With competition from Tesla Motors, Mitsubishi, Volvo and many more, german automaker Volkswagen has already committed to building a mid-size, seven-seat plug-in hybrid for market launch at the end of 2016.
Today, on the opening day of the 2015 North American International Auto Show, it unveiled a new five-seat concept car which it says is essentially a ‘preview’ to next year’s seven-seat production model.
Called the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE, the mid-sized SUV is powered by a 3.6-litre VR6 FSI engine combined with two electric motors to give all-wheel drive capabilities.
“The Cross Coupe GTE is the ambassador of a new design language devolved by Volkswagen for the U.S.,” said Klaus Bischoff, chief designer for VW. “The concept car has a commanding presence; it is powerful that could almost be described as aggressive.”
Here at Transport Evolved, we’re not sure we agree with that particular sentiment, but if the Cross Coupe GTE is like Volkswagen Golf GTE we drove in Switzerland last year, we can certainly agree on a sporty, fun driving performance.
As to the concept itself? Volkswagen says that the Cross Coupe GTE is the third of three plug-in hybrid concept SUVs which not only demonstrate the versatility of its new modular transverse matrix (MQB) platform but also pave the way towards next year’s production model.
Due to go on sale ‘by the end of 2016,’ the 2017-model year SUV is expected to have a manufacturer-estimated fuel economy rating of around 70 MPGem and accelerate from 0-60 mph in around six seconds.
By the time it launches, the as-yet unnamed mid-size SUV will find itself in a busy marketplace already dominated by cars like the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid and Tesla Model X all-electric crossover SUV.
It’s worth noting of course that not all of the above vehicles will directly cross-shop: despite offering seven seats each, the Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid and Tesla Model X crossover SUV will likely be substantially larger than a production Volkswagen plug-in. But while it may compete more directly with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in terms of size, Volkswagen may have the edge if it gives its 2017 model-year plug-in seven seats, since the Mitsubishi is currently only available with five.
In terms of technology, Volkswagen says the drivable concept car is capable of travelling up to 20 miles in all-electric mode thanks to the 85-kilowatt electric motor mounted on the rear axle and a 14.1-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack located where the transmission would be in a gasoline-powered 4×4.
Capable of producing up to 119 pound feet of torque, the rear motor alone is responsible for driving the Cross Coupe GTE Concept in E-mode, with the smaller 40-kilowatt electric motor driving the front wheels reserved for connecting to the V6 engine as a generator when the on-board battery pack is depleted.
However, provided there’s enough battery charge, the front wheels can also be driven in electric-only mode when engaging a special ‘Off-Road’ mode, giving the Cross Coupe GTE true all-electric four-wheel drive.
If the battery’s state of charge drops below a certain level however, the V-6 engine roars into life, taking over as required.
Like other cars to bear the GTE badge, the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE can also operate in regular hybrid mode, automatically switching between gasoline and electricity as required; battery charge/hold mode, where the battery pack is kept at a user-selectable state of charge for later use; and a high-performance GTE mode.
It’s this GTE mode which enables the Cross Coupe GTE concept to reach its top speed of 130 mph and hit 60 mph in six seconds. Infections and fun to drive in, the GTE is sadly the least environmentally-friendly or economic driving mode available.
Even though we know the Cross Coupe GTE won’t reach production in its current form, we think its world debut at the 2015 NAIAS does show promise for next years production model. We just hope Volkswagen can increase its all-electric range a little more by that time to give it a truly competitive edge in the plug-in hybrid SUV marketplace.
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