VW is about to unleash a full-blown SUV offensive to reverse its slide in the US

Volkswagen T Prime GTE Concept
The Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE. Volkswagen

Volkswagen just unveiled a full-size crossover SUV that will be the latest piece in the company’s recovery plan ahead of the 2016 Beijing auto show.

“The T-Prime Concept GTE will be the new flagship of the Volkswagen brand,” Volkswagen brand chairman Dr. Herbert Diess said at the presentation.

While it has thrived in key markets such as China and Europe, Volkswagen has struggled to gain market share in the US.

One key reason — VW doesn’t have enough SUVs to satisfy consumer demand.

In a market driven by SUV sales, the brand has only two form sale — the compact Tiguan and the mid-size Touareg — neither of which are remotely competitive.

Fortunately, VW has noticed and is now in the midst of a full-blown SUV offensive.

Over the next few years, the Wolfsburg-based auto giant plans to have four new SUVs, in addition to the Tiguan and Touareg.

This includes a sub-compact crossover and a compact model that will both slot in below the next generation Tiguan in the model hierarchy. VW will also introduce a new mid-size crossover exclusively for the US and the China markets that will be positioned between the Tiguan and the Touareg.

To differentiate the Touareg, Volkswagen is expected to push it upmarket by rebranding the mid-size SUV, with its strong Porsche DNA (Porsche is part of the VW Group), as a performance-oriented model.

Above the Touareg — at the top of VW’s SUV food chain — will be the production version of the T-Prime GTE Concept.

Volkswagen T Prime GTE Concept hybrid

In concept form, the T-Prime is powered by a 2.0-litre, turbocharged-inline four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a plug-in hybrid electric drive system, as well as an 8-speed automatic transmission. Together, the T-Prime’s power unit produces an impressive 375 horsepower while achieving 29 mpg in fuel economy.

According to VW, the big SUV can hit 60 mph from a standstill in 6.0 seconds and reach a top speed of 139 mph.

Equipped with a 14.1 kWh battery pack, the T-Prime will have an all-electric range of 31 miles.

The T-Prime, and the production version it will spawn, carries VW’s new front fascia design that’s also found on the smaller second-generation Tiguan and the new full-size Phideon sedan.

Volkswagen T Prime GTE Concept

The interior of the concept is as futuristic as expected. Gone are all of the buttons one would normally find, replaced by an infotainment system featuring a massive 12-inch display screen that’s controlled by touch, gesture and voice commands.

Functions not covered by the infotainment screen such as the power windows are initiated via touch-sensitive control surfaces.

VW has not revealed when the production variant of the T-Prime will hit showrooms.

The 2016 Beijing auto show runs from April 25 to May 4 at the China International Exhibition Center.

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