Up Close And Personal With Volkswagen's "Top Priority"



Volkswagen is still very much dead-set on meeting its goal of selling 800,000 vehicles in the United States by 2018. And while the company has said on several occasions that it will not be expanding its lineup to models smaller than the Golf, there's certainly room for expansion elsewhere in its portfolio. At the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, Volkswagen debuted its CrossBlue concept – a three-row, midsize crossover designed specifically with the US market in mind. And during a roundtable discussion at the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this month, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Jonathan Browning told us that a midsize CUV is the company's "top priority" in the US.

But let's be clear: The CrossBlue is not a replacement for the Touareg, or any other vehicle in the company's US lineup (except maybe the Chrysler-supplied Routan minivan). This will be an all-new offering built on Volkswagen's scalable MQB architecture – the same platform that underpins the Mk7 Golf, among other products. To give us a better idea of exactly what's in store for the new CrossBlue, Volkswagen flew us out to Germany's Siegerland Airport the day before the Frankfurt show to give us an up-close-and-personal look at its all-important new crossover.
Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept
Volkswagen CrossBlue ConceptVolkswagen CrossBlue Concept

During our time in Germany, Browning said on several occasions that a midsize crossover is a natural fit for Volkswagen in the US, and the CrossBlue, though still purely a concept at this point, gives a proper glimpse at what we can expect from an entry in this highly competitive segment. It's still hard to discern what the final design will look like, but we don't expect the shape to differ too much from what you see here, with nice, handsome proportions and clean lines – it'll look right at home with the other VW products in the showroom.

Compared to the Touareg, the concept is longer and wider, though shorter in height.

The CrossBlue measures in at 196.3 inches long, 79.3 inches wide and 62.2 inches tall. Compared to the Touareg, the concept is longer and wider, though is a full six inches shorter in height – more appropriate dimensions for a true seven-seat crossover. Volkswagen has fitted the CrossBlue with 21-inch alloy wheels at all four corners, wrapped in 235/45-series tires, though we're sure smaller rollers will be offered on base models when the production vehicle is launched.

Inside, there isn't anything remarkable in terms of design or packaging, with a modern, forward-thinking cabin that incorporates all of the basic infotainment and driver convenience functions into an airy, spacious cockpit. The sloping center stack features control knobs that are flush with the main surfacing, and raise up when the vehicle is started – just like the gear selector on modern Jaguar products.

Volkswagen CrossBlue ConceptVolkswagen CrossBlue Concept

All of the necessary infotainment data is housed inside of a prominent 10.2-inch touchscreen interface in the middle of the dash, with a clean design that also displays hybrid drive information. Volkswagen says that there's a new three-dimensional feature, where, for example, the landscape actually rotates in the navigation function.

If the CrossBlue enters production, both six- and seven-passenger options will be available.

The CrossBlue concept uses a six-seat configuration, with two chairs in the second row and a split-folding third row. If the CrossBlue enters production, both six- and seven-passenger options will be available, with a full, three-person bench fitted in the second row instead of the two individual chairs. With both rows folded, up to 77.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity is available, and on the concept, Volkswagen has incorporated iPad Mini rear seat entertainment systems mounted into the back of the front seat headrests.

For the purposes of this concept, VW engineered the CrossBlue to be a plug-in diesel hybrid, mating two electric motors to the company's new EA288 oil-burning engine. The diesel engine on its own is good for 188 horsepower, but combined with the two e-motors – a 40-kilowatt unit up front, 80-kw motor out back – total system output is estimated to be around 302 horsepower and 517 pound-feet of torque, running to all four wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Volkswagen CrossBlue ConceptVolkswagen CrossBlue Concept
Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept

Because of the scalable MQB architecture, though, Volkswagen engineers told us that the CrossBlue could be offered with a variety of powertrains, including a more conventional gasoline-only V6, or smaller mills like the company's 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, based on market demand. In the case of this plug-in hybrid system, Volkswagen estimates that, in hybrid mode, the CrossBlue will achieve roughly 35 miles per gallon. If the electric mode is utilized – with a 14 miles of electric range before the gasoline engine kicks in – that number could rise to 89 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent) combined.

Volkswagen estimates that, in hybrid mode, the CrossBlue will achieve roughly 35 miles per gallon.

We were promised some drive time in the CrossBlue during our time at Siegerland, and while we did get some, it wasn't exactly what we expected. Due to heavy rain and colder-than-usual weather, we were only allowed to drive the CrossBlue in a small circle around an airport hangar, and your author maxed out at a blistering top speed of 11 miles per hour. So as for drive impressions, we don't really have any. But as far as concept cars go, the CrossBlue was hardly a fragile machine, and other members of the media reported being allowed to drive the vehicle as fast as – wait for it – 20 mph on an open runway. Volkswagen tells us that the CrossBlue can actually top out at a maximum speed of 127 mph, and the run to 60 mph will take seven seconds flat. That latter number sounds pretty impressive, but considering the massive torque thrust available, it's not all that surprising.

When the vehicle is first started, it acts as a traditional hybrid, where the electric motors provide assist whenever possible, but the diesel engine kicks on shortly after launch to provide maximum power. If the driver selects E-mode, however, the diesel engine is shut off and the CrossBlue is powered solely by the rear, 80-kW motor for up to the aforementioned 14 miles. Other interesting factors in the CrossBlue experience involve a coasting mode; when the accelerator is released the engine and electric motors are decoupled from the drivetrain, assuming the battery is sufficiently charged. Furthermore, Volkswagen has detailed a "boosting mode," where the e-motors work with the TDI engine to provide maximum power to all four wheels. Finally, when an off-road mode is selected, the front electric motor gets its power from the TDI engine, and the power is then sent to the rear e-motor. As VW explains it, "Since the energy for driving the rear wheels flows by wire and not mechanically, this is referred to as 'propshaft by wire'."

Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept

Another neat feature about the CrossBlue system is that the vehicle can actually act as an auxiliary electrical generator. Behind the fuel door on the driver's side, there are two sockets – one to charge the lithium-ion battery, and the second one can be used to connect electrical devices such as coolers or lighting for camping.

A firm decision still has not been made on whether the vehicle will get the green light.

But despite the CrossBlue being at the top of the list for Volkswagen's product plans in the US, a firm decision still has not been made on whether the vehicle will get the green light. Last we heard, the final decision will likely come early next year, with the company's Chattanooga, TN plant as the production site for this vehicle.

Our takeaway from this encounter with the CrossBlue is that Volkswagen has a very solid plan laid out for a three-row crossover, designed specifically with the US market in mind. And with the death of the Routan leaving a seven-passenger hole in the company's lineup, a decision can't some soon enough. Volkswagen stands to gain a lot of traction in the US with an entry into this highly competitive class, making its 800,000-unit goal not seem quite as lofty.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 93 Comments
      JonathanE
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have wanted a six- or seven- seater vehicle which gets great mileage for nearly 10 years. I hope that this gets built before my kids leave for college, and that it's not too much more than $30K.
      dieseldvm
      • 1 Year Ago
      very interested in the diesel electric hybrid powertrain. make sure to offer a it with only two rows of seats, leaving a sizeable luggage area. hurry along vw, can't wait forever. about time someone offers a diesel electric hybrid!
      funguy6713
      • 1 Year Ago
      On another major auto website they said that it's unlikely the hybrid powertrain will come to the US but we will get VR6, Turbo 4-Cyl and TDI options...they also said to expect it to be on sale in the US and China sometime in 2015...I definitely have my eye on one of these for my family needs and if the price is right I'm definitely reserving one for my garage...
      Black Dyanmite
      • 1 Year Ago
      EXACTLY as stylish and interesting as the rest of VW's lineup. VW USA sales have dropped for each of the last six months YTY. BD
      LeeBromley
      • 1 Year Ago
      The guys from Jeep called. They want a word about copyright infringement.
      KaBoomBOX
      • 1 Year Ago
      That' s a real nice Grand Cherokee they've made there.
      VDuB
      • 1 Year Ago
      Can't wait for this. Just price it right. The Touareg is wayyyy too expensive.
      David
      • 1 Year Ago
      As usual, VW demonstates just how clueless they are in their "understanding" of "what we want."
        chrismcfreely
        • 1 Year Ago
        @David
        Ya, Americans HATE crossovers. You are a genius.
          Actionable Mango
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chrismcfreely
          David, An SUV is truck-based with body-on-frame construction, almost always with 4x4 option or default, and often with low gearing. SUVs typically have better ground clearance and off road capability than a CUV of the same class size. A Crossover (CUV) has SUV styling, but is car-based with unibody construction, often with AWD option or default, and I don't think I've seen ever seen low gearing. CUVs typically handle better and get much better gas mileage than a SUV of the same class size. You seem to think they are the same because they look the same, but that is a false conclusion.
          David
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chrismcfreely
          This is a big-ass SUV, not a "crossover" (whatever that even means). 10 years ago everyone wanted this. Most people of gotten rid of their big-ass SUVs now.
          speeddanimal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chrismcfreely
          Large Utility like this are one of the fastest growing segments in the US market up about 25% vs. last year, led by entries with traditional SUV styling (eg, Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer). Meanwhile, CUV softroader sales are stuggling to stay up, and many CUVs have been redesigned to have a more 'SUV-like' appearance (eg, GMC Acadia). Even Body on Frame SUVs, which this is not, are up. Who's clueless now?
          montoym
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chrismcfreely
          In addition to what Actionable Mango (correctly) stated, there are such things as unibody SUV's as well. As the Grand Cherokee, M-B M-Class and GL-Class (in addition to many others) have shown. The difference being that they are not based on car platforms but instead have their own more rugged, albeit unibody, platforms. The primary criteria that defines a crossover is the fact that it's based on a car platform, not that it necessarily has to be body-on-frame.
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chrismcfreely
          David, vehicles like this one (transverse engine, unibody, FWD-based) are basically minivans and share nothing in common with a Tahoe/Expedition/etc that you are talking about. These jacked up minivans (GM lambda triplets, CX-9, pathfinder, explorer, highlander, etc.) sell like hotcakes, with good reason; they are an economical way to haul kids/crap around and still "feel" like you are driving a manly vehicle.
      Sims
      • 1 Year Ago
      It has like 95% of the lines of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
        Avinash Machado
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Sims
        I thought only Chinese automakers copied.
        bK
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Sims
        Because it probably shares platform with the Grand Cherokee. Like how the VW Routan is a rebadged Caravan.
          Ricky
          • 1 Year Ago
          @bK
          You're an idiot.
          Manual Stick
          • 1 Year Ago
          @bK
          I can see how you might think that if you didn't read the article.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Sims
        [blocked]
      manure
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow, so VW doesn't have any shame at all. At least they aren't bashful about it. This design is plagiarized from Jeep, BMW and the Ford Flex. My hope is Geely and BYD can come to the USA soon and they are far more expert than VW at this lowest common denominator stuff. VW is acting like a Chinese brand. Wait till the genuine Chinese get here. VW will have nothing.
      dohc73
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hello Ford Flex ripoff.
      ferps
      • 1 Year Ago
      A car this large on the Golf platform is likely to have the driving dynamics of a wet noodle.
    • Load More Comments