Growing its GTE family of plug-in hybrid production cars and concepts, which includes the recently-revealed Passat GTE and Golf GTE, Volkswagen has revealed the Cross Coupe GTE concept at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. The 355-hp concept car previews a US-market mid-size SUV that VW plans to begin production on by the end of 2016.
If the name "Cross Coupe" sounds familiar, it's because Volkswagen has been using it for concept SUVs over the past several years – the 2011 Cross Coupé, followed months later by an updated Cross Coupé, followed a year later by the CrossBlue Coupe.
While the all-new Cross Coupe GTE shares its base name with the 2011 and 2012 concepts, Volkswagen explains that it's more closely related to the 2013 CrossBlue Coupe and CrossBlue. All three concepts have been paving the way for the production seven-seater that Volkswagen has planned for 2016.
The Cross Coupe GTE's packaging will change a bit in production – the new concept has five seats, not the seven that Volkswagen plans for the production SUV. However, much of the design language we're seeing on the Grand Pacific Glacier-painted concept car will dress the production SUV.
Unlike the soft, rounded crossover design language that has become commonplace on the market, the Cross Coupe GTE previews a stronger, squarer form with upright front and rear fascias; short overhangs; straight, neat character lines; a near-straight, sloping roof line; and squarish fender accents over the 22-in wheels. While the car is more likely to see asphalt, it does look like it's ready to at least dip a few tows into the dirt and mud.
Volkswagen says that the front-end in particular serves as a preview of future design. Here we see LED headlamps peeping out from behind the dual slats of the wide radiator grille. Lower down, the stretched air inlet is highlighted by a high-gloss black surround and polished aluminum insert.
A total of 190.8 inches (4,846 mm) connect the tip of that forward-looking front end with the rearmost point of the rear end, making the Cross Coupe GTE 2 inches (51 mm) longer than the Touareg. It is 79.9 inches wide and 68.3 inches tall (2,209 x 1,735 mm).
The Cross Coupe GTE's rear has a set of trapezoidal LED taillights and a strip of polished aluminum trim that ties into the side character lines and polished aluminum front fascia treatments. The straight tailgate, taillight design and aluminum bumper panel are indicative of Volkswagen's new US design language.
For the concept, Volkswagen showcases its sporty but efficient GTE plug-in hybrid powertrain, but it makes clear that the modular transverse matrix (MQB) architecture underpinning the design can accommodate the gamut of powertrain technologies, from gas and diesel through to fully electric and fuel cell. The concept car's plug-in hybrid combines a 276-hp 3.6-liter direct-injection six-cylinder engine with one front and one rear electric motor. All told, the three drive units give the concept 355 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, allowing drivers to hit 60 mph (97 km/h) in a flat six seconds on the way to a 130-mph (209-km/h) top speed.
The 114-hp rear motor can drive the Cross Coupe GTE on its own for up to 20 miles (32 km) of emissions-free range, with power provided by the 14.1-kWh lithium-ion battery tucked into the central tunnel. Beyond E-Mode, the Cross Coupe concept can be driven in default Hybrid mode, sporty GTE hybrid mode, Battery Hold/Charge mode and AWD Off-road mode.
In Off-road mode, the front motor serves exclusively as a generator, driven by the engine, supplying electricity to the rear motor and ensuring that the rear wheels maintain power even if the battery is low. Volkswagen calls this layout an "electric driveshaft."
Various selectable driving profiles tweak other vehicle settings to provide the best driving dynamics for the conditions. Drivers can select On-road (with Comfort and Eco sub-modes), Off-road (with Rocks, Sludge & Sand, and Gravel sub-modes), Sport and Snow profiles.
The interior follows the exterior's linear form, best exemplified by the strong horizontal lines of the control panel. That panel features a digital design that blends digital instruments, a 10.1-in infotainment screen and a lower touchscreen panel. This triple-display configuration is cut from the same cloth as the Golf R Touch concept VW showed at CES last week.
While not as large or dramatic as the Golf R Touch's digitized driver's area, the Cross Coupe concept's driver interface relies on the same principles. The infotainment touchscreen not only works with touch, it recognizes basic gestures with the help of proximity sensors. This control option is designed to be easier and less distracting than the "find, swipe and poke" action of a typical touchscreen. Information displayed on the infotainment screen and instrument panel changes based on drive mode, and navigation can be presented in both 2D and 3D forms. Below yet another aluminum strip is a separate touchscreen for controlling the interior climate, including seat heating and cooling.
Another feature in the cabin is the simplified shifter for the six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. Instead of physically moving to shift, the shifter remains upright and the driver engages "drive," "park," "reverse," and "neutral" via two buttons.
Rear passengers are kept connected via tablet docks on the back of the front-seat headrests. They can fire up the Volkswagen Media Control app to gain access to radio, media and navigation features from up front. An integrated touchscreen provides rear climate control. The rear bench folds via a two-third/one-third split, creating a continuous cargo-area floor.
Volkswagen plans to begin production on its yet-to-be-named mid-size seven-seater at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant by the end of 2016. Next year's NAIAS seems like a logical venue to reveal the production SUV.
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