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VW CrossBlue SUV Concept Bows at NAIAS

Sections: Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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Volkswagen's CrossBlue concept

Volkswagen revealed its CrossBlue plug-in diesel-electric hybrid concept at NAIAS this week. Designed to slot in above the Tiguan and below the Touareg, the ultimate quesiton is will VW build it? (Photo courtesy Volkswagen of America.)

Volvo may have stole headlines in the fall season with its V60 diesel-electric plug-in hybrid, but that car won’t likely come to the U.S., where Volkswagen may well be first to the electrified diesel segment with its CrossBlue SUV Concept.

According to a VW media release, the mid-size CrossBlue will seat six American-sized people– the model was designed specifically for the U.S. and Canadian markets, where it would slot in above the Tiguan and below the luxury Touareg. VW says the CrossBlue will return an estimated 35 MPG combined and 89 MPGe in all-electric mode, in which it can travel up to 14 miles before the engine has to generate any power.

Like the Volvo V60, the CrossBlue is a plug-in hybrid with a diesel engine. In the VW’s case, that diesel-electric combo is good for a combined 305 horsepower and a positively monstrous 516 lb-ft of torque, which scoots the SUV along to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds when prodded. Despite that respectable performance, VW claims the CrossBlue has a total driving range of 661 miles if its 18.5-gallon tank is filled with diesel dino juice.

The CrossBlue’s diesel mill makes 190 horses by itself and routes it through a six-speed DSG dual-clutch auto gearbox. A central tunnel, meanwhile, houses the SUV’s 9.8-kWh lithium-ion batteries as well as two electric motors– a 54-horsepower motor up front, and a 114-horsepower motor at the rear. The driver can manually switch to “Eco” or “Sport” modes at the press of a button. In default mode, the vehicle operates as a normal hybrid, with the electric motor used as often as possible. “Eco” mode rejiggers parameters in systems including the throttle map and air conditioning to ensure minimal fuel and electricity consumption, while “Sport” mode allows for use of the combined power units’ full juice. Furthermore, an “Offroad” mode keeps all-wheel drive permanently engaged, and “EV” mode sees the vehicle operate only on battery power for up to 14 miles when fully charged, with only the rear 114-horsepower electric motor propelling it down the road. Finally, a “Charging” mode redirects some of the diesel engine’s power to charging the batteries to, for example, ensure there’s enough juice in them to switch to EV mode in a traffic jam.

VW of America President and CEO Jonathan Browning said, “The CrossBlue concept is exactly the right type of vehicle for the U.S. market. It combines a truly versatile interior layout with sophisticated Volkswagen design, to give a unique and supremely stylish offering in this segment. Moreover, the vehicle showcases our innovative German powertrain engineering and the bandwidth of the new MQB architecture.”

That architecture is VW’s attempt at building multiple cars on a common platform to bring down costs and parts complexity. The concept SUV measures 196.3 inches in length, 79.3 inches wide, and 68.2 inches tall, the release said, with a front track of 66.4 inches and a rear track of 66.8 inches and 21-inch aluminum alloy wheels tucked into “significantly flared wheelarches.” It has two “fuel doors,” one for diesel fuel on the passenger side, and the twin electrical socket charge port behind the door on the driver’s side.

Inside, a 10.2-inch touchscreen is used to control all infotainment and display telematics information such as the state of charge of the car’s batteries. Even the actual buttons inside the passenger compartment have been given a soft-touch surface to make them feel more like a touchscreen, VW said, with the exception of the hazard flasher switch.

A cool touch to the on-board entertainment array is the inclusion of iPad mini devices integrated as monitors in the front-row head restraints so aft passengers can watch video, listen to audio, and take advantage of online entertainment. Second- and third-row passengers get their own independent climate controls so nobody has to yell at the driver to turn up the heat or A/C. VW’s Fender Premium Audio System is available.

Sound awesome? Too bad VW hasn’t officially decided whether to build it. The first paragraph contains the phrase “if it goes into production.” We’re hoping it does.

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