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2021 VW Arteon R and Shooting Brake are too cool for America

The European Arteon lineup gains a performance model, a wagon and a plug-in hybrid.

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Volkswagen Arteon R

Why does Europe always get the best stuff?

Volkswagen

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon fastback was unveiled yesterday with massaged styling, more standard features and updated tech. It looks better than ever, but there's a caveat. VW also revealed multiple exciting versions of the Arteon for Europe that won't be coming to the US, and we're real sad about it.

First up is the stunning Arteon Shooting Brake -- that's fancy talk for "wagon." All the bodywork aft of the B-pillar is new, and despite the longer roof the Shooting Brake still has a lovely rakish profile. The Shooting Brake offers more rear headroom and legroom than the standard Arteon, but cargo space is barely improved. That's not too surprising, as with its large liftback opening the existing Arteon is already really spacious. Who cares if it's barely more practical, though. The Shooting Brake looks amazing, and that's what really matters.

Some VW spokespeople told us that there just isn't a business case for the Shooting Brake in the US, and that's really too bad. The regular Arteon already is a slow seller in a niche segment -- although VW is hoping to remedy that with this face-lift -- and the US wagon market is much smaller still. Given the Arteon's positioning as a style-forward flagship, though, we think it would make even more sense for VW to only offer the Shooting Brake here and can the fastback altogether. But that's why we're not the product planners, I guess.

If the Shooting Brake wasn't enough, VW also unveiled the Arteon R, a full-fledged performance model that's offered in both the regular fastback and Shooting Brake body styles. The R packs a turbocharged four-cylinder engine -- an evolution of the same one as in the outgoing Golf R -- making 316 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. That power is put down via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system with fancy torque vectoring that can variably send up to 100 percent of torque to either axle or even an individual wheel.

The R gets a number of unique styling cues like a larger grille and front bumper with aggressive intakes, big wheels hiding blue brake calipers, and a quad exhaust setup. As nice and elegant as the standard Arteon looks, we think the R takes the goodness up a notch and looks especially good in Shooting Brake form. On the inside the R has different trim and lots of blue accents, as well as prominent paddle shifters and grippier seats.

Oh, yeah, there's also a new plug-in hybrid model that won't come to the US either. Also available in both body styles, the Arteon eHybrid pairs a turbo four gas engine with an electric motor for a total of 215 horsepower. It has an electric range of 33 miles on the optimistic European cycle, and VW says it will drive under electric power at up to 87 mph.

The Shooting Brake, R model and hybrid could broaden the Arteon's appeal in America and would further cement its flagship status. China is getting a version of the Shooting Brake with lifted suspension and SUV-like body cladding, so maybe we'll at least get that. But probably not.