A theoretical one-off that's a cinch to spawn a volume-build offspring intended for the U.S. and Canada, the Volkswagen CrossBlue SUV Concept was the star of the automaker's show stand in Detroit. Designed specifically for the North American market, this 3-row crossover-style people mover has slots neatly between the compact Tiguan and the larger and pricier Touareg, giving VW entry to a new and potentially quite profitable arena now dominated by vehicles like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. Like the CrossCoupe TDI Plug-in Concept presented last March in Geneva -- and also on hand in Motown -- the Volkswagen CrossBlue SUV Concept features a unique and highly efficient turbodiesel/electric all-wheel-drive plug-in powertrain that also could see duty in future VW products.
"The CrossBlue Concept is exactly the right type of vehicle for the U.S. market," said Jonathan Browning, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. "It combines a truly versatile interior layout with sophisticated Volkswagen design, to give a unique and supremely stylish offering in this segment. Moreover, the vehicle showcases our innovative German powertrain engineering and the bandwidth of the new MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture."
Designed in Germany but using input from Volkswagen of America, the CrossBlue Concept features dynamic but substantial exterior styling that matches the automaker's own well-tailored character lines with a number of more aggressive SUV-like cues most evident in its front end and boldly flared fenders that house 21-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45 tires. Finished in CrossBlue Glass Flake with stainless steel and stainless-look accents, the CrossBlue Concept's short overhangs and track dimensions that nearly equal the its height further add to the vehicle's substantial presence.
Trimmed in wood and leather set off with elegant aluminum accenting, the CrossBlue Concept's passenger compartment is a spacious and highly flexible environment with seating for six -- although VW admits any production version would offer a second-row bench to raise that number to seven. While the third tier is better suited to those of more modest stature, fore/aft adjustability on the second row captain's chairs eases access/egress to the innermost sanctum and both rear rows fold flat to maximize its cargo-toting capability. Other highlights of this tech-rich cabin include a programmable main instrument cluster, VW's bespoke Fender Premium Audio System, a 10.2-inch center multifunction touchscreen that controls infotainment/navigation/drivetrain functions and a pair of iPad Minis set into the headrests of the front buckets that serve as monitors for the rear-seat entertainment system.
While a production variant of the CrossBlue Concept would likely offer more conventional gasoline and turbodiesel powertrain choices when it initially goes on sale, this all-in one-off steps up its efficiency game with an advanced plug-in package. It teams VW's new EA288 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel engine with two electric motors, one at each axle, that are primarily energized by a 9.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack centrally positioned beneath the floor area and rounds out the mix with a 6-speed DSG automated manual transmission. Collectively, the system can turn out 305 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of peak torque, but it also offers a variety of different operational modes that allow for pure turbodiesel, pure electric or various mixes. There's even a Coasting mode that fully decouples the engine and the motors under certain conditions. Capable of sprinting from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds, VW estimates that the CrossBlue Concept will return an 89MPGe figure in EV mode and a 35 mpg combined state when operating as a conventional hybrid. While it can travel up to 14 miles on a fully charged battery, top speed is reduced from 127 to 75 mph.
If current prevailing speculation proves true, a production version of the CrossBlue Concept could start rolling out VW's new assembly facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, sometime within the next year. No word yet on pricing, but expect it to be "competitive."
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