woebcken said it will start just above the price of a fully loaded mid-size sedan. In VW's current lineup, a fully loaded Passat asks about $39,000.
While BMW and sister brand Audi have also entered this four-door-coupe-hatchback space, the Arteon's most likely competitor on price might be the Kia Stinger.