Volkswagen is at the Shanghai International Auto Show hinting at a possible expansion of its model range with its C Coupé GTE concept that is designed to appeal to the Chinese market. The automaker says that "if it were to go into production," the roughly 5 meter- (16.4 ft) long saloon would slot in between the Passat and Phaeton in Volkswagens model line up.
With its long flowing C-pillars and tapering boot section, the front-wheel drive, four-door, four-seater C Coupé GTE has the sort of features that show that it was designed with an eye on the chauffer-driven class. The body goes for a wide, muscular emphasis atop the 118.7-in (3,015 mm) wheelbase, with strong, but not overstated lines that blend with the long bonnet and short overhang. In addition, there's the grille with five chrome bars and integrated LED headlamps, and chrome-trim intakes merged with the front bumper.
Keeping with the aesthetic scheme, the C Coupé GTE has a “Golden Atmosphere” livery, which reflects the Chinese association of the color with wisdom and tolerance, patience, and power. Light is also used for effect with the Volkswagen trademark C-shaped LED daytime running lights and exterior ambient lighting running from the grille to the doors to the rear that put on a little show when the car is unlocked.
The powerplant of the C Coupé GTE is a plug-in hybrid system based on a 2-liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, direct-injection TSI petrol engine pumping 210 bhp (155 kW) that works in conjunction with a 91-kW electric motor for a total system power of 245 bhp (180 kW) and 369 lb-ft (500 Nm) of torque. Behind this is an 8-speed automatic gearbox with the electric motor integrated into the transmission housing and powered by a 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery.
The hybrid vehicle has three driving modes, where Hybrid charges the battery using the petrol engine and regenerative braking while using a combination of the TSI engine and electric motor to match current driving conditions. In E-Mode, the car switches to pure electric mode and the petrol engine remains decoupled and turned off, but switches back on automatically if the battery runs too low. Finally, going into GTE mode reconfigures the accelerator pedal, gearbox and steering characteristics for sportier driving while combining the TSi engine and electric motor for more power and torque.
The top speed for the C Coupé GTE is 144 mph (183 km/h), with top speed in E-Mode pegged at 81 mph (130 km/h). It also has a respectable acceleration for a luxury car, doing 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 8.6 seconds. Electric-only range is 31 mi (50 km) and total range is over 650 mi (1,046 km).
Volkswagen's designers gave the C Coupé GTE interior a streamlined high-tech feel with white upholstery, Blizzard Grey horizontals, and Damascus steel trim counterpointed by wood door trim. The wrap-around ambient lighting is also reflected in the C Coupé GTE's interior.
Based on the Chinese market's preference for chauffeur-driven cars in the upper segments, the front interior of the C Coupé GTE is driver-centric with a 12.3-inch central infotainment touchscreen that features a chauffeur mode whereby the driver can all up the rear passenger's appointments that have been synchronized with the navigation system. This provides the driver with enough filtered information to set a daily trip itinerary without revealing too much personal data, and gives the passenger navigation directions for reaching the final destination on foot.
The instrument cluster includes the newly-designed Active Info Display with high-definition 3D visuals, where the edges of the virtual space blend into the real border of the instrument cluster, making it seem like one unbroken unit. Between them, the two instruments display driving and navigation data, vehicle status, playlists and more, while the instruments appear to hover in space with graphics that change to suit the driving mode. The dash clock displays vehicle status, the assistance systems, infotainment content, and the interior air quality.
The gear lever also has a high-tech tweak as it appears to be a fixed, floating block, but it uses shift-by-wire control logic, so that a short push shifts the gears without moving the lever. Pressing a separate button on the lever sets the C Coupé GTE in park.
Meanwhile, the rear is what Volkswagen describes as "lounge-like," with two reclining seats separated by the central console for a "cocoon-like" feel. Two 4.5-in touchscreens in the console are for controlling the seats and climate control, while two 9.5-in screens seem to meld into the front seatbacks. For privacy, there are electric blinds and the panoramic glass roof has electrochromic switchable glass. If the passengers get parched, there's a cooled champagne box between the seats.
"The future of the new Volkswagen premium class models is starting in Shanghai because the C Coupé GTE very clearly shows the new ‘face’ of top Volkswagen sedans for the first time," says Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design of the Volkswagen brand. "This sport sedan unequivocally demonstrates our premium standards. The evolution of the Volkswagen design DNA shown here will accompany us worldwide, and on the way to the new Phaeton."
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