The CrossBlue is, at heart, the new seven-seat SUV that Volkswagen will slot between the Tiguan and Touareg in 2015
22 September 2013

What is it?

Officially still a concept, the production version of the CrossBlue isn’t set to appear until 2015 at the earliest, and it’s going to be three years at least before it makes its way to the UK.

Today, though, we get to sample what we can expect from the CrossBlue, with a drive of the very concept that raised eyebrows in Detroit back in January.

The CrossBlue has been conceived and constructed as a fully operational prototype, complete with a diesel-electric drivetrain and lithium ion battery pack. Yet despite the extensive engineering work that has gone into it, the concept isn’t quite road legal, so we’re driving it on an airstrip near Frankfurt in Germany. They’re not exactly the surroundings that VW had in mind when it was conceiving the big SUV, but the broad expanse of asphalt provides a good opportunity to manoeuvre it around without drawing attention from inquisitive onlookers.

Seeing it in daylight for the first time reinforces the view that the CrossBlue concept is very close to what we can expect to see in showrooms. Apart from a few detail features – headlight graphics, mirror housings, tail-light design – it looks ready for production. It’s big, too, riding on a lengthened and widened version of the steel monocoque MQB structure that is set to be used beneath the second-generation Tiguan, due in 2015.

Stretching to 4987mm in length, 2015mm in width and 1733mm in height, the CrossBlue is a significant 562mm longer, 205mm wider and 33mm higher than our Tiguan camera car, which looks tiny in comparison. It is also 192mm longer, 70mm wider and 10mm lower than a Touareg, which will surely grow in its next iteration to make way for its more affordable sibling.

There is a classless, functional appeal to the exterior design, which is conspicuously unadorned. It has only a simple horizontal grille, taut surfacing, fine bodyside crease lines and ultra-tight shutlines. The silhouette is quite boxy, but the upright design provides exceptional practicality, with large door apertures and a wide tailgate that opens at bumper level. 

The best aspect, though, is the way that it sits on the road. With track widths of 1686mm at the front and 1696mm at the rear, and 21-inch wheels shod with 285/45 tyres, VW’s new SUV has a confident stance. But with only a moderate ride height, it is clearly not intended to venture too far into the rough.

What's it like?

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.

Should I buy one?

With global SUV sales on an ever-steeper trajectory, it is hard to see where VW can go wrong with the production version of the CrossBlue.

It is going to be a late starter in a hard-fought market segment, but based on what we’ve seen so far, the new seven-seater will have the potential to challenge established class favourites on a number of levels. 

The pricing of Volkswagen’s new SUV, whose name remains a closely guarded secret, will be crucial. There is talk that the base version will slot somewhere between next year’s second-generation Tiguan and the third iteration of the Touareg, at about £38,000. It’s late to the party – again – but Volkswagen looks ready to make an impression on the SUV competition, even if it’s still describing its new model as a concept. 

Volkswagen CrossBlue concept

Price na; 0-62mph 7.5sec; Top speed 127mph (hybrid), 75mph (electric); Economy 135mpg; CO2 na; Kerb weight na; Engine 4-cylinders, 1968cc, turbodiesel, plus 2 electric motors; Power 302bhp (combined); 187bhp diesel; 54bhp/114bhp electric; Torque 516lb ft (combined); Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch auto; Wheels 21in, alloy; Tyres 285/45 R21

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Comments
10

22 September 2013

"Not quite roadworthy". "Limited to 24m.p.h." This road test was rather a pointless exercise except for the VW PR department.

VW are really coming up with some daft names at present. Is this one aimed at the ill-tempered motorist in the same way as the E-Up! is aimed at the Yorkshire market?

22 September 2013

I'm waiting on 4wd, seven seats, and three (equally divided) seats on the second row. Could this be a contender? Well, I guess not - you can bet the farm they will put two and a half seats on the second row (in this 'family' car - have a look in te back of the Tesla to see common sense), the level of all wheel drive is unclear, and three years time?

22 September 2013

Wonder if it will be called the Toiguaregiun

22 September 2013

I thought he plan was to build this in the USA (Chattanooga) and not sell it in Europe, where it would be too big for our roads, and it would clash with the Toerag?

22 September 2013
Jeremy wrote:

I thought he plan was to build this in the USA (Chattanooga) and not sell it in Europe, where it would be too big for our roads, and it would clash with the Toerag?

If it's 70mm wider than a Touareg I can't see it selling over here - indeed the first thing I thought of when I saw it was it's designed for America. Having said that I like the simple design and think the interior looks superb. If VW could bring these design themes to the next Tiguan it could be very nice.

22 September 2013

Would love to buy one of these, I don't get why people think it's to big for Europe, It's not, there are plenty of big vehicles here already, RR, GL, Q7.

22 September 2013

The article says CrossBlue will slot between Tiguan and Touareg.
Taigun is a 5-seater and so is Touareg. CrossBlue is a 7-seater?
How does a 7-seater slot between two 5-seaters? Just don't get it.

jer

23 September 2013

So what will fill the gap or a car a approx Tiguan size? If this is the show car I don't hold out much hope for the production variant.. Recently VW did some far more attractive concepts fo soft roaders, lets hope they arrive later.

23 September 2013

An SUV I covet.

24 September 2013

Ah! The new Volkswagen Grand Cherokee! And almost as good looking as the Jeep original.

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