Why the 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue Matters: The most amazing thing about VW’s current run of success may be how lopsided it is. Consider: Although the brand is selling in volumes unseen since its heyday in the early 1970s, more than 60 percent of its 438,133 sales last year came from just two models—the 2012/2013 VW Jetta and 2012/2013 VW Passat. But using those two made-for-the-U.S., built-in-the-U.S. vehicles as the template, VW made its case for a future seven-seat crossover when it debuted the 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue concept vehicle today in Detroit, at the 2013 North American International Auto Show.
However, despite the “concept” designation, it seems pretty clear that something very similar to the 2013 Volkwagen CrossBlue is going to land at dealerships in the not too distant future to compete in the quickly growing mid-size crossover segment. And it’s likely no coincidence that VW execs at the CrossBlue press conference also noted how vehicles in this segment were taking over for minivans—like the VW Routan that’s about to go out of production.
And then there’s the fact that the 2013 VW CrossBlue relies on a plug-in diesel hybrid powertrain that—in theory—would deliver 35 mpg in combined driving, an all-electric driving range of about 14 miles and a miles per gallon equivalent rating of 89 MPGe. It’s the same powertrain that propels the VW Cross Coupe concept, too, which lends to credence to the thought that the setup is coming to production—or why show it in more than one vehicle?
Adding that kind of high efficiency to a seven-seat crossover with relatively rugged styling could be exactly the advantage VW needs to conquer yet another segment of the marketplace.
What’s new for the 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue:
- A diesel-driven hybrid powertrain with plug-in capabilities and multi-mode drive selector
- VW’s “propshaft by wire” all-wheel-drive system
- Dramatic “emerging” controls for key vehicle systems
- Premium cabin materials, including aluminum and banana-tree wood
- An infotainment system with 10.4-inch touchscreen with 3D display
- Front-row head restraints with integrated, rear-facing iPads for second- and third-row passengers
- “A full raft of safety features” that includes 12 air bags
- Imposing SUV-style design and proportions
In other words, as explained by Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America: “The CrossBlue concept is exactly the right type of vehicle for the U.S. market. It combines a truly versatile interior layout with sophisticated Volkswagen design, to give a unique and supremely stylish offering in this segment. Moreover, the vehicle showcases our innovative German powertrain engineering and the bandwidth of the new MQB architecture.”
New 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue: Styling and Design
From a distance, the 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue looks much like a Teutonic take on the Jeep Grand Cherokee—particularly with those wheel arches and fairly unadorned greenhouse—but that’s exactly the point here—to wrap German engineering inside of traditional American SUV design. Yet VW has managed to include some Euro-styling cues as part of the CrossBlue’s overall design, such as the detailed LED rear lights with aluminum accents at the back of the vehicle and a front appearance that owes much to VW’s current penchant for strong horizontal lines.
The CrossBlue’s cockpit continues with a rectilinear theme, featuring a dashboard that makes use of sharp lines and angles, which works well with the 10.4-inch touchscreen that dominates the center stack. In addition to that screen, along with the vehicle’s reconfigurable gauge cluster, the interior also exhibits another notable design cue to reinforce the precise and technological feel of the CrossBlue: Vehicle controls—for the climate, lighting and all-wheel-drive systems—rise out of their niches to “greet” the driver’s hand. It’s reminiscent of the rising gear selector business from Jaguar, and certainly makes for a distinguishing touch.
The interior scores points for versatility, too, as is proper with any people mover. Although the concept is designed to seat six, Volkswagen was clear that if it happened to go into production, the 2013 VW CrossBlue would be able to hold seven in 2+3+2 seating. Other handy characteristics of the concept included easy-access second-row seats (to get to the third row), a fully folding front-passenger seat to load long items, and enough cargo room to make it “perfect for the weekend run to the home improvement store.”
For comparison’s sake, since VW didn’t provide actual cargo-volume specs, the 2013 VW CrossBlue concept is about the same size on the outside as a 2013 Ford Explorer, so a production model would likely hold a similar 81 or so cubic feet of gear.
#2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue Preview: North American International Auto Show
New 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee: What’s Under the Hood
The story here isn’t just what’s under the hood, since the plug-in hybrid powertrain components for the 2013 VW CrossBlue are also located in the center tunnel (a 9.8 kWh battery) and at the rear of the vehicle (a 114-hp electric motor), among other places. Those pieces then work together to deliver a range of driving modes that includes:
- Traditional hybrid operation, relying primarily on a 198-hp I4 clean-diesel engine, assisted by electric power in limited driving scenarios, and able to provide 35 mpg in combined travel
- All-electric propulsion, using a 54-hp front-mounted electric motor to enable up to 14 miles of zero-emissions driving, at a projected 89 MPGe
- Two different electrically enhanced all-wheel-drive modes—one for on-road performance, in which both electric motors provide additional power to front and rear wheels, and an off-road configuration in which the CrossBlue’s diesel engine drives the fronts, while its front electric motor acts as a generator to help the rear motor move the back wheels
The highly flexible powertrain enables two more operating modes as well. As soon as the driver’s foot comes off the accelerator, the 2013 VW CrossBlue senses the charge state of the battery and, if necessary, activates a renegerative braking system to recapture electricity for the system; if the battery already is charged, the vehicle can decouple the engine and electric motors from its drivetrain and coast without using fuel—or releasing emissions into the air.
Oh, and with 305 total system horsepower and a serious 516 lb.-ft. of torque, the CrossBlue should be able to run from 0-60 in as few as 7.2 seconds.
New 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue: Features and Technology
Beyond that advanced powertrain, the 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue concept also boasted some very concept-like tech features, like iPads built right into the front-row headrests, but other goodies, like a 10.2-inch touchscreen with 3D display capability, and a reconfigurable gauge-cluster display, seem ready for production. And of course, the vehicle’s Fender audio system is, in fact, in production in vehicles like the 2013 VW Beetle.
Now, because of the CrossBlue’s putative concept status, Volkswagen didn’t detail much as regards safety tech. But it will undoubtedly provide the usual suspects, like blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems and a rearview camera, to be competitive with rivals like the Explorer.
New 2013 Volkswagen CrossBlue: What Autobytel Thinks
Based on the success of the American-ized Jetta and Passat, launching a VW-branded mid-size crossover with the same design brief—encompassing affordability and the size requirements of U.S. customers—would seem to be a sure thing. And that’s especially the case if it introduces new levels of efficiency to the segment—and has a less obscure name than “Tiguan” or Touareg.”
Further, while Autobytel remains unsure how Volkswagen could reconcile affordability with a very technologically advanced powertrain like that shown in the 2013 VW CrossBlue concept, one thing the past couple of years has proven is that you can never count out Volkswagen.
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