Volkswagen officials have acknowledged that the company’s sales have suffered in the U.S. from a lack of offerings in the rapidly growing crossover/SUV market, so it is scrambling to offer more models in that category.
The company just launched a refreshed Touareg built in Slovakia, but the more significant U.S.-sourced SUVs are coming soon. The efforts will be supported by a ramp-up of engineering staff to over 200 strong at a development and planning center in Chattanooga, TN, said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
At the end of 2016, the company will start production in Chattanooga, TN, of a seven-seat mid-size SUV. Then in 2017 it will begin producing an all-new long-wheelbase Tiguan, said Winterkorn.
In a preview of the new seven-seat model, Volkswagen unveiled the five-seat Cross Coupé GTE concept at the NAIAS. The acronym GTE applies to all VWs with plug-in hybrid drive, offering the characteristics of a grand tourer (GT, or Gran Turismo) with one or more electric motors and a battery (E, as in Electric). In Europe, the first GTE is already on the market.
The concept “is the ambassador of a new design language developed by Volkswagen for the U.S." said Klaus Bischoff, VW Chief Designer. “Numerous details hint at how we envisage a future production SUV model for North America.”
It is the third concept vehicle previewing the production version of VW’s upcoming mid-size SUV, following the CrossBlue from the 2013 NAIAS and the CrossBlue Coupé from 2013 Los Angeles, showing a range of SUV variants made possible by VW’s modular transverse matrix (MQB) component set.
The Cross Coupé GTE is 190.8 in (4847 mm) long, 68.3 in (1736 mm) tall, and 79.9 in (2030 mm) wide. The front features a high front end with dual LED headlights, indicators, and the radiator grille merged into a single design module. The daytime running lights will be a recognized signature in future production models, with four "LED light wings," two at the top in the radiator grille and two in the lower air inlet.
The MQB is flexible, allowing for conventional drive types (gasoline and diesel engines), plug-in hybrid, natural gas, and zero-emissions (pure electric drive and hydrogen fuel cell), so the production version of the Cross Coupé GTE could have drive options. However, VW chose from the mix a 3.6-L V6 gasoline engine producing 206 kW (276 hp) and 350 N·m (258 lb·ft) in conjunction with two electric motors delivering 40 kW and 220 N·m (162 lb·ft) in front and 85 kW and 270 N·m (199 lb·ft) in the rear. Total output of 265 kW (360 PS) provides a top speed of 130 mph (209 km/h) and acceleration to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.0 s. Fuel economy is 70 MPGe (combined) as measured by the U.S. EPA’s standard adapted for hybrid vehicles with full use of the battery charge.
Electrical energy comes from a compact 14.1-kW·h lithium-ion battery pack housed in the concept’s center tunnel.
The concept can be a zero-emissions electric vehicle for up to 20 mi (32 km) on a charge and can be driven in various operating modes: E-Mode, GTE, Hybrid, Off-road, and Battery Hold/Battery Charge.
In E-Mode, it can travel up to 20 mi (32 km) on pure electricity through the 85-kW rear axle electric motor. The V6 is decoupled from the drivetrain and shut down. Power electronics in the front engine compartment manage energy flow from and to the battery and electric motors. The 12-volt electrical system is supplied by a dc/dc converter.
The concept starts in Hybrid mode by default, operating as a full hybrid with regenerative braking and automatic use of the V6 and/or electric motor depending on the drive needs. Battery state-of-charge is kept constant unless the driver intervenes with a battery hold function.
When the driver takes his/her foot off the accelerator and the battery pack is sufficiently charged, the engine and all motors are shut down and disengaged from the drivetrain in Coasting mode. If the battery pack is not sufficiently charged, both electric motors work as generators and feed the energy generated during braking to the battery. In this case, too, the V6 is shut down and disengaged.
When just the gasoline engine is used, the concept is a purely front-wheel drive
GTE mode makes accelerator pedal, transmission, and steering characteristics sportier and the electric motors boost the V6 for full system output.
In Off-road mode, all four wheels are powered. If battery-pack state-of-charge is low, the front electric motor acts as a generator driven by the V6 to provide power for the rear axle motor. Since power to the rear axle flows by wire, not mechanically, VW refers to the arrangement as an "electric cardan shaft," and in Off-road mode, all-wheel drive is available even for a low state of charge battery.
The dual-mode Battery Hold (energy content of the battery stays constant) and Battery Charge (battery is charged while driving) mode is activated via a sub-menu in the infotainment system. It can force all-electric mode (E-Mode) in urban situations.
Inside, the Cross Coupé GTE’s instrument panel is fully electronic, with a glossy black horizontal element having integrated Active Info Display in front of the driver and a touch screen center display.
The 12.3-in 1440 x 540 pixel Active Info Display digital instrument can also show navigation information and its graphics change also change depending on the drive mode
The 10.1-in infotainment touch screen features approach sensors for gesture control. The layout of the touchscreen graphics changes depend on driving mode.
The seat system has buckets in front and a rear bench that can be folded for a continuous cargo floor. Rear-seat entertainment is handled by attachments for tablets in the headrests of the front seats.