The Volkswagen Arteon proves that high-tech doesn’t have to be showy
For all the talk of self-driving cars from Apple, Google and other upstarts, that future is still a long way off. But technology isn’t going away. In fact, the cars of today are rammed to the gunnels with high-tech toys, the likes of which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Driver-assistance systems that help keep you safe on the road and take the stress out of driving and parking; advanced infotainment systems that provide access to clean, clear digital music and radio; satellite navigation that help you avoid the jams – the modern car has it all.
And yet a car still needs to be a car. It still needs to be practical, comfortable and fun to drive. And all that tech needs to work without distracting the driver. This is where Volkswagen excels: its in-car tech is cutting-edge, yes, but it’s also practical and usable, and there’s no better example of its implementation than in Volkswagen’s new five-door fastback, the Arteon.[gallery:8]
Indeed, slide behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Arteon and it’s not immediately obvious that you’re sitting in a high-tech driving machine. It’s incredibly comfy, just like a Volkswagen should be, and the driving position is excellent, with support in all the right places and plenty of adjustability in the wheel and seat.
Cast your eyes around the cabin and there’s no sign of blinking lights or a sea of buttons doing who knows what. It’s just what you’d expect: superbly well made with acres of top-quality materials and all the right controls. There’s even an analogue clock embedded in the centre of the dashboard, adding a touch of old-school charm.
A digital drive
Press Start, though, and the Arteon comes to life. As in most modern cars, the Arteon’s tech proposition is split across two main areas: driver-assistance tech and infotainment. But the Arteon does a better job than most of tying everything together, blending it seamlessly with the whole driving experience.[gallery:13]
For a start, instead of analogue dials, the Arteon has a 12.3in full-colour Active Info digital driver display, which comes as standard across all models. Because it’s digital, you can choose what’s shown on this screen depending on your preferences: you can have it show a fully detailed map so you don’t have to look at the main infotainment screen while driving, or you can show your choice of music or radio station instead.
It’s even possible to change the way the dials look: you can shrink them to show more of the map and change the info shown in their centre. By default it shows your gear and speed, but this can be changed to show fuel efficiency, altitude, compass direction and more.
Look to the left and your eyes alight upon the centrally mounted infotainment screen, available in 8in or 9.2in sizes. In either guise, it’s one of the most easy-to-use yet advanced systems on the road. And the top-end optional Discover Navigation Pro system takes it one step further, adding a gesture sensor to its 9.2in screen that allows you to wave a hand to navigate between menus, flick between radio stations and skip music track listings.[gallery:11]
It’s the little things that make the Arteon’s in-car tech so usable and intuitive, though. Merely approach the screen with your hand and onscreen buttons swell to a larger size, making them easier to read and to press while driving. Volkswagen’s Car-Net system gives the Arteon a range of connected services, such as the ability to send the destination to the car from your phone before you drive. Put this all together and you have one of the industry’s best-in-class in-car tech offerings.
Keeping it on the road
What’s truly exciting about modern car technology, though, is the way it’s being used to take the stress out of driving long distances and to keep drivers safe. Completely self-driving cars aren’t here yet, but the technology that will pave the way towards a more automated and safe future is already making its way into modern vehicles.
In the Arteon, this takes the form of a number of helpful features, at the forefront of which is the road-sensitive adaptive cruise control. Just like regular cruise control, you set a speed and then leave the car to maintain that speed; here, though, a series of sensors and cameras combine with satnav data to dynamically adjust your speed and keep you safe.[gallery:12]
The Arteon is able to detect vehicles in front – slowing down or speeding up accordingly, all the while keeping a safe distance – and can also pick up on speed limits and approaching junctions.
That’s not all, though. The car’s self-driving tech can also prevent you drifting out of your lane when you’re driving on the motorway. With the optional Park Assist system added, it can practically park itself; all you have to do is apply the throttle and change between reverse and forward gears.
Arteon’s optional Area View taps into a live 360-degree camera feed, stitching pictures from the rear, left, right and front cameras directly to the central infotainment screen. Even the car’s headlights benefit from the Arteon’s high-tech approach with Predictive Dynamic Cornering Lighting, bending as the car approaches corners so you’re never left guessing what’s coming up.[gallery:6]
The future is here and it just works
But the most impressive thing about the Volkswagen Arteon is that all this technology is hidden away. It doesn’t bleep and bloop at you, flashing bright, garish LEDs whenever it can. Instead it blends quietly into the background, helping you enjoy the drive without ever getting in the way.
The infotainment system is so good you barely need to think about where all the various options are, and the driving-assistance aids are there when you need them and aren’t when you don’t.
The Volkswagen Arteon’s interior and driver-assistance systems work exactly how technology in cars should work: under the radar, behind the scenes. Like great service in a Michelin star restaurant, you don’t notice it, but it’s there nonetheless, folding your napkins when you leave the table, pouring wine when you need it, always there when you want to order extra olives. And that’s exactly how car tech should be.