VW CrossBlue goes for green glory

With apologies to George Bernard Shaw, some concept cars see things as they are and ask, “Why?” while other concepts dream things that never were and ask, “Why not?”

Volkswagen addressed both with the CrossBlue crossover SUV concept at the Detroit auto show, a production-ready vehicle packed with a dreamy diesel-electric plug-in lithium-ion hybrid powertrain.

The CrossBlue is a preview of VW’s US-market 3-row crossover SUV that will replicate the company’s business model established with the Jetta and Passat sedans: bigger and cheaper.

Despite the CrossBlue’s ambitiously advanced – and expensive – diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain, the production model can be expected to focus on value in the manner of VW’s hot-selling sedans. VW is not sharing much of its production vision, but it is expected to include the same 2-litre diesel 4-cylinder; 2.5-litre gasoline 5-cylinder; and 3.6-litre gasoline V6 power plants already available in the US-market Passat.

At 196.3in long and 79.3in wide, the CrossBlue almost perfectly overlays the top-selling Ford Explorer, making it a touch bigger than the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. The concept has six seats but the company assures the production vehicle will have the seven seats buyers expect in a three-row crossover.

The clean, modern sheetmetal seems to be cautiously advancing from the extreme conservatism established by the US-market Jetta, while packing the elbow and cargo room Americans want on the inside.

“The CrossBlue concept is exactly the right type of vehicle for the US market,” Jonathan Browning, president and chief executive of Volkswagen of America, said in a media release. “It combines a truly versatile interior layout with sophisticated Volkwagen design, to give a unique and supremely stylish offering in this segment.”

Along with the exotic diesel-electric drivetrain, show-car details abound on an otherwise production-ready CrossBlue concept. Translation: do not look for the LED lighting, dark-stained banana wood accents or flush-mounted control knobs that rise proud off the surface automatically on start-up, to survive to the production line.

You can, however, expect to see the 12 airbags, Fender sound system and maybe even the iPad Mini docks in the showroom, though.

Look for the production CrossBlue to be made in Chattanooga, Tennessee, alongside the US-market Passat. The SUV will be built on VW’s MQB transverse engine, front-drive platform seen currently in the new Golf, which made its international motor show debut last September in Geneva.

VW also teased a hot-rod version of the Passat, with a concept packing a 250-horsepower 1.8-litre direct-injected turbo 4-cylinder gasoline engine and dressed up with dual exhaust, 19-inch aluminum wheels, bi-xenon HID headlights, LED taillights and a raft of carbon-fibre highlights.

They also found space for a couple cars you can actually buy in Detroit: the R-Line appearance package versions of the Touareg and Tiguan. The SUVs get sport suspension in addition to a typical array of tweaks to fascias, wheels and various trim bits.