We have reasons to believe that a hotter R-badged Arteon is on its way

The Volkswagen Arteon came to our attention back in 2017, during its unveil at the Geneva Motor Show. Three years into the fastback-shaped sedan’s career, Volkswagen is planning to give the Arteon a well-deserved nip and tuck which would keep customer interest fresh and address the areas that needed further improvements.

With the refreshed Arteon, however, we’re expecting Volkswagen to introduce a spicier, more performance oriented version under its notorious R badge. Our suspicions are backed up by a recent set of spy shots that show a virtually undisguised test mule that wears a lot of R-specific features. Allow us to detail, then.

Update 4/29/2020: The Volkswagen Arteon R was spotted once again, this time sporting a look that represents the upcoming facelift and what we can expect from the new Arteon R. Check it out in our special Spy Shots section below!

Spy Shots

April 29, 2020: VW Arteon R testing on the Nurburgring

2021 Volkswagen Arteon R Exterior Spyshots
- image 895856
2021 Volkswagen Arteon R Exterior Spyshots
- image 895863

This time around, the Arteon R has moved a lot closer to production. There’s still a little tape up front but, for the most part, you can see what it’s going to look like. The big massive grille is going to be the standard here and the new corner air intakes are more defined and larger than before. There is some tape on the front fenders and hood to to conceal what’s going on in that area, but nothing that’s too distracting. The rear end now has a very small lip spoiler, and the taillights now feature clear lenses.

As far as performance goes, the latest rumors suggest that the Areteon R will pump out 400 horsepower from the latest 3.0-liter, twin-turbo, V-6. Power will be shunted through VW’s DSG dual-clutch transmission and, ultimately, to all four wheels.

Exterior

  • Larger air intakes
  • Bigger brakes
  • Drilled rotors
  • Blue calipers
  • Quad-exhaust setup
  • New wheels
  • R badging
  • Trunk lid spoiler
2021 Volkswagen Arteon R Exterior Spyshots
- image 887214

It doesn’t matter whether the R-badged Arteon is going to be based on the nip-and-tucked model or the pre-facelift one. We can tell you this much: you’ll know it’s not your regular Arteon. Of that will take care the deeper front bumper slapped with larger air intakes for extra cooling purposes, as well as the larger brakes with drilled rotors and blue-painted calipers, a common sight on VW R models.

In the back, a raunchier rear diffuser will slot in between the exhaust pipes, balanced higher up by a subtle lip spoiler.

Another interesting cue is the exhaust setup’s arrangement. A Golf R, for example, sports two final ducts (one on each side) but in these pictures, we can clearly see a quad-exhaust configuration (two pipes on each side) with squared muffler tips that look a lot like what you get on Mercedes-AMGs these days. Maybe these are duds or maybe VW hasn’t figured out yet what shape to give them or maybe they’re there to throw us off.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon R Exterior Spyshots
- image 887204

The Arteon R should also receive new wheels, perhaps of the lighter ilk, as well as the compulsory badging treatment throughout the body. Mind you, don’t mistake the Arteon R with the Arteon R-Line, as R-Line is just a fancier, more expensive trim that tries to imitate the original R look, because vanity. New colors could also be on the table, along with blacked-out details here and there.

In a way, the Arteon will remain the Passat’s fancier, sloping-roof cousin and if a facelift is indeed in the making, then the sleek sedan will try even harder to compete against the likes of Kia Stinger, Audi A5 Sportback, and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.

But hopefully, the R version will not only look sporty, but also behave accordingly from a dynamical standpoint.

We’ll discuss that later on in the Drivetrain section.

Interior

  • New materials, perhaps
  • R badges all around
  • R-badged sports seats
  • Overall not that different from the regular Arteon
2018 Volkswagen Arteon High Resolution Interior
- image 707911

The interior was somewhat of a weak spot for the Arteon, in the sense that it was simply borrowed from the Passat without further add-ons. And we all know the Passat, and subsequently its cabin, aren’t the most exciting design concepts out there. So what you get with the Arteon is a nicely done exterior but a rather dull cabin.

We expect the facelifted Arteon to offer a plusher cockpit, not only on the tech front, but also when it comes to design and material quality.

Knowing Volkswagen, the Arteon R’s cabin won’t go through a massive revamp compared to the base model. In fact, other than R badges on the steering wheel and seats, plus maybe some fancier looking materials, you’re pretty much looking at the same topography.

Then again, the cabin’s quality and design might not change, otherwise the facelifted Arteon (and the R) might bite into Audi A5 Sportback territory, which is not something Volkswagen desires. Plus, it would also bump up the price for the Arteon, which is already pretty spicy.

Drivetrain

  • 400 horsepower, roughly 400 lb-ft of torque
  • New 3.0-liter VR-6
  • Eight speed DSG
  • 4Motion AWD
  • Tweaked suspension
2021 Volkswagen Arteon R Exterior Spyshots
- image 887203

In the U.S., the Arteon is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled engine churning out 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque channeled through an eight-speed dual clutch DSG gearbox. It can also be had with either FWD or AWD, the latter being provided by VW’s well-known 4Motion setup.

Rumor has it, however, that the Arteon R will pack around 400 horsepower coming from Volkswagen’s newly-developed 3.0-liter twin-turbo VR-6.

For the sake of the argument, VW is using a 276-horsepower, 266-pound-feet VR-6 mill inside the 2020 Atlas V6 (FWD and AWD), but it displaces 3.6 liters.

In the Atlas, the engine oomph is handled by an eight-speed DSG transmission aided by a clutch-pack center differential and adaptive torque distribution. Since the Golf R is AWD, we expect the Arteon R to wear the same clothes, albeit in a flavor that’s more performance-focused and less utilitarian like in the Atlas.

2020 Volkswagen Arteon specifications
Engine 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 276 HP @ 5,100-6,500 RPM
Torque 258 LB-FT @ 5,600 RPM
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG)
0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) 5.6 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Weight 3,783 Lbs
Fuel economy l/100km city/highway/combined 9.2/6.1/7.3

Prices

2021 Volkswagen Arteon R Exterior Spyshots
- image 887215
The U.S.-sold VW Arteon might start at $35,845, but that’s the entry-level SE trim we’re talking.

The most expensive Arteon money can buy is the $46,210 SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion. With that in mind, expect the fully-blown Arteon R to ask for at least $50,000 given its power infusion and the adjacent mechanical tweaks - beefed-up brakes, a new exhaust setup, and whatnot.

Competition

Kia Stinger

2018 Kia Stinger Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 745675
Could go hybrid in the future

Except for the Stinger GT-Line that uses a turbo-four mill, all the other trims pack Kia’s twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 unit that churns out 365 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Torque comes in at 376 pound-feet in the 1,300-4,500 rpm band. The engine is bolted to an eight-speed automatic transmission assisted by a limited-slip differential. Power can go to either the rear wheels or to all all four corners. With the V-6, the Stinger can go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 167 mph. In the U.S. market, the Stinger starts at $33,090, but that will only get you the four-cylinder engine. For the V-6, you’ll have to pay at least $39,500 (that’s how much the Stinger GT will set you back).

Read our full review on the 2020 Kia Stinger

Audi S5 Sportback

2017 Audi S5 Sportback High Resolution Exterior
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The 400-horsepower Arteon R isn’t grunty enough to take on the RS5, but it can successfully compete against the S5 Sportback. In the US of A, the Audi S5 packs a 3.0-liter TFSI V-6 good for 349 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. So if the Arteon R gets 400 horsepower as the recent rumors suggest, it will outgun the S5 by a hefty 51 horsepower. The S5 sends power to all fours through Audi’s Quattro setup and an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. It’s capable of reaching a top speed of 155 mph and sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The S5 Sportback starts at $52,400 in Premium trim and $55,300 as a Premium Plus model.

Read our full review on the 2020 Audi S5 Sportback

Conclusion

2021 Volkswagen Arteon R Exterior Spyshots
- image 887209

400 horsepower are a very enticing proposition regarding of what car segment we’re talking about. 400 horsepower in a car that’s essentially a sportier-looking Passat is quite big news, and the Arteon R seems, so far, an interesting car. With the right spice-up in key places on the outside (think brakes, exhausts, and bumpers), we’re expecting VW to do the same inside, because that’s where the Arteon needs a more lively approach. In fact, we’d love it if VW gave the facelifted non-R Arteon a funkier cabin that would go hand in hand with the sleek interior. Other than that, all we can do is wait to see whether VW is indeed souping up the Arteon to the level suggested by the rumors.

  • Leave it
    • Price will go up considerably
    • The interior still needs more nipping and tucking
    • It’s still a Passat
Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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