Volkswagen T-concept unifies the SUV and sports car

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Volkswagen opened yet another door to the future of the automobile at the North American International Autoshow in Detroit earlier this month when it showed the 'concept T', a crossover vehicle blending a high-capability off-roader and an uncompromising sports car to produce an off-road coupe.

The concept car is propelled by a 177 kW / 241 h.p. V6 front-mounted transverse engine. In both on-road and off-road driving, this power is fed to the wheels by VW's 4MOTION permanent all-wheel drive in conjunction with an automatic gearbox with a manual shift option (Tiptronic). The full-fledged concept T off-roader accelerates to 100 km/h (62.5 mph) in 6.9 seconds and its top speed is electronically limited to 230 km/h (144 mph).

Interestingly, Volkswagen has a history of showing innovative design studies and spectacular concept cars which have been transferred directly into series production development. In 1994 in Detroit, the world's attention was captured by an outrageous design which VW dubbed 'concept 1', later to become the New Beetle and the New Beetle Convertible (which also debuted as a concept car at the Geneva Auto Salon).

More recently, Volkswagen chose Detroit to show the AAC Concept, an off-road pickup, for the first time. This car with an enclosed roof is now the upmarket Touareg off-roader. Meanwhile, the avant-garde Microbus began as a study of the van of tomorrow for the show circuit and is currently being prepared for series production.

Other VW concept cars such as the 'concept D', a highly developed foretaste of the current top class Phaeton sedan, were also given their world premieres at motorshows. VW went to a great deal of trouble to emphasise its record of concepts becoming reality when the Concept T was discussed.

The wing doors of the concept T represent a stylistically as well as technically especially independent and fascinating body detail. They are mounted in the upper section of the A-pillars. When opened, they simultaneously swing slightly outwards and steeply upwards. The advantages of this design may not be entirely and immediately obvious - an especially comfortable entry/exit and comparatively little space is required beside the vehicle when parking.

Another avant-garde design feature is that the rear part of the door creates the B-pillar trim above the door handle and door opener, offering an extremely robust solution which is still sporty and elegant. To provide optimal view even when the doors are open, the exterior mirrors are located high on the A-pillars.

Likewise, the two front parts of the T-bar roof of the concept T can be swung upwards for easy removal. Even more sky is available over the off-road coupe when the rear roof module, designed as a hard top with integrated trunk lid, is removed. If the side windows, which are very low in the front, are lowered, the concept T is transformed completely into a convertible with a secure roll bar.

Interchangeable trim

The interior of the off-road coupe concept T also demonstrates progressive directions, because here too, the worlds of the sports car and the SUV fuse to create a facet of stylistics and functionality never before realized in this manner. The concept T, conceived as both a 2-seater as well as a 2+2, possesses a consciously sports purist interior design. For example, a soft synthetic material with a satiny surface structure is used for the fixtures, door trims and seats throughout the entire interior of the concept car shown in Detroit. It is optically and tactilely very appealing and can be cleaned damp after a weekend trip on beach or off-road trails with the T-roof open. Beyond that, the interior offers a maximum of variability. Because the rear of the concept T conceals copious storage space: either for luggage and the spare wheel which is visible from outside, just for luggage or for the rear seats including passengers and luggage.

This 'outdoor trim' can be easily swapped for the all-leather 'downtown trim'.

Shell seats and 5-point belts

Secured with 5-point belts, the driver and front passenger take their places in ergonomically formed aluminum flex shell seats. The seats are mounted centered on an aluminum cross member. The side bolsters of the seat, extended far forward and open in the middle, guarantee excellent lateral support. The side bolsters are anchored to the backrest by aluminum hinges. Like all controls in the concept T, aluminum components are also used in the area of the buttons for electric seat adjustment.

Multifunction steering wheel

The multifunction steering wheel, no longer perfectly round but flattened towards the top, offers the best possible ergonomics. The shift buttons (+/-) for optional manual control of the automatic gearbox are integrated into the steering wheel.

Head-up display

Key information in the cockpit is projected from behind the steering wheel onto a head-up display. Data such as vehicle speed, engine temperature and information from the audio system are fed to the left half-oval of this display. The right half-oval displays, among other things, the engine speed and the fuel level as well as map and text information from the navigation system. The speedometer and tachometer stand out clearly as separate displays from the other information.

Personal Mobility Gateway

The form of data communication and the individual settings in the concept T are a complete new development. Personal Mobility Gateway (PMG) is the name for a mobile communication unit with wireless remote control, similar to a PDA in form and function. Via PMG, the driver and front passenger can, on one hand, control functions like air conditioning or adjustment of the seat (alternative to using seat switches), steering wheel and exterior mirrors. On the other hand, PMG takes over the entire personal data communication. This includes telephone, high speed internet and email access and control of the MP3 player and the navigation system. The PMG can be removed from the car to serve as a multifunction PDA.

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