At the time, it was largely believed that the Volkswagen New Compact Coupe was a preview of the new 2011 Jetta sedan. In some ways, it was, but it appears it helped showcase the company's new sport-tuned hybrid-electric drive system, as well. New reports suggest the German auto giant is moving to push a similar system into full-scale production.
"We're not an experienced hybrid maker like Toyota or Honda, so we don't just want to come up with what everyone else already has," Michael Hinz, project manager of the new Jetta, told Autocar. "We want to do something unique."
VW may already offer an advanced hybrid drive system in the 2011 Touareg Hybrid, which sandwiches an electric motor between a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The driveline produces 380 horsepower, 427 pound-feet of torque, and allows the large SUV to achieve an EPA-estimated 25 mpg on the highway -- but is much too large, powerful, and heavy for VW's compact cars.
Hinz insists the new system, which is likely destined for the new Jetta itself, "will not be like that of the Touareg," but bear some resemblance to the driveline used in the NCC. In that concept, Volkswagen engineers paired a 150-horsepower, turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4 with a 27-horsepower electric motor. The electric motor can propel the car alone for brief periods, but primarily serves as a boost for the engine. When both motive power sources are active, the system can crank out 170 horsepower -- 30 ponies shy of the GTI-spec turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 -- and allow the NCC to sprint from 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds. The kicker, however, is fuel economy -- Volkswagen claimed the NCC's system could post a combined EPA rating of 45 mpg, 18 mpg better than the GTI.
Hinz suggests going forward, VW will use small, turbocharged engines paired with electric motors to provide decent fuel economy and a sporty feel. Don't, however, expect the automaker to pair its fuel-sipping TDI turbo-diesel engines with an electric driveline. Although VW has tinkered with the idea in the past, Hinz isn't convinced of its merits.
"Are hybrids really fuel efficient?" Hinz asks. "Not really, as you are adding more weight. Yes, we could do a power hybrid. We're certainly not going to do both [power and fuel economy-tuned systems]. You must decide to go one way or the other."