IntroductionVolkswagen is planning a complete range of new SUVs, which start arriving this year when the redesigned 2017 Tiguan goes on sale. Below and above that new model, VW plans to add several additional SUVs, and the T-Prime Concept GTE, which the automaker unveiled at Auto China 2016 in Beijing, likely previews one of them.
Calling it “one of the most advanced cars in the world,” Volkswagen says the T-Prime Concept GTE is a full-size SUV based on the company’s new MLB platform and vehicle architecture, which is shared by the redesigned 2017 Audi Q7.
Exterior FeaturesTake a hard look at the new Q7, compare it with the T-Prime Concept GTE, and it’s easy to see the shared architecture beneath the sheetmetal. The Volkswagen is the same length as the Audi but sits lower and wider on 22-in. wheels and tires. Proportions are similar, and both SUVs feature tapered tails.
Arguably, the Volkswagen is the better looking of the two MLB-based SUVs. Viewed from any angle, it displays more character, and its squared-off greenhouse and thick rear roof pillars add some visual muscle to the vehicle.
Interior FeaturesVolkswagen characterizes the T-Prime Concept GTE’s interior as a “connected, progressive, personal residence.” Finished in leather and Alcantara, the SUV’s cabin is trimmed in both polished and satin aluminum, open-pore wood trim, and gloss black accents.
Front seats face a digital-era dashboard. With the exception of the steering wheel stalks, says Volkswagen, all controls are integrated into a new glass Curved Interaction Area instrumentation display that combines the configurable gauges, infotainment system, and secondary touch-sensing control panels.
Optional FeaturesIf that sounds like an ergonomic disaster, don’t worry. Volkswagen promises that this setup is “intuitive, precise, and fun-to-use,” convincing its perhaps skeptical audience by reinforcing that “it is, simply put, a lot of fun to have a world of displays and controls that consist exclusively of touchscreens, gesture, and voice control.”If and when the T-Prime Concept GTE becomes a full-size, production SUV, perhaps called the unpronounceable “Touariguan,” it could be offered with the same executive seating arrangement as was shown in Beijing.
Individual second-row seats divided by a continuous center console makes for sumptuous shuttling in the T-Prime Concept GTE, and a 9.6-in. display screen allows for touch-sensing control of numerous vehicle settings. Additionally, individual 10.1-in. tablets can be snapped into clips on the front seat backs for media consumption between meetings.
Under the HoodVolkswagen is hard at work on a sophisticated plug-in hybrid powertrain, and the T-Prime Concept GTE will receive it.
A turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is paired with an electric motor, a 14.1-kWh Lithium-ion battery, and an 8-speed automatic transmission, delivering power to all four wheels through a 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.
When driven in E-Mode, this SUV supplies 31 miles of electric driving. Volkswagen reports that the T-Prime starts off in E-Mode, but that the driver can switch to a different mode in order to conserve electric propulsion for specific driving zones, if that is more desirable.
Hybrid driving mode activates the gasoline engine, and the T-Prime is expected to average 29 mpg when used in this fashion. A Coasting mode decouples the drivetrain components and allows the electric assist motor to serve as a generator, capturing electricity generated from the friction associated with deceleration, and feeding it to the battery pack.
volkswagen_t-prime_concept_gte_5998_720.jpgDrivers can select GTE mode in order to summon the drivetrain’s maximum output of 375 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque. This mode also tunes the components to deliver the liveliest acceleration and responsiveness, and Volkswagen expects the big sport-ute to hustle to 60 mph in 6 seconds flat.
When it is time to charge the battery, Volkswagen estimates less than 8 hours using a 220-volt outlet. Jack into a public charging station and the battery can be topped off in 2.5 hours, VW says.
SafetyVolkswagen promises that if it builds a production version of the T-Prime Concept GTE that it will contain the latest in driver-assistance and semi-autonomous driving technologies. The Audi Q7, which is based on this same vehicle architecture, earns a “Top Safety Pick+” crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which bodes well for a Volkswagen-badged version.
TechnologyWith Volkswagen’s new Curved Interaction Area display layout, voice, proximity, and gesture control are the rule. The setup includes new 12-in. Active Info Display instrumentation and a 15-in. infotainment display. Both reside beneath a continuous glass surface that is gently curved to present information to the driver, and both can be personalized to emphasize information that is important to the vehicle owner.
Capacitive-touch climate controls flank a main “Home” button, and VW also uses capacitive-touch buttons for the engine start/stop button, the hazard flashers, and more. To select a gear, the driver twists a glass scroll wheel on the center console.
A new multi-function steering wheel design is included in the T-Prime Concept GTE. It features a smooth surface with embedded sensors that respond to pressure or swiping gestures, and then provide haptic feedback to confirm receipt of the command.
Volkswagen also says its new full-size SUV will offer semi-autonomous parking capability.