Top Gear's Volkswagen Arteon R Shooting Brake review

By topgear, 30 June 2021


This estate version of the Arteon might not technically be a shooting brake, but it comes out all guns blazing in R mode, so we can forgive Volkswagen such peccadilloes as overly ambitious naming strategies. Indeed, if the German company can come up with a way to make sedans sounds a bit more enticing it might be able to shift a few more cars. Less forgivable is the company’s description of the car as sitting in the “avant-garde business class”, which might appeal to a certain sort of customer but makes us want to drive the car into a wall. Ahem.


You can’t really sniff at the 316bhp and 420Nm of torque that emerge through all four wheels of the Shooting Brake R – although it has to be said that the 2.0-litre turbocharged 4cyl motor doesn’t sound as exciting as it perhaps could. It’s all just a bit droning and characterless until the exhaust comes into play through the fruitier driving modes. Perhaps VW is trying to keep the car stealthy when you’re at 6/10ths, but the styling is beefy enough on the outside that you’d like a bit more theatrics as you go. 


We did criticise the standard car for being a bit dull to drive, but recognised the potential for a fun car. Volkswagen has mostly delivered on that potential – the Shooting Brake R’s makeover has meant 4MOTION all-wheel drive with R-Performance torque vectoring that shoots power to the best wheel for the job, 20mm of ride height has been chopped out thanks to new sports running gear (trick suspension, that is, not lycra shorts from Decathlon). Up front are MacPherson struts and a multi-link set-up at the back, while an electronic LSD is integrated into the stability control. The car’s adaptive dampers make for an assertively sporty ride that still manages to smother out the worst of the road’s imperfections. Drive over speed bumps and you’ll barely notice they were there. 


Someone got out of the wrong side of bed this morning. But if we’re going to get technical about it, then yes – the estate bit is pointless. The actual difference in boot space between the standard Arteon and the Shooting Brake is less than 30 litres with the seats up. The hatchback offers 564 litres and 1,557 litres seats up and seats down versus the 590/1,632 litres you’ll get in the estate version.

But that’s missing the point, because the estate version looks so much cooler. There are fast cars that the kids just love as you drive past, with the Arteon Shooting Brake R you get the knowing glances from the dads. Maybe we’re just getting old, but it’s nice to have a car that’s appreciated by people who know. And what price is such a lift in street cred? A mere £820 (RM4.7k) for the estate R over the hatchback R. A no-brainer, really.


“The Arteon Shooting Brake R proves you don’t need to default to an SUV”

The Arteon Shooting Brake R is one of those rare great all-rounders – an accomplished and comfortable cruiser that’s capable of loosening up and enjoying itself when you want it too. Likewise it’s as happy loitering around town as it is haring about the countryside.

We might be in danger of sounding like a stuck record at this point, but what SUV displays the same genuine dynamic breadth as this? The Arteon R in estate form proves that you don’t need to default to an SUV to go for a practical family option and still get some driver satisfaction.


With all the references to track driving in Volkswagen’s publicity materials you would think you were getting some sort of touring car racer for the road, but thankfully the R isn’t that hard-edged. The suite of R upgrades on the Arteon have, however, lifted it out of dull repmobile drudgery. 

The car gets all-wheel drive with R-developed torque vectoring and an electronic limited slip differential that works through the ESP to ensure maximum traction. The result is a perky 4.9secs run to 100kph from a standstill, a progressive delivery of acceleration that positively charms when you’ve got used to the relentless push of electric torque in other cars. The Arteon R has plenty of shove to offer when you’re tinkling along and want to overtake, too, although in Comfort mode the car can be slow to wake up. Keep it in Sport and it’s always ready to play, without being so aggressive with gearchanges and the like that it keeps you on edge too.


There are MacPherson struts up front and multi-link suspension at the rear. The suspension is suitably firm for a sporty little number like this, but impressively damped thanks to the trick adaptive set-up, so you never feel like you’re suffering for the car’s performance. Here is Volkswagen showing everyone how to successfully create a ‘sporty’ ride, even on the 20-inch wheels we tested.

For once the different driving modes offer genuine variety, too – Sport is the one to be in, with the right blend of assertive throttle, firmed up steering and concentrated ride. Comfort is just that little bit too squishy on the throttle and vague with the wheel and Race a bit too hyperactive, even if the exhaust gets unleashed at full howl. Maybe save that one for the track driving.


If you’re at all economy minded then you’ll probably want to excuse yourself from the Shooting Brake R and settle on one of the less exciting diesel options. CO2 emissions of 209g/km and fuel economy of 9.23l/100km aren’t quite what you’d call environmentally sympathetic, but think of all that petrol as an investment in your own mental wellbeing. 

It might sound like we’re damning with faint praise, but the hot Arteon estate is a great cruiser, perfect for motorway touring. It’s exactly the sort of rapid wagon you’ll want if faced with a prolonged period of enforced domestic holidays. It’ll munch kilometres and prove itself flexible.


The interior of the Arteon Shooting Brake R is predictably solid and of respectable quality. There are two negative aspects we could focus on – firstly, that familiarity of Volkswagen cockpits is a blessing and a curse. Everything feels very recognisable and falls easy to hand, but the more you’re splashing out for one of these people’s cars the more you’d like a bit of rarity. The aluminium and carbon fibre-style inserts boost the cabin, but the R is heavily reliant on its one-piece seats and blue-stitched perforated leather steering wheel to provide a sense of occasion. 

The second is familiar ground from recent Volkswagen products – we’ve got our issues with the company’s insistence on moving everything to touchscreens, but the Arteon doesn’t quite have it as bad as other cars in the company line-up. It’s a pyrrhic victory, though – while it’s good to have physical controls on the centre stack and steering wheel, these are now touch pads, the latter with haptic feedback. The good side of a meaty button or rotary knob is that you’ve got the feel of what’s going on, along with usually being able to finish the task after a quick glance. 

These touch controls seem to demand more attention from the driver than is strictly necessary. Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered whether Apple CarPlay would be better on a more widescreen option, then wonder no more. It would not. The content feels stretched to fit, with lots of wasted space. Still, it’s always better than using a manufacturer’s own satnav these days.

The decent-sized boot will appeal to those practical minded drivers, with room enough to chuck things in. There’s also loads of space in the back, with plenty of legroom for rear passengers. Where it could feel claustrophobic in the back with high window lines there’s extra light thanks to the windows by the boot. The panoramic sunroof comes as standard on the Shooting Brake R, which further prevents the interior from descending into gloominess. 

As you’d expect for this top-spec car, there’s a high level of specification – electric tailgate, three years of Volkswagen’s We Connect Plus package that connects the car to online services, wireless phone syncing and charging, adaptive cruise control, ambient cabin lighting, three-zone climate control and a whole raft of safety features.


List price is £52,435 (RM300k) for the Arteon Shooting Brake R, but you’ll need to factor in some cash to upgrade from the hideous standard Moonstone Grey paint, and maybe a £565 (RM3.2k) upgrade to 20-inch wheels (but the standard 19in ones do look nice). There are various options, but the standard fit spec list is already rather generous, so we would be tempted just to leave the Shooting Brake R as God intended. 

Unfortunately you’ll get spanked with a £1,345 (RM7.7k) bill for VED in the first year thanks to the car’s 211g/km of CO2 emissions and the BIK rate for getting the Shooting Brake R on your company car scheme is 37 per cent. But of course this is a car that you will approach knowing that the expenses are going to be higher than normal. If it means that you get to keep on the road in something spicy and still manage to fit in the family and their luggage, then it’s an investment worth making. Top Gear maths, we call it.

There aren’t very many lease deals to be had out there at the moment for the R, but if you went through Volkswagen’s own scheme you could bag yourself a Shooting Brake R for a smidge under £700 (RM4k) a month. A bargain, in many ways. Trying to work out who the car’s rivals might be is a bit of a crapshoot, depending on personal taste and requirements. Saying that, you could find a Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake for around £630 (RM3.6k) a month.