Deep Dive: Volkswagen Readies a Slew of New Crossovers

A Real Crossover, Finally

Volkswagen bet on its now-sour deal with Suzuki — but the Japanese love affair was short-lived, and the proposed jointly-developed compact cars and crossover models never materialized. No big deal for Suzuki, but a minor disaster for the Germans who lost a lot of time and market share to the predominantly Asian competition. It will be another four years before the all-new Polo crossover based on the MQB-A0 components set is going to see the light of day.

No, the Polo crossover isn’t another tarted-up would-be SUV like the current Cross Polo; instead, it is a proper all-terrain vehicle. After all, it will be offered with all the tricks of the trade: all-wheel drive, a dual-clutch gearbox, off-road aesthetics, skid plates, heavy-duty suspension, and all-season tires. You don’t need any of this? Then go for the no-frills front-wheel drive version of the SUV. The same architecture will, unsurprisingly, also be used by Seat for the Tribu crossover and by Skoda for the Yeti II.

The roomier MQB-A0 (Polo-based) crossover matrix promises a 176-pound weight reduction over the current five-door Polo hatchback. For the first time, buyers will be able to pick from six different propulsion sources: gas, diesel, ethanol, plug-in hybrid, and battery. Insiders are predicting four different 1.4-liter TSI engine variants delivering 105 hp, 122 hp, 140 hp (with cylinder deactivation), and 150 hp (PHEV). Even the diesel engines meet the stringent EU6 emissions standard. In the cards are a 95-hp 1.4-liter three-cylinder TDI and two revised 2.0-liter oil-burners rated at 115 and 150 hp, respectively.

Multiple Mini-Crossovers

The Polo crossover won’t be the only SUV Volkswagen spawns from this platform — while that is a properly-trained mud wrestler, the Up! Alltrack and the bigger Golf Variant Alltrack aim at a more lifestyle-oriented clientele. In the case of the Up!, VW sources are talking about a long-wheelbase five-door model decorated with Passat-inspired Alltrack cues. You don’t get all-wheel drive, but you get more cabin space, a dedicated chassis set-up, bigger-diameter whels, and the full cosmetic transformation. About six months after the launch of the new Golf VII Variant (aka wagon) in June 2013, we should see the Alltrack derivative that can be had with 4Motion all-wheel drive, a la Passat Alltrack. For the first time ever in this segment, VW plants to offer a combination of TDI diesel engine, DSG dual-clutch transmission, and all-wheel drive. If this theme catches on, a Touran Alltrack MPV may follow suit in early 2015.

In late 2014, however, the Tiguan II is expected to enter the scene. Sharing the bulk of its mechanical content with the Golf again, the new soft-roader will be lighter, more spacious, and more agile. Following in 2015 are the Tiguan CC and a long-wheelbase version conceived especially for China. While the pretty coupe, which has clearly been influenced by the 2011 Cross Coupe concept, is a global effort, it is not yet clear whether the Tiguan XL will also be sold in Europe (where it might threaten the Touareg) and North America (where it might cannibalize the pending U.S.-only Passat SUV). The Tiguan DNA is also going to spawn the Seat Tribu BL and the Skoda Snowman crossovers. In addition to the familiar string of gas engines, Volkswagen is likely to unleash a sporty Tiguan R powered by the same 280-hp, 295-lb-ft 2.0-liter turbo unit as the Golf R. As far as diesels go, we should see five different versions: 1.4-liter/75 hp, 1.6-liter/90 hp, 1.6-liter/110 hp, 2.0-liter/150 hp and 2.0-liter/190 hp.

Bigger is Better, Too

When the new full-size SUV architecture based on the MLBevo concept masterminded by Audi becomes available in 2014 — we’ll first see it in the next B9-generation A4 — the participating brands can select from two different wheelbase options: 114.0-inch standard and 118.9-inch extended. Audi and Bentley have chosen the long-wheelbase platform; Volkswagen, Porsche (for the Cayenne), and Lamborghini (for the Urus) favor the more compact alternative.

Being approximately 661.4 pounds lighter than the current Volkswagen Touareg, the new full-size SUV will, for the first time, be available with a four-cylinder engine. The 2.0-liter bi-turbo TDI unit it would share with the next Passat is reportedly good for 224 hp and 369 lb-ft. Despite the weight loss, it’s possible that the Touareg expected in early 2015 will eventually also be available in long-wheelbase form. After all, customers in China, Russia, and North America are much more package-conscious than their European counterparts.
Another tentative derivative is the Touareg CC. Like the CC spin-offs of the Passat and the Tiguan, the up-market low-roof SUV would display a more elegant coupe-like greenhouse. If this variant does happen, it will most like be based on the long-wheelbase structure. However, the question remains if the swoopy, premium Volkswagen would step on the toes of the similar Audi crossovers also in the pipeline.

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2018 Volkswagen GTI

2018 Volkswagen GTI

MSRP $26,415 S (Manual) 4-Door Hatchback