Volkswagen’s long road to a new production SUV for America is taking yet another interesting turn. After showing the three-row CrossBlue concept at Detroit in 2013 and then a smaller CrossBlue Coupe concept at the 2013 Shanghai auto show, the company is now showing a third crossover concept at this year’s Detroit show called the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE.
Whereas the original CrossBlue concept was a three-row, midsize SUV, and the Crossblue Coupe was a more stylish compact crossover, this two-row Cross Coupe GTE fits right in between these two in terms of size and mimics the previous concepts’ overall look with its upright proportions and no-nonsense, two-bar grille flanked by squarish headlights. These design cues are said to preview the look of the new Volkswagen seven-seat SUV that goes into production in 2016 at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant that currently makes the Passat sedan. All three of these crossover concepts are also based on the MQB modular platform that will underpin this upcoming, unnamed SUV due out next year.
Given the fact that Volkswagen’s SUV plan goes beyond the upcoming seven-seater, though, we can also use the new Cross Coupe as an indication of design cues coming for the next-generation Volkswagen Tiguan and the brand as a whole in the U.S. market. The next Tiguan is also said to transition to the MQB platform, and will likely be produced either in Chattanooga or at Volkswagen’s Mexico facility that makes the seventh-generation, MQB-based Volkswagen Golf. Since the Cross Coupe GTE’s wheelbase is longerr than the Tiguan’s competitive set of compact crossovers, this 190-inch-long concept may even give away the look of the rumored long-wheelbase variant of the Tiguan that we previously reported might be built in China, too. It could also serve as a preview of a 5-passenger variant of the coming 7-seat production crossover.
Any five-seat crossover bigger than the Tiguan could compete with midsize, two-row crossovers like the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge, while the standard-wheelbase Tiguan would continue as a player in the popular compact crossover segment with the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. Volkswagen is hoping to bolster its SUV lineup it its drive to improve U.S. sales, especially as the crossover market continues to grow, but it’s clear that the seven-seat model is the first priority.
While the styling of the Cross Coupe is a thinly veiled look at these future production SUVs, the mechanicals are a bit more advanced. The Cross Coupe GTE features a plug-in hybrid powertrain that pairs a 3.6-liter gasoline V-6 with two electric motors, one at each end of the vehicle, for a total of 355 hp. Various driving modes allow the Cross Coupe to operate in electric-only mode or traditional hybrid mode, along with other driving profiles meant for off-roading and sportier driving. The GTE name can also be found on other Volkswagen plug-in models with an emphasis on performance, like the recently revealed Volkswagen Passat GTE that’s now on sale in Europe.
Although a plug-in SUV model is a likely bet for the near future, expect the eventual production Volkswagen SUVs to use more conventional engines like the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder found in many other Volkswagen products in addition to turbodiesel powerplants for the inevitable TDI variants.
Likewise, the futuristic interior with its exotic-looking blue Nappa leather is likely to be toned down for production. Some of the control interfaces may remain, though, as the does away with many buttons and instead focuses on various displays and touchscreens to convey information to the driver. Volkswagen’s new gesture control is included for the largest, 10.1-inch screen on the dash, and the instrument panel is a completely digital, 12.3-inch display that can be configured to display all sorts of information like navigation and infotainment.
Stay tuned for more information about the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE as it makes its official debut at the 2015 Detroit auto show.