Volkswagen is looking to secure a sizeable slice of Europe’s growing small off-roader market with a practical new five-door hatchback, tipped to be called Beduin. Wolfsburg’s junior mudslinger, shown here in our computer-generated image, aims to build on the success of the larger and more luxurious Touareg, providing Volkswagen with its first genuine rival to the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander. High-end versions will be out to attack the BMW X3 and new entry-level off-roaders that are under development at Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Prices are expected to start at around £17,000 when UK sales begin in 2007. Range-topping Beduins may get a powerful 280bhp 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine and an electronically controlled four-wheel drive system from Swedish transmission specialist Haldex.
The Beduin – a name registered for world-wide use by Volkswagen back in January – is a key component in a new model offensive overseen by the company’s straight talking chairman, Bernd-Pischetsrieder. He claims Volkswagen must lessen its financial dependence on traditional volume models like the Polo, Golf and Passat and significantly increase its niche models if it is to keep pace with the competition. A production version of the Concept C coupé-cabriolet, which gets an airing at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, will join the new off-roader in an expanded range due to hit showrooms by the end of the decade. And there could be a four-door model that’s said to follow the example of Mercedes-Benz’s well-received CLS by combining the practicality of a typical saloon with the head-turning style of a coupé.
All three cars will be based on the same platform – a new structure using mechanical elements from the Golf’s PQ35 and Passat’s PQ46 underpinnings. It is said to combine the 2580mm wheelbase of the Golf with the 1540mm (front) and 1520mm (rear) track widths of the six-generation Passat, while retaining a MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension. It’s too early to tell if the Beduin will follow the RAV4 in offering the choice between front- and four-wheel-drive models, although it is widely expected that the production versions of the Concept C and four-door coupé (which could be called Rivo and Levanto respectively) will get the option of both, depending on which engine is fitted.
The Beduin’s four-wheel-drive system is essentially the same as used by the Golf 4Motion, with an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch apportioning drive between the front and rear axles and braking intervention to control spinning wheels when traction is lost. It is a simple but effective arrangement that, in combination with the raised ground clearance and reduced approach and departure angles, promises to provide the new Volkswagen with Freelander levels of off-road ability.
Among the petrol engines under consideration for the Beduin are 113bhp 1.6-litre, 148bhp 2.0-litre and 197bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder FSI direct injection units – all offered in the Golf. They will be joined by a new 246bhp version of VW’s 3.2-litre V6. Also being readied is a new 276bhp 3.6-litre version of the V6 that should make its debut in the US version of the Passat early next year, although it is unclear when it will be offered in Europe.
On the diesel side expect 105bhp 1.9-litre, 138bhp 2.0-litre and 169bhp 2.0-litre pumpe düse engines – the latter should also appear in the new Passat this summer. Alongside a standard six-speed manual gearbox, there’ll also be automatic and dual-clutch DSG options. While its mechanical make-up has been determined, secrecy continues to surround the Beduin’s appearance. The car is said to be 4320mm long, 1740mm wide and 1700mm high. Autocar sources said original design proposals for the new five-door have been placed on hold at the request of new Volkswagen brand boss Wolfgang Bernhard. He is said to be unhappy at the grille treatment that’s being applied to the latest Volkswagen models, and has ordered design boss Murat Gunak to come up with alternatives.
Prior to the arrival of the Beduin, Volkswagen will launch a new crossover model based on the recently introduced Golf Plus. Called Cross Golf, it follows the Polo Dune by offering body cladding, a raised ride height and unique interior trim, but no four-wheel drive. Set to make an appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Cross Golf is planned to head into UK showrooms early next year with prices starting at £14,500. VW is also planning a 4x4 Touran called Cross Touran.