In advance of next year’s launch of a new 3-row midsize crossover SUV, Volkswagen invited us on a preview and ride-along of its entry into this highly competitive segment. The as-yet-unnamed SUV is built off VW’s flexible MQB architecture which is also used to underpin the Golf and Jetta and will be manufactured at the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant alongside the U.S. versions of the Volkswagen Passat.

Although the vehicle was disguised, this B-SUV as it’s called internally, is about the size of the 2017 Honda Pilot. The boxy profile is somewhat leavened by a couple of sharp flowing character lines that sweep upward over the rear wheel arches. The vehicle was also equipped with integrated roof rails and it has the stance and look of a traditional SUV as opposed to a more car-like approach adopted by other crossovers in the segment.

Transverse-engine mount

Adopting the MQB architecture means that the B-SUV will have a transversely mounted engine, and while execs on hand declined to give specifics, it’s understood that the likely powertrain choices would be a 200-horse 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder and a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, which is optional in the Passat.  The vehicle will be offered in either front- or all-wheel drive and the transmission will likely be a conventional torque converter automatic with at least six speeds.

Particularly impressive is the roominess of the cabin, the low step-in height through the back doors and the flexibility of the seating positions. The second row has fore and aft adjustments and can be flipped forward to allow access to the third row without having to remove child safety seats. That second row will be available with either a 3-passenger bench or a pair of captain’s chairs. The vehicle we sampled also had a panoramic glass roof, which will be available on the upper trim levels.

Car-like qualities

While there is a clear SUV influence in the look and ride height of the vehicle, the windshield and forward view has a more car-like feel to it. The A-pillars in particular are thin, which helps improve the forward view while the trim bits we were exposed to had a luxury-car appearance to them, and included wood veneers, chrome and brushed-aluminum accents.

During our brief outing, the vehicle exhibited a comfortable controlled ride. For a pilot production vehicle, the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels were quite low, with very little in the way of tire or wind noise noticeable in the cabin. It was quiet enough to easily hold a conversation with the passengers in the second row. VW plans to take the wraps off the B-SUV this fall at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the vehicle is expected to go on sale sometime during the first half of 2017 as a 2018 model.

Volkswagen may be a little late to the midsize crossover SUV party, but if our first look at the vehicle is any indication, they will be well positioned to establish themselves as a serious player in the segment.


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