Car buyers seem to have an unquenchable thirst for SUVs and Volkswagen is only too happy to oblige, in this case by previewing a new Atlas concept at the New York International Auto Show. Like the Atlas mid-size SUV that went on sale last year in North America, the Atlas Cross Sport concept is built on VW's MQB platform, but seats five instead of seven, and features a plug-in hybrid powertrain delivering 355 hp (265 kW) and around 26 miles (42 km) of all-electric range.
Described as a "near-production concept," the Atlas Cross Sport should provide a pretty good indication of the actual production version that is scheduled to hit the US market next year. At 190.8 in (484.6 cm) long, 79.9 in (202.9 cm) wide and 68.3 in (173.5 cm) tall, the concept is 7.5 in (19 cm) shorter and 1.3 in (3 cm) lower than the Atlas, but 2 in (5 cm) wider, contributing to a sportier stance from its couple-like profile.
The current Atlas is powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four or a 3.6-liter V6 generating 276 hp (206 kW) and 266 lb-ft (361 Nm) of torque. The Cross Sport concept makes use of that same V6, but this is supplemented with two electric motors mounted front and rear that are powered by an 18-kWh lithium-ion battery located in the center tunnel.
The front motor makes 54 hp (40 kW) and 162 lb-ft (220 Nm) of torque, while the rear brings 114 hp (85 kW) and 199 lb-ft (270 Nm) to the table. VW says this results in a plug-in hybrid drive train generating 355 hp and 494 lb-ft (670 Nm) and taking the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 5.4 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 130 mph (209 km/h).
The automaker also points out that because the concept is built on the MQB platform, it is compatible with a wide variety of drive systems, and that fitting the concept with a mild hybrid powertrain using the same engine and electric motors, but powered by a smaller 2-kWh battery, would result in a vehicle producing 310 hp and capable of accelerating to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, with the same 130-mph top speed.
The concept's hybrid drivetrain gives a choice of five driving modes:
- All-electric "E-Mode" would offer 26 miles of range on a full charge, with the V6 engine decoupled from the engine by disengaging the clutch and all power supplied by the 114-hp motor at the rear axle.
- "Hybrid" mode sees the V6 and/or the rear electric motor automatically engaged depending on the driving situation and both electric motors acting as generators to charge the battery during braking.
- "GTE" mode is for when the driver wants a sportier response from the throttle, gearshifts and steering, and gives the driver access to the full output capabilities of the drivetrain by combining the power of the V6 and both electric motors.
- "Off-road" mode makes the vehicle all-wheel drive, with the V6 supplying energy to the front electric motor if the battery is running low. In this case, the front electric motor functions exclusively as a generator while the rear electric motor is supplied with energy from the front electric motor.
- Finally, "Battery Hold/Battery Charge" is a dual mode that either keeps the battery charge at a constant level, or charges the battery while driving.
In the looks department, the Cross Sport concept features a two-bar grille rather than the three-bar grille of the current Atlas, and the grille crossbars are illuminated to as LED Daytime Running Lights. Short front and rear overhangs, raked C-pillars and flared wheelarches give the concept a sportier feel, as does the roof spoiler with black side fins. The charging port is located on the rear wheelarch on the driver's side, while the fuel filler neck is located on the opposite side. The concept rides on 22-in aluminum-alloy wheels featuring high-gloss polished spokes that are shod in 285/40 tires.
At the rear, LED taillights sit above an aluminum accent trim line, while another aluminum trim piece extends across the bumper and continues into exaggerated tailpipe surrounds that mirror the taillights. The vehicle features a sill height of 33.3 in (84.5 cm) to make loading up the rear of the vehicle easier.
Moving inside, a 10.1-in touchscreen with proximity sensors and gesture control provides access to all infotainment functions for both driver and front passenger, while the 12.3-in Volkswagen Digital Cockpit with 1,440 x 540 pixel resolution lets the driver control and view driving mode and navigation information. Data such as phone book contact images or CD covers shown on the 10.1-in touchscreen can also be transferred to the Digital Cockpit display. Touch buttons can also be found in the roofline area in the front of the cabin that control the concept's panoramic glass sunroof.
Like the current Atlas and the Passat sedan, the production version of the Atlas Cross Sport concept will be manufactured at VW's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It will join the Atlas and Tiguan in 2019, with VW's SUV lineup to be further bolstered in 2020 with the all-electric I.D. CROZZ.
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