But show cars typically are less about ability and more about stance and proportions. The Concept A scores by striking a credible compromise between presence and purposefulness. The front is dominated by a grille that features two different surface treatments-polished on the vertical stuff, matte on the horizontal elements. The side view is sportier and more elegant, but the large-diameter wheels make it clear that this is not an ordinary passenger car. From the rear, the split liftgate gives access to a wide and deep cargo deck that is far too nicely trimmed ever to be ruined by real luggage. What about aerodynamics? "We can't disclose the drag figure yet," says Lichte, "but we have done our homework."
Work on the Concept A began in early 2004. Initially, it was VW's intention to develop the car with Audi, but Audi needed a vehicle that could accommodate at least a token third row and a V-8, so the price and size points no longer meshed. As a result, VW did its own thing. But when Bernhard took over in early 2005, he didn't like the front-end design, so it was redone, along with a host of details. More time was lost in the course of several rounds of cost cutting. Finally, labor negotiations at the Wolfsburg plant where the vehicle will be built took another six months. "But all's well that ends well," says Lichte. "We created a shape that reflects the car's competence in the different environments it competes in. We came up with a vehicle that appeals to common sense as well as to emotion. The Concept A is a dream come true, a proper Volkswagen." It had better be, because VW is extraordinarily late to this market segment.