Two and a half years ago, we were enormously excited when VW global product line spokesperson Martin Hube told us that a prototype Arteon with a turbocharged VR6 engine was being tested. This, we hoped, would go on to be the production Arteon R, with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo engine derived from the 2.5 fitted to ‘Teramont’ - the Atlas’ Chinese market cousin providing nearly 400bhp.
Fast forward to today, and the Arteon R has finally been revealed, coinciding with the arrival of a new ‘Shooting Brake’ body style and a refresh for the hatchback version. But there’s no big six here; instead, the R uses a 317bhp inline-four ‘EA888’. So why the change of internally combusted heart?
As you might have guessed, emissions were a factor, albeit more from an image perspective rather than any potential issues with regulations. “We can’t talk maybe daily about our way to zero [emissions] on the one hand, on the other hand, we come up with a VR6 turbo engine,” Hube noted at a digital press conference for the updated Arteon.
“We had a couple of cars prepared with the VR6 TSI engine and we had several cars with the four-cylinder engine,” Hube confirmed, adding, “The decision [to go with the I4] was quite clear after we had driven the cars because we invested so much in the torque splitter at the rear of the car to make it as agile as possible”. The considerably heavier VR6 would “counteract” this, so the engine was ditched for the lightweight inline-four.
Speaking to Car Throttle after the conference, he noted that Audi’s 2.5-litre inline-five as a halfway house would have been “a bad idea…because the long, heavy crank is rotating like a gyroscope”. He concluded, “The best choice is a lightweight and powerful four-cylinder. High torque at low rpm, and best in CO2. This is the target in our days”. Although not mentioned by Hube, cost was likely a factor too, and adopting the widely-used EA888 would have almost certainly been the cheaper option.
So, while we may rue the VR6 Arteon that never was, the inline-four production version should hopefully be more entertaining, cheaper to run and less expensive to buy. We’ll find out how it all shapes up when we drive it for the first time later this year.