Ahead of its debut at the Detroit Auto Show this week, Volkswagen has just given us a first look at the future: a future that’s U.S.-built, aimed directly at America, showcasing an all-new design direction, and sized for American wants and needs.
It’s called the Cross Coupe GTE, and it provides an even clearer picture of what to expect when a production family of crossover utility vehicles goes on sale beginning in late 2016, likely as a 2017 model.
At about 191 inches long and employing VW’s new MQB global product architecture, the Cross Coupe GTE serves several purposes. It introduces a design language for VW’s upcoming U.S. products—with a lot more creases and curves, a more horizontal orientation to front and rear styling, a strong, aluminum-bar grille with dual sets of piped LED running lamps and a rather high hoodline.
Ahead of the back-seat area, the Cross Coupe GTE Concept sets the proportions for the seven-passenger production version, which will be about six inches longer. And as a concept car, it teases some of the potential technology that could be on-board in a next-generation vehicle, debuts the plug-in hybrid powertrain that will be offered in the production model, and proposes a potential five-passenger (and Jeep Grand Cherokee-sized) spinoff that could be introduced a bit later.
Five- or seven-passenger versions? Maybe...
While the three-row version is a definite, the Cross Coupe GTE, summed Volkswagen of America president Michael Horn, is a possibility in the production cycle. “In Coupe form, it’s a beauty, and we would like to do it today,” Horn said enthusiastically.
Production versions of the crossover will include gasoline and diesel engines, as well as plug-in hybrid versions, and it's previewed in this most advanced form in the concept. It uses the familiar Volkswagen narrow-angle VR6 six-cylinder engine (276 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque) mounted in front, driving only the front wheels, while an electric motor system (114 hp and 199 pound-feet of torque) drives the rear wheels.
The main propulsion motor system is mounted in back, and a 14.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is situated underneath in the center tunnel. And there’s a second (54 hp) electric motor, located within the transmission housing, that primarily acts as a generator but can also assist the system. Altogether, it makes 355 hp and 280 lb-ft, enabling acceleration to 60 mph in just six seconds and a top speed of 130 mph.
To give props to both sides of satisfying family motoring, the Cross Coupe GTE includes both a sporty GTE mode that changes the way the throttle, transmission, and steering respond—in a way that brings out the best performance from the vehicles systems. With it the VR6 and electric motors work together and deliver full system output and maximum torque.
An electric vehicle for 20 miles—or an off-roader, if you wish
In at its other frugal extreme, the Cross Coupe GTE has an E-Mode that allows electric-only operation for up to 20 miles, using only the rear electric motor system. So some households might be able to get by with the gasoline engine only starting for longer trips, if they can plug in faithfully at home (and/or while they’re at work).
In addition to those two extremes, there are three other modes: a Hybrid mode that uses a combination of the VR6 engine and electric motor system, keeping the battery’s charge in a near-constant state. If the driver lifts off the accelerator and the battery is already fully charged, the system can allow extended coasting with the powertrain fully disconnected. Separately, an Off-road mode allows the gasoline engine to power the front wheels all the time, as well as generate extra electricity to power the rear wheels all the time (VW uses the term ‘electric driveshaft’).
Within those modes, there are four driving profiles that affect the system: Snow, Sport, On-road, and Off-road. Each one brings different instrument-panel displays on the 12.3-inch display panel, which has a 1,440x540 resolution and several representations of sweeping-needle analog gauges depending on the mode, as well as a reconfigurable, multi-layer 3D view that can be rearranged. And these modes could be ordered up on demand, or linked to the powertrain modes.
A testbed for an even more connected, configurable interior
Furthermore, there’s plenty of evidence that the concept forms a testbed for potential future features. There are WLAN-connected tablets in the back of the front headrests, for rear-seat occupants—a very spacious back seat, we might add, especially in terms of headroom—and those in the back seat get their own touch-screen climate controls. The shift lever itself is like a joystick that you tip fore and aft to change gears. And the concept has a version of the gesture-based infotainment system that was shown in last week's CES concept, the Golf R Touch.
The production vehicle that stems from the Cross Coupe GTE Concept—either in five- or seven-passenger form—is squarely aimed at earning sales back at the heart of the U.S. market. It would not be sold in Germany or the rest of Europe, officials confirmed, although it might eventually be sold in China.