There were more than a few pleasant surprises in the last couple of weeks while I was enjoying a break from the daily grind which keeps me locked to my desk Tuesday to Saturday. Writing this column is only the icing on a pretty large cake.
For the first time in many years I went abroad for a week’s holiday in the sun, accompanied only by my beautiful 25-year-old daughter. We loved Sicily – especially the old coastal town of Cefalu where we were staying. But, more importantly, we got on brilliantly. Gave each other a bit of space but on the whole enjoyed each other’s company, especially so when we climbed the massive, ancient outcrop behind the town and the gatekeeper gave me a stout stick to help with the climb and told Rachael to “look after papa”. She did in spades.
For a change, this holiday involved absolutely no driving on my part, unlike the week before when me and my partner packed the car and set off for Barna in Galway.
This trip also came down with great memories, not least the welcome in The Twelve hotel for us and our dog Ziggy and the pleasure of driving the large Volkswagen Arteon, which is a real premium-style offering that stands a very strong well-priced rival to its much more expensive Audi sisters.
Unlike many of my colleagues, I was not keen on the Volkswagen CC, which was a too-low-slung four-door fastback. The Arteon, which is likely to replace it, is a much more solid beast, with a massive luggage area that could take a whole family of coffins, but which we still managed to fill with case after case, as well as a collapsible canoe and three bags of shoes.
The Arteon on test was in the top-of-the-range R-Line and was powered by an impressive 2-litre petrol engine mated to a very smooth automatic box. It looked and felt good, with plenty of comfort up front and very high spec for a total of €51,452. This might be roughly the same as an equivalent Audi A5 fastback but the extras for the Audi would add on about another €10k at least. It should also be remembered that very top-of-the-range Golfs and Passats, when well specced, really eat their way towards €40k. The cheapest Arteon is just short of that amount.
The Arteon is exceptionally well finished inside with some nice style touches. The R-Line adds a few sporty effects, some with substance but others for show, and a slightly lowered stance which still suited me.
While it was a breeze for motorway driving, it was also pretty happy on Connemara roads which seem to be improving every time I visit. However, my colleagues tell me that the 1922 alloys are better than the 20″ fitted at extra cost to the test car. The adaptive chassis control is a boon and the brakes proved to be excellent, especially when a sheep decided to go for a stroll in front of me as I was galloping along the road to Roundstone.
Very tall people won’t like the back but for the average person it is more than ample with Skoda Superb-like space. There were few gripes in a fine car that I was proud to drive. It’s efficient, economic and has a design that won’t age quickly. The Arteon is a great flagship model for VW.
It was a good trip to Barnna for the family. Welcoming hotel, fine car, a swim at Roundstone and some great days out. What more can you want?
€48,440 - €71,730The stylish Audi A5 comes in coupe, cabriolet and hatchback form.