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Detroit show: VW reveals new SUV

Blue future: The VW CrossBlue appeared as a six-seat concept but will get seven seats when it goes into production.

Diesel-electric CrossBlue previews affordable seven-seat Volkswagen SUV from 2015


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15 Jan 2013

VOLKSWAGEN has revealed what is destined to become the company’s affordable seven-seater SUV for the North American market in 2015, but may also make its way to Australia.

Called the CrossBlue and unveiled today at the Detroit auto show as a concept, the vehicle is openly regarded as a certainty for series production in Tennessee alongside the US-market Passat sedan.

Volkswagen presented the CrossBlue as a six-seater but confirmed in Detroit that “if it goes into production” it will have seven seats, with a three-seat bench in the second row instead of the concept vehicle’s twin bucket seats.

Although bigger than the existing Audi Q7-based VW Touareg premium SUV – being 89mm longer and 50mm wider – the production CrossBlue is designed to be a more affordable mass-market vehicle that will boost the company’s ambitious global sales targets.

US magazine Autoweek believes the large SUV will go on sale in the US in 2015 priced from about $32,000, whereas the Touareg carries a base price of about $US44,000. The five-seat Touareg sells in Australia from $62,990.

Volkswagen says it devised the new SUV specifically for the US and Canada, and at this stage it has only been engineered for left-hand drive.

However, Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler has previously indicated the company’s desire to sell such a vehicle here, and a high-ranking VW official in Detroit said right-hand drive – an integral facet of the MQB architecture on which the vehicle is based – was possible if there was sufficient global demand.

Built with monocoque (or unibody) construction, the CrossBlue is conceptually similar to the Toyota Kluger and Ford Territory rather than separate-chassis vehicles such as the top-selling Toyota Prado and the ute-based Holden Colorado 7, making it more of an urban people-mover than an off-roader.

The Detroit show car featured all-wheel drive, though not in the conventional sense because the rear wheels are driven only by electric power.

Its hybrid powertrain includes a front-mounted transverse turbo-diesel engine of unspecified size, but developing 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque, suggesting it is a 2.0-litre variant of the company’s EA288 diesel range.

This new engine range is linked to the highly flexible MQB architecture, which is not so much a platform as uniform design parameters across model series and brands within the VW Group, all with transverse engine mounting but with provision for petrol, electric, natural gas, hybrid and all-electric powertrains.

MQB – which translates to Modular Transverse Matrix – underpins the CrossBlue, as well as the latest seventh-generation Golf, Audi A3, 2013 Skoda Octavia and the next-generation Passat, among other VW Group vehicles.

It provides for variable wheelbase and track dimensions, which in the CrossBlue are 2980mm wheelbase (76mm longer than Touareg), 1686mm front track (30mm wider) and 1696mm rear track (20mm wider), providing a strong stance on the road.

Volkswagen claims the concept’s plug-in hybrid system is one of the most innovative produced, featuring the diesel engine, two electric motors, a six-speed DSG (dual-clutch) transmission and “propshaft by wire” (because there is no mechanical drive to the electric-driven rear wheels).

In “E-mode”, the turbo-diesel engine is shut down and only the 85kW electric motor on the rear axle drives the car, providing a range of up to 33km ‘emissions-free’ motoring on the European test cycle. Top speed is reduced from 204km/h to 120km/h in all-electric mode.

The tunnel-mounted lithium-ion battery pack has an energy capacity of 9.8kWh and can be charged externally, as well as by the engine.

In off-road mode with all-wheel drive, the smaller front-mounted 180Nm electric motor disconnects from the drive system and acts exclusively as a generator and power source for the 270Nm rear motor, ensuring continual drive to all four wheels.

For maximum performance, total system power amounts to 225kW and 700Nm, enabling the CrossBlue to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.5 seconds.

The CrossBlue – or at least it production version – will finally provide ambitious Volkswagen with much-needed seven-seat capability in the SUV market as both the Tiguan and Touareg have only five seats.

Volkswagen had contemplated producing a seven-seater based on its Amarok workhorse ute, but chose instead to go with a unibody-style SUV that is describes as combining “the engine technology and visual impact of an SUV with the spaciousness of a minivan”.

Although pitched at North America, the CrossBlue was designed in Germany under the leadership of VW Group head of design Walter de Silva and VW brand head of design Klaus Bischoff, with Marc Lichte heading the exterior design team and Tomasz Bachorsky leading interior design.

However, the design team is said to have worked closely with Volkswagen of America to merge “the clean lines of German Volkswagen ‘design DNA’ with the masculine character of an American SUV”.

Other vehicles revealed in Detroit by Volkswagen included R-Line variants of both the Tiguan and Touareg for the US market, and a ‘Passat Performance Concept’ – a hot version of the sedan with some body enhancements and powered by a 1.8-litre direct-injected turbo-petrol engine developing 184kW of power that is already available in some Asian and European markets.

Like other R-Line models produced globally by Volkswagen, the two SUVs gain body and interior enhancements but not the extra power applied to full Volkswagen R models such as the Golf R.

A Volkswagen Group Australian spokesman was unable to offer any comment on local prospects for the CrossBlue, the R-Line SUVs or the more powerful Passat engine.

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