CrossBlue previews possible VW midsize SUV

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  • Image: CrossBlue rear.JPG
  • Image: CrossBlue interior.JPG
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Image: CrossBlue front show.JPG

The six-seat Volkswagen CrossBlue concept features a long hood with engine air intakes and a short front overhang. (Kevin Jost)

The six-seat CrossBlue concept unveiled Jan. 14 at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is meant to test the water for what may be a Volkswagen seven-seat entry into the midsize SUV market in North America. The vehicle, if produced, would slot between the Tiguan and Touareg in VW’s lineup, with a possible production version of the recent Cross Coupe concept vehicle coming in just below it, according to Rainer Michel, Vice President, Product Marketing & Strategy, Volkswagen of America.

A production version would give VW an entry into the fifth biggest market segment (midsize SUV) in North America—after full-size pickups, midsize sedans, compact SUVs, and compact sedans--for which VW sees growth above 20% until 2018 to around 1.4 million units, according to Michel. Participating in the segment could be crucial for VW’s North American growth goals.

“If you want to grow [in the North American market], you have to be participating in that segment,” said Michel. “VW wants to have a car for every life stage, every age, every demographic.” Those comments might point to what the final go/no-go production decision might be when it’s due to be made in a high-level product steering committee meeting in the next couple of months.

The production CrossBlue would be “really in the sweet spot [of the segment] with the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder,” said Michel, and would coexist with the shorter but wider Touareg halo entry-luxury SUV in VW’s lineup.

The CrossBlue concept, which is 196.3 in (4986 mm) long, 79.3 in (2014 mm) wide, and 68.2 in (1732 mm) tall, was designed in Germany under Walter de Silva (Head of Design, Volkswagen Group) and Klaus Bischoff (Head of Design, Volkswagen Brand) by a team led by Marc Lichte (Senior Designer, Volkswagen Brand). It is “fully functional” and based on the MQB (the German acronym for modular transverse matrix) component set that underpins the new Golf—and many more current and future VW Group products with transverse engines. The MQB is so flexible it can span segments, from the subcompact Polo up to midsize models such as the CrossBlue concept.

“It is very flexible when it comes to not only the traditional length and wheelbase, but also width,” said Michel. “What’s fixed is the relative location of the engine (and its inclination) and pedal box, which is very important when it comes to development with regard to crash performance.”

The interior team headed by Tomasz Bachorsky (Lead Designer, Volkswagen Brand) equipped the concept with six seats in three rows. In a production version, the second row would have the option of three seats to make it a full seven-seater. Legroom is ample in back, with 37.3 in (947 mm) in the second row and 36.1 in (917 mm) in the third. Load length with the third row folded is 48.8 in (1240 mm), 83.5 in (2120 mm) with the second row stowed, and 118 in (2997 mm) with a fully folded front passenger seat.

A 10.2-in center console touch screen is used for control of infotainment functions and shows hybrid system operation. The instrument cluster is user-programmable, offering a wide variety of functions and displays. Apple iPad minis are integrated as monitors in the front-row head restraints for rear passengers.

The concept features a plug-in hybrid powertrain combining a 190-hp (142-kW) TDI diesel from the new VW Group EA288 engine family with a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automated manual transmission and two motors—40 kW in front and 85 kW in back—in an electric all-wheel-drive system. Total peak output is 305 hp (227 kW). The combination of diesel and electric motors means torque is even more impressive at a peak 516 lb·ft (700 N·m), with the diesel engine making 295 lb·ft (400 N·m) from just 1750 rpm and the electric motors producing 133 lb·ft (180 N·m) in front and 199 lb·ft (270 N·m) in back from 0 rpm.

Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) is estimated at 7.2 s. An 18.5-gal (70-L) fuel tank allows an overall driving range of 661 mi (1064 km). In all-electric mode, the SUV’s top speed is reduced from 127 to 75 mph (204 to 120 km/h) to allow up to a 14-mi (23-km) range from the central-tunnel-mounted 9.8-kW·h lithium-ion battery pack. Even at speeds of up to 75 mph, the internal-combustion engine is not engaged as long as the battery has sufficient charge. The power electronics unit integrated in the engine compartment operates at around 370 V. A dc/dc converter supplies the vehicle’s electrical system with the 12-V power it needs. Volkswagen estimates combined fuel economy would be 89 mpge in electric mode and 35 mpg as a hybrid.

In Offroad mode, all four wheels are driven and the front electric motor—which is supplied with energy by the TDI engine—operates exclusively as a generator and a power source for the rear electric motor. This is referred to as “propshaft by wire” since the energy for driving the rear wheels is electrical rather than mechanical.

If a production CrossBlue comes to market, it would be equipped with conventional gasoline and diesel engines, but a hybrid would be a necessity. “We will have to have plug-ins [hybrids] because of the shear volumes and in order to comply with the set requirements in California and the ZEV states,” said Michel.

“The challenge [with such as powertrain concept] is that it is driving cost into the car, but manufacturers don’t have a choice,” Michel continued. “We have to make that fly.” The pure global size of Volkswagen, along with the leverage of the MQB, will make it much easier to bring such sophisticated powertrains compared to other companies, he concluded.

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