VW plots a seven-seat SUV

CrossBlue concept points to a new mid-sized 4x4 with an economical diesel hybrid powertrain

Isn't the Touareg big enough?

Apparently not, for the folks at Volkswagen anyway. The CrossBlue concept points to a new SUV that's even longer than today's Touareg.

With a 4,987mm overall length and 2,980mm wheelbase, the CrossBlue is capable of accommodating three rows of seats; the Touareg has only two.

Although still billed as a concept, Volkswagen is reportedly keen on getting the CrossBlue into production since it holds a particular appeal for North American. And despite its larger size, it is hoped that the showroom-ready version of the CrossBlue will ditch the premium intentions of the Touareg (read: lower retail prices).

Aren't gas-guzzlers old-fashioned these days?

The American and Canadians still love big engines, but don't forget that modern diesel counterparts are gradually becoming more popular in that part of the world, too.

That's why the CrossBlue is being showcased with a 306hp plug-in diesel hybrid.

There's an electric motor driving each axle, effectively making it 4WD. Transmission is via a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic. According to VW, the CrossBlue can drive in pure electric mode for 33km, explaining why its total mileage _ when included with the diesel engine _ is an impressive 48kpl. On a more realistic note, VW reckons that economy will still be rated at 20.5kpl when only the front wheels are being driven purely by the 190hp, 2.0-litre, diesel-turbo EA288 motor.

Sounds perfect for a PPV wannabe...

All seats, except the driver’s, can fold flat.

Yeah, the CrossBlue would sound great as a pick-up passenger vehicle (PPV) to rival the likes of the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Toyota Fortuner. BTW, ''PPV'' is the official designation for pick-up-based SUVs in this country.

The CrossBlue has a seating matrix that's a step ahead of the Trailblazer: the front passenger seat can fold flat in addition to the seats in the second and third rows (see illustration).

Then there are the posh materials used for its interior which would certainly make pick-up-based SUVs available here look rather drab in comparison.

Sadly, however, there's no chance that the CrossBlue will have any links with the nonexistent SUV derivative of VW's Amarok pick-up.

You mean the CrossBlue has a monocoque body?

Yup, a modern unibody construction based on VW's latest MQB platform that is said to be so flexible that it can also be used on small cars like the Polo.

Such bodies allow for enhanced driving dynamics; that is, a less compromised ride and handling on-road.

Body-on-frame chassis like those used in the so-called PPVs are derived from pick-ups and feel less sturdy on the tarmac. The only advantage of this traditional floorplan is for off-roading _ if you ever need it.

So why aren't PPVs going modern?

That's because Thai legislation doesn't permit them to do so. You see, PPVs are subject to an unusually low rate of excise tax because they are based on pick-up underbodies (although suspension components can be different).

If SUVs are built on car-based designs, they become subject to higher rates of tax. That's why the Honda CR-V compact SUV isn't any cheaper than the Fortuner mid-sized SUV.

Posh materials are used for the interior.

The CrossBlue is nearly 5m long.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor