Volkswagen has taken its share of lumps over the past year or so, but it’s trying to right the ship with its new T-Prime concept, which competes in two hot segments – SUVs and hybrids.
The concept, which will debut at the Beijing Auto Show, is the company’s latest take on the full-size SUV and previews the direction of future production models. The T-Prime has a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a revolutionary new interior that doesn’t use any physical switches.
The powertrain combines a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an electric motor integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission’s housing. The electric motor by itself can run for 31 miles without the use of the gas engine. Combined, the two motors make 375 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Volkswagen claims a 0-60 time of 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 139 mph.
The T-Prime has three drive modes – all-electric, hybrid, and combined. In all-electric E-Mode, which happens automatically when the car starts out, only the electric motor propels the car. It can automatically engage and disengage the gas engine when needed based on accelerator pressure. When this happens, it is in Hybrid mode.
In combined GTE mode, the full power of both motors is combined for maximum performance. It also incorporates a sport mode of sorts, as it tightens up the steering and transmission for sportier driving dynamics.
VW says the T-Prime will get 29 mpg in hybrid mode when the battery is flat and 87 mpg when the battery is charged.
Inside, the T-Prime has a revolutionary interior that uses a curved screen that incorporates both the electric gauges and the infotainment system. There are no switches – everything is controlled by touch, including the steering wheel controls.
The gauge cluster screen – called Active Info Display – is a 12-inch screen that projects gauges, including speedometer and power meter, and could also display a 3D map in navigation mode. The infotainment screen is a massive 15-inch display that can be completely configured and customized using content tiles and menus. Even the rear-seat passengers get a touchscreen for climate control and seat adjustments.
Outside, the T-Prime looks typical VW, that is understated German styling without much “wow” factor. While it may not be striking, the T-Prime’s exterior is attractive in a way that won’t make it look dated in 10 years. It also looks ready for production, which makes it a life-size preview of what to expect from the company’s SUVs over the next few years.
VW says that it will fill the market with SUVs in the coming years as the segment is still red-hot. A new midsize SUV will slot between the Tiguan and the Touareg. They’re also readying a Golf-based crossover based on the T-Roc concept and a Polo-based crossover based on the T-Cross Breeze concept.
Check out this TFLcar video of the 2016 VW Passat: