VW CrossBlue could be harbinger of U.S. model

(USA Today) -- Volkswagen continues to experiment with blends of car and SUV, this time uncovering the CrossBlue concept vehicle at the Shanghai auto show.

As a concept, of course, VW can do anything it wants with the drivetrain, ignoring whether it would be feasible to manufacture. But the CrossBlue, a hybrid in concept form, seems within the realm of reality.

The two most striking details: It could deliver a remarkable 415 horsepower and is rated 79 miles per gallon in the European driving cycle. There's no precise formula for translating that into a U.S. mpg number, but very roughly speaking, slice 25% off the Euro number to get close to a likely U.S. rating, of 59 mpg. If that were in a city/highway mix, it would be a very competitive hybrid rating.

CrossBlue, as exhibited, has a gasoline V-6 and two electric motors.

VW says CrossBlue would go as far as 21 miles on battery only, and could run as fast as 75 mph in that electric mode.

The titillating part: VW notes that the show car is built on VW's new, soon-to-be nearly ubiquitous MQB undercarriage. That's the platform used for the seventh-generation Golf, on sale overseas since late last year and coming to the U.S. next year as a 2015.

That means the automaker could put it into production easier than if it were a true one-off show car. Also baiting us, VW says CrossBlue,"could, if it were produced, be fitted with conventional four- and six-cylinder engines running on a variety of fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and CNG," a reference to compressed natural gas.

The CrossBlue seats five and has a lower-than-usual roofline for an SUV. Toyota tried that with its Venza and hasn't had much sales success. But Land Rover did it well on the Range Rover Evoque, which has been a roaring hit.

From some angles, the rear-most roof pillar and its environs hint slightly at the Dodge Omni small car that made a strong debut as a 1978 model, winning Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, but began to fade by the 1981 model year.

As exhibited, the CrossBlue is the size of a Ford Explorer, too big to replace the aging, compact VW Tiguan SUV. CrossBlue is bigger, even, than VW's Touareg nidsize, the brand's biggest U.S. SUV.

Automakers typically make their concept cars oversize for dramatic impact, though. For example, Ford's Atlas show truck, lowered from the ceiling at the Detroit auto show in January, is 6 inches longer, 9 in. wider and has a 5.5-in.-longer wheelbase than the F-150 that Atlas' regular-production counterpart would replace.


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