Step inside and you behold an appealing cabin with lots of leather, black piano-finish fascias, glass inlays, metal highlights and wood veneer.
It’s inviting and tremendously roomy. The design of the high-mounted dashboard is clean and orderly and a large touchscreen is sited high up in the line of sight. A wide console runs down the centre of the cabin, housing a broad but stubby gear selector quite unlike any other in a VW, an electronic parking brake and generous cupholders.
Ahead of the driver is a flat-bottomed, multi-function steering wheel and a contemporary instrument binnacle with main dials that glow red or blue depending on the driving mode. It all looks bang up to date and feasible to recreate on a large scale.
We’re not sure yet just how much of the concept’s interior will be reflected in the production version, but the elevated driving position provides a commanding view of the road and overall visibility is excellent. From up front, the new VW feels smaller than its external dimensions suggest. The relationship between the seat, pedals, steering wheel and gear selector is flawless and comfort is also high on the list of positives. It is, without a doubt, the CrossBlue’s strongest attribute.
And it gets better, with a clever combination of seating arrangements that offer individual seating for up to seven people in a two-three-two layout. The CrossBlue feels truly commodious from the middle pews, and access to the third row is eased by a sliding mechanism for the second row. Luggage capacity is put at 335 litres, rising to 812 litres with the third row folded. Lay the second row of seats down as well and there’s nearly 2000 litres on offer.
The length of the load area varies between 600mm and 2230mm, with up to 3110mm available when the front passenger seat is folded. As VW suggests, there’s enough space on offer to fit a mattress.
The CrossBlue’s plug-in diesel-electric powertrain, which is likely to be one of a number of engine options for the production version, whirrs for a couple seconds before settling in silence as we hit the starter button. The instruments dazzle, first turning a shade of red and then bright blue, indicating that Hybrid mode has been activated.
First impressions? The unusual-looking gear selector needs a firm shove into Drive, the throttle pedal has a firmer feel than is necessary and the electro-mechanical steering is overly light. Still, this is just a concept, so you shouldn’t read too much into the way it drives.
Our top speed is limited to just 24mph in the interests of mechanical preservation, which is disappointing. Power comes from a 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine supported by two electric motors – a 54bhp one sited next to the combustion engine at the front and a 114bhp one mounted at the rear. Together, the three power sources provide a combined 302bhp, with a peak torque figure of 516lb ft. Energy for the electric motors is supplied by a 9.8kWh lithium ion battery, which is mounted in the floor of the cargo area.
On our low-speed runs, the hybrid system switches seamlessly from all-electric to diesel-electric propulsion with a faint but unobtrusive growl, and backing off sends the CrossBlue into a mechanical drag-reducing coasting mode. The overall cohesiveness of the driveline is impressive, if not quite up to production standards. The crisp action of the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is also notable. The brakes are a little over-servoed initially, but they’re manageable enough.
Volkswagen’s computer simulations indicate a 0-62mph time of 7.5sec and a top speed of 127mph. The hybrid drivetrain offers zero-emissions propulsion at the push of a button, with claims of a 14-mile all-electric range at speeds up to 75mph. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is put at 135mpg.