If you played the word-association game with car lovers and you gave the Volkswagen Group’s big three brands a whirl, what would you come up with? For Audi, “elegance” and “status” would likely make the rounds; for Porsche, “performance” and “perfection” come to mind; and in the core VW brand, “practicality” and “efficiency” make sense.
According to Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, these associations will change in the coming years as the automotive group moves toward electrified cars that behave like “smartphones on wheels” with their connectivity. To back up the claim, 20 new plug-in vehicles were promised by 2020, all with the technology you expect from the latest gadgets.
We got a look at a few of them at the Frankfurt Motor Show, while others we know as concepts from elsewhere and production models rumored to be headed to the U.S. Here are seven electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids that show the Volkswagen Group means serious business in electric mobility.
1. Volkswagen Golf GTE Sport
If you love the style and performance of a BMW i8, Volkswagen has scissor-doored Golf variant to interest you. Its Golf GTE Sport Concept, which first made an appearance in May 2015, showed up at Frankfurt in white and black to remind everyone why it’s special. On top of the 31 miles of electric range — the standard of VW Group plug-ins — this Golf can sprint to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 4.3 seconds and top out at 174 miles per hour. The beast-like performance comes from a hybrid powertrain producing 396 horses.
2. Porsche Mission E
Stories about “Tesla killers” have been a dime a dozen for years, but each time the pretender was either absurdly expensive, not electric, or a distant promise that may never materialize. The Porsche Mission E Concept is most of the above but not all. Boasting 600 horsepower and an ability to hit 60 miles per hour in less than 3.5 seconds, it’s Tesla-worthy on the performance front. Its 310 miles of range (European cycle) give it another plus. Where it surpasses Tesla (aside from what it would cost) is its ability to charge to 80% in 15 minutes. With one beautiful Porsche, the VW Group shows it can do what the best EV maker can do in the coming years.
3. Audi A3 e-tron
While plug-in hybrids dominate the green car scene in Europe, the VW Group only has two models (both Porsches) available in the U.S. That will change when the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron debuts in October at the reasonable sticker price of $37,900 before incentives. Like Volkswagen GTE models, the A3 e-tron gets around 30 miles of electric range on the European cycle, so expect the EPA to say between 20 and 25 miles when it concludes its tests. Pricing it so close to the standard gas A3 gives this model more than a fighting chance.
4. Volkswagen Tiguan GTE
Volkswagen went to Frankfurt 2015 ready to battle, and the automaker showed off the reinvention of the Tiguan crossover, an important model in an exploding segment. On top of the gas trims, the Tiguan GTE Concept plug-in hybrid got the auto group’s standard 31 miles of electric range and a sturdy 215 horsepower, but the most eye-popping feature involved solar cells on the roof. VW said this component could add over 600 miles of range to the Tiguan in the right circumstances. We know this technology is expensive and unlikely to debut soon, but the zero-emissions play is impressive nonetheless.
5. Audi Quattro e-tron
With its other dazzling Frankfurt Motor Show pieces, the VW Group came with the Audi Quattro e-tron concept and a promise it will deliver a long-range luxury EV crossover by early 2018. Drawing on the EV engineering showcased previously in the R8 e-tron, the Quattro — which slots between the Q5 and Q7 — features 310 miles of electric range (European cycle) and 590 pounds-feet of torque. Like the Tiguan GTE, this concept has solar panels on the roof that would extend its range. Meanwhile, the sprint to 62 miles per hour takes just 4.2 seconds, according to Audi. That’s Tesla Model X-style performance.
6. Volkswagen Golf GTE
It may not have scissor doors or 400 horsepower, but the standard Volkswagen Golf GTE is an actual car on the market (at least in Europe) that is one of Germany’s best-selling plug-ins for 2015. Featuring the 31 miles of electric range and an absurd 157 miles per gallon (Euro cycle), the Golf GTE proves Volkswagen already has a winner in the EV segment and should by all means push the envelope for the next generation across its brands. As of now, there are no plans to bring this model to the United States.
7. Audi Q7 e-tron
Though this model is not confirmed for the U.S., Audi is optimistic it will bring its Q7 e-tron plug-in plug-in hybrid to the U.S. for its new model cycle. Among other reasons we’d like to see that happen, this Q7 would be the first diesel PHEV to hit American shores. Besides, it packs serious thump with 516 pounds-feet of torque, 369 horses, and the standard VW 30 miles of electric range, give or take.
If Volkswagen’s EV lineup seems ambitious in scope, remember that the automotive group already has the highest number of plug-ins in operation across its three brands, including the Porsche PHEVs and the VW e-Golf. With another 20 models coming by 2020, there is no reason to expect that to change.