Volkswagen Unveils C Coupe GTE Plug-in Hybrid Concept Car at Shanghai Auto Show

Following on from the various GTE-themed concept cars we’ve seen from Volkswagen over the past few years, the German automaker has just unveiled the C Coupe GTE Plug-in Hybrid concept car at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show in China.

Volkswagen is keen to make a good impression in the rapidly-growing Chinese market.

Volkswagen is keen to make a good impression in the rapidly-growing Chinese market.

Like the previous GTE concept cars we’ve seen, the C Coupe isn’t a fanciful flight into a future that will never be: instead, it’s an early look at a car that we’ll likely see entering the marketplace in a few years’ time, albeit a Chinese-only market.

But while the C Coupe GTE is unlikely to go on sale outside of the People’s Republic of China, its high-tech drivetrain and MLB-based design means that it gives us a sneak peak into what Volkswagen may have planned for the rest of the world.

Here’s why. The C Coupe GTE — which despite the name is a four-door sedan rather than a classic coupe — is built on an elongated version of the same MLB platform used for Audi’s A6 sedan, placing it somewhere between the Volkswagen Passat and Volkswagen Phaeton models. Longer in the wheelbase to suit the tastes of the burgeoning upper-middle class in China — many of whom have their own drivers and spend most of their time in the rear — the C Coupe GTE offers a combined peak output of 241 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, thanks to a turbocharged four-cylinder TSI engine of unspecified capacity working in tandem with an 8-speed automatic gearbox containing a 91 kilowatt disc-shaped electric motor.

If we had to guess, we'd say that the Volkswagen C Coupe GTE concept has a lot in common with the recently-launched Audi A6 L e-tron.

If we had to guess, we’d say that the Volkswagen C Coupe GTE concept has a lot in common with the recently-launched Audi A6 L e-tron.

In electric-only mode, power comes from a 14.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which is good for a range of up to 31 miles around town. Top speed is limited in electric mode to 81 mph, while in combined Hybrid and GTE modes, a top speed of 144 mph is possible, with 0-62 mph taking place in 8.6 seconds.  Range on a full tank plus a fully-charged battery pack is believed to be somewhere around 680 miles.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Last week, we told you about the Audi A6 L e-tron plug-in hybrid, a new model from Volkswagen’s performance brand built exclusively for the Chinese market and unveiled at the same Shanghai Auto Show. It had an almost identical power output from the same 91 kilowatt electric motor and a 2.0-litre TFSI engine, leading us to conclude that the C Coupe GTE likely has the same 2.0-litre engine as the A6 L e-tron. Given the C Coupe GTE is also built on a lengthened MLB platform — just like the A6 L e-tron — we’re guessing much of its underlying mechanics are shared with the all-new Audi.

No bench seats here: this is a car designed for the wealthy Chinese middle class.

No bench seats here: this is a car designed for the wealthy Chinese middle class.

But there the similarities end. Like the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE before it and the rest of Volkswagen’s previous GTE concept cars, the C Coupe GTE features a high-tech cabin where all the information is displayed on large TFT screens. One behind the steering wheel can be customised to show speed and satellite navigation information as well as important information about the trip, while the touch screen centre console provides access to the infotainment system.

As with other GTE cars both concept and production, there are a range of different modes of operation, allowing the driver to prioritise between all-electric operation, automatic hybrid (where the car choose the best mode on the fly), Charge Hold, Charge Sustain, and of course, the performance-oriented GTE mode.

Also worthy of note given its target market is the C Coupe GTE’s so-called “Chauffeur mode” where those languishing in one of the two luxurious rear executive seats can beam information about their destination to the car’s satellite navigation system to ensure the driver doesn’t get lost.

The Volkswagen C Coupe GTE Concept can manage just over 30 miles in all-electric mode from a 14.1 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

The Volkswagen C Coupe GTE Concept can manage just over 30 miles in all-electric mode from a 14.1 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

For those of us who don’t have their own driver however, the C Coupe GTE is still an important evolution for the Volkswagen group, and could pave the way to more plug-in hybrid models for both European and North American markets. Larger than Volkswagen’s current plug-in offering of the A3 e-tron and Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrids, the C Coupe GTE hints at a possible next-generation Volkswagen CC plug-in hybrid and next-generation Phaeton plug-in hybrid.

“The future of the new Volkswagen premium class models is starting in Shanghai because the C Coupe GTE very clearly shows the new face of top Volkswagen sedans for the first time,” said Volkswagen’s design boss Klaus Bischoff at the unveiling in Shanghai. “The evolution of the Volkswagen design DNA shown here will accompany us worldwide, and on the way to the new Phaeton.”

While that car isn’t due until the end of this decade, Volkswagen’s Shanghai offerings combined with those of its sister company Audi show us that the Volkswagen group is serious about its goal of becoming a world-leader in plug-in vehicles by the end of 2020.

Given the number of plug-in vehicles we’ve seen from the Volkswagen group in the past eighteen months, we think that’s entirely possible.

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