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Volkswagen's latest car looks like an Audi

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Volkswagen Arteon at the Geneva Motor Show 2017

Behold the Volkswagen Arteon, ostensibly an upgrade over the staid Passat — but let's be honest, a Passat has never looked this sharp and dashing. To my eyes, this new sporty sedan from VW shares more heritage with Audi's A5 Sportback (or its edgy R series) than Volkswagen's own lineup. Bearing the R-Line branding to signify its sportier aspirations, the Arteon is presented as a gran turismo that combines performance with comfort. But still, it's hard to get away from the notion that Volkswagen is going upmarket by borrowing heavily from one of the many brands in its stable.

The extended, contoured hood, long wheelbase, and lowered roofline of the Arteon all speak to Audi's pedigree of appealing to a younger audience with a taste for more aggressive-looking and performing cars. LED headlights and taillights come as standard. At its heart, though, this is still just a souped-up Passat, and most of the interior is a direct match for that car. The Arteon has Volkswagen's Active Info digital display, and you can kit it out with surround cameras to feed ambient visuals into your "digital cockpit." Automated parking assistance and a bevy of connected car features are also available for the discerning digital nomad.

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this Volkswagen. It feels refreshingly bold and confident in its styling, but also sinfully derivative. Yes, Volkswagen owns Audi, but the incestuous transference of aesthetics across brands seems to break some unwritten rule. Then again, Toyota does it with its own-brand and Lexus cars, so maybe that's alright. While at the Geneva Motor Show, I also spotted a Bentley painted in the two-tone style of a Bugatti (both brands belong to VW's vast portfolio):

As a design fan, I enjoy being able to recognize cars and personal devices by their signature design elements. Beyerdynamic headphones are easy to spot without ever seeing the company's logo on them, and the same is true of many Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, and, of course, Beats models. What Volkswagen has done with the Arteon is, on the whole, a good thing, in my mind, but it does disturb this notion of a familial design harmony. Guess this just means the company will have to restyle the Golf and Polo to look like this too.