Volkswagen is going sleeker, sexier and more futuristic, if the new Cross Coupe GTE is any inkling as to the company’s future plans. The concept SUV shown off at the Detroit Auto Show is a plug-in hybrid that seats five (the eventual production model will seat seven), and contains a bunch of new interior features, like gesture control and intricate panel systems. But the real story is the vehicle’s new front-end and design qualities, which have plenty of people raising their eyebrows.
A quick glance, at the current model on display brings to mind similar aesthetics of the Ford Edge, with a more energetic and dynamic feeling. According to VW’s engineering team, that was one of the main goals in designing it. “The concept car has a commanding presence; it is powerful with a look that could almost be described as aggressive,” said Klaus Bischoff, chief designer at Volkswagen.
“Numerous details hint at how we envision a future production SUV model for North America. The underlying concept combines German engineering and design with a vehicle that suits the American lifestyle. That means high efficiency, clear and powerful design, logical operation and supreme quality — combined with lots of space, superior performance, and outstanding comfort.”
As for the vehicle’s performance, drivers can expect the plug-in hybrid all-wheel drive system will be able to generate a maximum of 355 horsepower, but also be rated at a fairly impressive 70 MPGe in terms of fuel economy. The powertrain itself starts with a 276-horsepower direct-injection 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine, augmented with two electric motors. All systems go, the Cross Coupe GTE can lay down as much as 258 pound-feet of torque with all systems go, reach a top overall speed of 130 miles per hour, and make the sprint from zero to 60 in six seconds.
It also has an electric-only range of 20 miles, powered by the two electric motors supplying a combined 114 horsepower. Though still being called a concept by Volkswagen at this point, the SUV is slated to hit production in late 2016 at the company’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant.
The other important aspect of the Cross Coupe GTE’s introduction, besides the advances in design and engineering, is that it adds to Volkswagen’s arsenal in both the hybrid-electric and SUV categories. Though the company’s strengths seem to reside in its compact and sedan offerings — like the Jetta and Golf — there’s no getting away from the fact that Americans love SUVs, and with the Cross Coupe GTE hitting the market, it puts Volkswagen in a better place.
Right now, the company’s SUV slate only includes the Tiguan and the Touareg, with about a $20,000 price difference between the two. We also know that the CrossBlue SUV has been greenlit for production, too, which is more or less a non-hybrid version of the Cross Coupe GTE. With the two newcomers in the lineup, suddenly VW’s SUV slate has some punch to it.
That will help as VW has faced increasing competition from a number of rivals, including the revamped Jeep brand. But Volkswagen has had a plan in place for a little while now to counter Jeep, and strike at consumers who want an American-built SUV, with styling that caters more toward American tastes. Hence, the more aggressive aesthetics of both the CrossBlue and the Cross Coupe GTE.
While Volkswagen brass hopes that a more daring design and aesthetic will help spur sales of the company’s new SUVs, the hybrid powertrain in the new Cross Coupe GTE should garner some interest as well. Other automakers, like Mercedes, have also announced new plug-in hybrid SUVs that are slated to hit the market soon. Though Volkswagen doesn’t really compete with Mercedes, it does appear that the Germans are on to something.
There are others already for sale, including the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, and even Volkswagen’s own Touareg Hybrid. So, what is it that will truly set the Cross Coupe GTE apart? Again, Volkswagen appears to be banking on the vehicle’s design, which will probably inspire the company’s future vehicles and redesigns.
Will Americans go for an American-built, aggressively-styled plug-in hybrid SUV from a German automaker? Volkswagen is willing to bet that they will.