Earlier this year, Volkswagen promised an “ambitious onslaught” of SUVs beginning with the T-Cross Breeze concept. While that Range Rover Evoque-esque convertible isn’t likely to see production, the brand is getting serious about two things in the wake of “Dieselgate:” SUVs and hybrids. With the T-Prime GTE unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show this week, we’ve now got our best look yet at what we can expect from the embattled automaker in the near future.
This concept follows Volkswagen’s recent SUV concepts like the CrossBlue and Tiguan Active GTE, and is the most production-ready we’ve seen to date. Debuting in Beijing with four seats, it isn’t much of a stretch to see this going into production as a seven-seater, and entering a segment that’s gotten red-hot in America as gas prices continue to remain low. On the outside, its lines will be familiar to people who have seen the company’s SUV concepts for the past three or so years, and fortunately, it looks a whole lot better than the frumpy Jeep Grand Cherokee knock-offs that the company has been testing on the West Coast.
Underneath its exterior, the T-Prime GTE has a hybrid powertrain, with an electric motor aiding a 2.0 liter four to make a combined 375 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, enough to give the 16.6 foot long SUV some serious towing capability. The eight-speed automatic transmission is controlled by a “shift by wire” unit inside, and power is delivered to all four wheels by the company’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. According to Volkswagen, the T-Prime scrambles from zero to 60 in an impressive six seconds, and tops out at 139 miles per hour. Not bad for a big people mover.
Inside is where the T-Cross begins to live up to its concept car status. The cockpit is a suite of leather, screens, gesture control sensors, and touch-sensitive surfaces. Like the current Mercedes S-Class, the concept has an unbroken surface that runs from the 12-inch instrument display across the dash to the 15-inch infotainment system, which is set behind glass in what the brand says is: “a continuous, elegant glass surface, which is slightly curved—a world first in a vehicle,” and will arrive in an unnamed production vehicle “as early as 2017.”
On the concept, Volkswagen has given the four-seater contrasting blue and and tan leather, with gloss-black and aluminum offsetting warm, open pore wood trim, giving the high-tech SUV a premium feel. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Volkswagen fielding a model like this to compete with models like the Volvo XC90 Excellence – especially in the Chinese market.
Over the past few years, Volkswagen has honed a tastefully attractive crossover and SUV design language, and looks like it could be on the verge of making a splash in these high-stakes segments. The company desperately needs a hit (especially in the U.S. market), and a big luxurious hauler with room for seven would likely do well. Hopefully the next big SUV launch we see from the company will be a production model, not another concept.