Large SUV features plug-in hybrid powertrain, new infotainment system
Volkswagen unveiled in April this year its concept sport-utility vehicle (SUV), the T-Prime Concept GTE, at the 2016 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing, China.
The company said in a statement that the concept previews its upcoming full-sized SUV, which is expected to slot above the Touareg. The company also said the T-Prime Concept GTE is a response to booming global demand for large SUVs in the next seven years, forecasting an 18-percent market growth in China between 2017 and 2023, and up to 26-percent market growth in Europe and Russia within the same period.
Curved Interaction Area, touch steering wheel
The biggest news about the new SUV is inside. The company said the vehicle features a Curved Interaction Area, which is a large and slightly curved, touchscreen glass surface that contains the 12-inch Active Info Display and the 15-inch infotainment display. The former includes the car’s gauge cluster and a central display that can show important information like the GPS navigation, while the latter displays the media library, weather data, voice mails or navigation instructions.
“Very quickly, this type of human-machine interface could become the norm in the top segment,” said Frank Welsch, member of the Board of Management for Technical Development – Volkswagen. “Progress is immediately apparent here because the real automobile is melding with the virtual world that is so real today.”
Another highlight is the multi-function steering wheel that eschews traditional switches with a smooth surface of multifunctional areas that are activated by pressure or with a swipe gesture. The company said when the surfaces are touched, the driver of the T-Prime Concept GTE gets touch feedback or “pre-sensing” that lets the driver locate the function. This complements the glass scroll wheel in the center console that serves as the gear selector.
In addition, the car has a 9.6-inch display between the two individual rear seats, allowing rear passengers to adjust climate controls and seat adjustments using touch-sensitive surfaces. Also, two 10.1-inch tablets snap onto the front-seat backrests, which allow rear passengers access all conceivable media library functions.
Speaking of the interior, the company said the color and materials used in the T-Prime Concept GTE are a tribute to Chinese lifestyle, being based on the five inseparable elements: water; earth; wood; metal; and fire. Water is reflected in the petrol-blue body paint color “Beihai Blue” (inspired by a beach on the South China Sea). In addition, the instrument panel and the back of the seats carry the exterior color scheme over to the interior with the turquoise-blue leather color “Ipanema Blue.”
Meanwhile, the company said the light-gray contrasting “Mistral” leather and Alcantara create a visual effect of earth in the interior, while wood is signified by open-pored wood accents in “Walnut Trunk.” Metal is represented by the polished and satin aluminum accents, both inside and outside of the car, while fire is shown in the “Himalayan Brown” leather piping on the seats.
Stepping out of the T-Prime Concept GTE, you’ll find that the car looks like the mix of a futuristic Touareg and an Audi Q7. In fact, the T-Prime Concept GTE uses the same modular longitudinal platform (MLB) as the new Q7.
The huge eggcrate front grill seamlessly integrates the blocky LED headlights while extending into the lower bumper. That bumper is bracketed by prominent C-shaped LED daytime running lights that surround the lower grill.
Down the side, the T-Prime Concept GTE features extended wheel arches that add curves to what would have been slab sides. Those arches nearly fit the 22-inch alloy wheels, which are connected by an aluminum strip running along the bottom of the doors.
Out back, the car gets a curvier rear end, helped by the prominent tailgate and the sharp LED taillights. A large roof spoiler along with more aluminum trim along the lower bumper complete the look.
2.0 TSI plug-in hybrid power plant
Under that massive hood lays a rather modest-sounding engine: a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, twin-cam, 16-valve, direct-injection TSI inline-four producing 248 horsepower and 377 Newton-meters of torque. However, this has been mated to an electric motor that makes 134 horsepower and up to 350 Nm of torque. Combined with 4MOTION all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, the company said the T-Prime Concept GTE gets from zero to 96 kilometers per hour in 6.0 seconds and has a top speed of 224 km/h.
The company said the car is a plug-in hybrid with batteries that can be charged with a cable through either a 220-volt outlet, which fully charges the batteries in eight hours, or at public-charging stations that give full charge after two hours and 30 minutes. The company also said the car’s power plant has three modes: E-Mode; Hybrid; and GTE.
In E-Mode, the driver can intentionally activate the TSI and Hybrid mode by pressing the accelerator pedal beyond a defined pressure point. The driver can return to the zero-emission E-Mode via touchscreen at any time (provided that the battery still has sufficient charge).
Meanwhile, the GTE mode can also be activated via touchscreen. Doing so enhances the accelerator, gearbox and steering characteristics, complementing the TSI and the electric motor working together to give full power and torque. Despite the sporty pretensions, the company said as soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal, all drive sources are shut off and decoupled from the drivetrain, provided that the battery is sufficiently charged, and the electric motor operates as a generator and feeds the energy recovered from braking into the lithium-ion battery.