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IN June this year, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) started accepting pre-bookings for the Arteon R-Line 4Motion. The fastback saloon was launched in the following month, priced at RM247,670.97 (recommended retail price, inclusive of sales tax reduction) and positioned higher than its saloon counterpart, the Passat R-Line, which sells for RM203,411.18 (RM181,856.64 for the Elegance variant).

Soon after that, a few friends and theSun readers asked me about the difference between the Arteon and the Passat. “It’s not just a Passat in a different design and RM40,000 more, right?” one of them asked, echoing their curiosity.

Obviously, they have only glanced at photos of the Arteon R-Line and/or saw them on the roads, without reading up on the news reports about it, let alone speak to Volkswagen sales people. So, to those of you who are too lazy to read the Arteon R-Line 4Motion’s list of specifications and compare them with the Passat R-Line’s (I can understand why, they are long!), I’ll try to highlight some of the major features the Arteon R-Line 4Motion has, which the Passat R-Line does not.

The Arteon may share the same platform as the Passat and both even have similar powertrain and interior, but those are the major similarities.

Looks, interior

Like most things, the looks is always the first you’ll notice and the Arteon is a snazzy-looking fastback, compared to its saloon counterpart.

“Eh, what is fastback ah?” I hear you ask. A very established and old motoring magazine defined the fastback as a closed body style, usually a coupe but sometimes a saloon, with a roof sloped gradually in an unbroken line from the windshield to the rear edge of the car. “A fastback naturally lends itself to a hatchback configuration and many have it, but not all hatchbacks are fastbacks and vice versa”.

Look at that side profile image of the Arteon R-Line 4Motion and think of it as a mix of a coupe and a typical three-box type saloon, with the boot and rear window as one unit that is hinged at the roof, which makes the Arteon a more practical car too. Appearances are always very subjective but to my eyes the Arteon looks a lot more attractive… more yummy!

That fastback styling is further complemented by the car being 4,862mm long, 1,871mm wide and 1,450mm tall, which is slightly longer, wider and lower and also sleeker than the Passat’s 4,775mm x 1,832mm x 1,462mm.

The Arteon’s frameless side windows are like what most sportscars have, i.e. the doors look very cool, especially when the windows are down and the doors are open! Sure, no one notices that when all doors are shut but so are those gullwing and scissor doors on many supercars; they get some admirers when they are opened.

While the interiors of both cars are quite similar, the Arteon’s is a bit sportier, thanks to its Nappa Carbon leather front sport seats with integrated headrests. It gets more interesting when you turn on some music – premium 700-watt Harman Kardon sound system with 12 high-performance speakers (the Passat has eight) including subwoofer will surely bring out the best out of your favourite radio stations and playlist.

Safety, dynamics

Among the many safety features and acronyms, the Passat has six airbags while the Arteon has seven (a driver knee airbag is its advantage). It’s a no-brainer that more airbags is always better, anytime. Just pray that you don’t have to use them at all, ever!

The “4Motion” means the Arteon is an all-wheel-drive (AWD) car – complemented by electronic differential lock and dynamic chassis control with up to 15 selectable increments and five different driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual. We all know how more advantageous such a system is, over the front-wheel-drive (FWD) the Passat has.

The Arteon R-Line’s longer wheelbase (2,837mm vs. 2,786mm) makes it a better ride as a grand tourer , although the Passat has a larger boot space (586 litres vs. the Arteon’s 563 litres) and both cars are rather enjoyable to drive, using the same McPherson strut suspension at the front and multi-links at the rear.

Under the bonnet, the Arteon has a direct injection, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that puts out 276hp (at 5,100-6,500 rpm) and a maximum torque of 350Nm between a nice 1,700-5,600rpm range, paired with a seven-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG).

The Passat, also with seven-speed DSG and a direct injection, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, puts out a maximum of 187hp from 4,180rpm to 6,000rpm, with a maximum torque of 320Nm at 1,500-4,180rpm.

More money = Better drive?

Not always, but in the case of the Arteon, just the advanced 4Motion AWD system itself is very expensive and if the car is an FWD, it will probably sell for a very close price to the Passat’s and destroys the saloon’s sale. Also, the major power advantage the Arteon has – about 90hp with extra rev at the top and 30Nm more across a wider rev range – is also not cheap.

There are other things and better features the Arteon has that the Passat does not, but that does not in any way make the latter an “inferior” car; my passengers and I really enjoyed it the few times we tried it. It is down to which type you prefer; if it’s an understated-but-handsome, business-like saloon, go for the Passat R-Line (or the Elegance).

But if you think you can add RM44,000 more on top of its price, a sleek fastback with nice aerodynamic contours, frameless windows, a striking rear design, a lot more power and an AWD system is the way to go.

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