High-tech full-size SUV concept shows new Volkswagen approach to premium SUV segment
Volkswagen debuted the T-Prime Concept GTE in a world premiere at Auto China 2016 in Beijing. The concept car previews the future Volkswagen SUV. The T-Prime Concept GTE is a full-size sport utility vehicle with a plug-in hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive. Volkswagen’s new Curved Interaction Area is a completely new digital display and control concept. The innovative curved infotainment display merges with the interactive displays and controls, resulting in a new human-machine interface (HMI) that is intuitive, precise, and fun-to-use. This SUV show car combines the best of many automotive worlds: the comfort and spaciousness of a saloon, the superior traction of an off-road vehicle, the agility of a sport sedan and—thanks to innovative drive technologies—the efficiency of a compact car.
In the future, Volkswagen wants to offer an exciting SUV in every relevant market segment. The product campaign starts this Spring with the global market launch of the new Tiguan which will also be offered with an extended wheelbase in certain markets. Following in car classes above it are a new mid-size SUV (for the USA and China), the successful Touareg and a vehicle in the style of the T-Prime Concept GTE. Beneath the Tiguan, two new SUV model series will make their debut simultaneously: in the Golf class, there will be an SUV inspired by the T-Roc concept, and the T-Cross Breeze that was presented in Geneva shows the direction that will be taken in the Polo class (SUV).
SUVs are booming worldwide, and this is especially true in the segment of the large C-SUVs to which the T-Prime Concept GTE belongs. Forecasts for China predict 18 percent growth between 2017 and 2023; in Europe and Russia growth might even reach 26 percent. Around the globe, annual volume of the exclusive SUVs will reach the milestone of two million unit sales around 2020. With the new T-Prime Concept GTE, Volkswagen is now responding to this trend by introducing one of the most advanced cars in the world.
The T-Prime Concept GTE was created under the leadership of Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development Volkswagen Brand, and Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design at Volkswagen. “Our team has created a charismatic and sporty all-round vehicle with this SUV, which appeals with its impressive sense of presence and confident poise,” says Klaus Bischoff.
The concept vehicle’s progressive interior reflects the desire for the digital capabilities of a new era. It is, simply put, a lot of fun to have a world of displays and controls that consist exclusively of touchscreens, gesture and voice control, touch-sensitive surfaces and shifting “by wire” that can always be used intuitively. The Active Info Display (interactive, digital instruments) and the screen of the infotainment system, which is curved for the first time in a vehicle, meld in the T-Prime Concept GTE to form the Curved Interaction Area—a multifunctional and interactive display landscape.
“Very quickly,” says Dr. Welsch, “this type of human-machine interface could become the norm in the top segment. Progress is immediately apparent here, because the real automobile is melding with the virtual world that is so real today.” Meanwhile, an array of assistance systems ensures top levels of safety and convenience in the T-Prime Concept GTE. These systems contain numerous technologies, and they enable such processes as semi-autonomous parking.
The concept car is powered by a 375 horsepower plug-in hybrid drive, incorporating an electric motor, turbocharged gas engine, and battery, which can charge externally or during the drive. With a sufficiently charged battery (14.1 kWh energy capacity) this SUV—like all Volkswagen GTE cars—always starts in the practically silent electric E-Mode. It permits up to 31 miles of zero-emission driving in metropolitan areas. GTE mode forms an efficient alliance between the electric motor that is integrated into the housing of the 8-speed automatic gearbox and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine (TSI®). The electric motor develops a power of 134 hp and a maximum torque of 258 lb-ft; the TSI has an output of 248 hp and 273 lb-ft. In boosted GTE mode (kickdown), the full system power and an impressive 516 lb-ft of system torque are available. The T-Prime Concept GTE is equipped with 4MOTION® permanent all-wheel drive, which distributes power to the front and rear wheels via the limited-slip differential, which is also integrated into the 8-speed automatic gearbox.
In hybrid operation, such as when the high-voltage battery is flat, fuel consumption is 29 mpg in combined mode using energy from the charged battery, the combined fuel consumption in the NEDC cycle for plug-in hybrid models is 87 mpg. In GTE mode, the T-Prime Concept GTE accelerates to 60 in 6.0 seconds and has a top speed of 139 mph.
There are two different ways to externally charge the lithium-ion battery of the T-Prime Concept GTE. In the conventional solution, the charging cable is plugged into a 220-volt outlet. From a completely flat state, the battery will fully charge at a charging power of 3.6 kW in eight hours. It is also possible to “fuel up” at public charging stations at a power of 7.2 kW. Then the battery is fully charged after just two hours and 30 minutes.
The T-Prime Concept GTE can be driven in three different drive modes: E-Mode, Hybrid, and GTE. The system is designed so that the drive utilizes battery energy first, and so it starts off in E-Mode. While driving in E-Mode, the driver can intentionally activate the TSI and therefore the Hybrid mode by pressing the accelerator pedal beyond a defined pressure point. The driver can return to the zero-emission E-Mode via touchscreen at any time (provided that the battery still has sufficient charge); in this case, the all-wheel drive is also active. The GTE mode can also be activated via touchscreen. The driver brings out the most agile character of the SUV in this mode. The accelerator pedal, gearbox and steering characteristics are now even sportier. In boosted GTE mode, the TSI and the electric motor also work together to access the full system power and maximum system torque. As soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal, all drive sources are shut off and decoupled from the drivetrain, provided that the battery is sufficiently charged. In this form of coasting; the electric motor operates as a generator and feeds the energy recovered from braking into the lithium-ion battery. In this case as well, the TSI is shut off and decoupled.
Models like the PHIDEON, which was presented early this year in Geneva and is now making its show debut in China, the charismatic second generation Tiguan, and the BUDD-e zero-emission van that attracted international attention, all illustrate just how versatile Volkswagen design is today and will be in the future.
“With the new T-Prime Concept GTE, we are once again showcasing how Volkswagen can ideally master the whole range of differentiation possibilities, even within the individual SUV model series,” says Klaus Bischoff. The chief designer continues: “On the one hand, this concept shows the authentic Volkswagen SUV design of the modern era; but at the same time it takes entirely new approaches. A concise example is the chrome radiator grille that extends across the entire width of the front end and integrates the LED headlights. With this impressive ‘face’ we are creating an entirely new, iconic SUV product sub-brand.”
Another identifying design feature of future Volkswagen full-size SUVs are the opposing window and character lines. The window line begins in the hood and ends in the side window of the D-pillar at the rear. The so-called character line, meanwhile, begins in the rear lights, slices through the rear wheel arches with a razor-sharp undercut (an overhang drawn out from the sheet metal) and ends in the front wing. The two opposing lines lower the SUV’s visual center of gravity and, as in a sports car, they form athletic muscular surfaces over the wheel arches, a clearly identifiable waist and a highly dynamic shoulder section.
Klaus Bischoff: “The roof line that descends towards the rear in a sporty style is also striking. This creates an unusually dynamic and yet elegant SUV. The overall radiance of the T-Prime Concept GTE makes it unmistakably clear that it is playing in the top league.”
Technically, the T-Prime Concept GTE is based on the Group’s modular longitudinal platform (MLB); it covers full-size models with longitudinally mounted engines and gearboxes. The concept vehicle is 199.6 inches long. By means of comparison: the SUV is 0.4 inches longer than the first-generation Phaeton. This Volkswagen, which is equipped with two individual rear seats, has a width of 78.7 inches and is 67.2 inches tall. Balanced proportions, a very dynamic silhouette and an athletically tensed body with pronounced shoulders together create an entirely new SUV dynamic.
At the front end, the large chrome radiator grille merges with the headlights and extends across the entire width of the body, which gives the T-Prime Concept GTE its unmistakable charisma. Typical of all Volkswagen plug-in hybrid and electric models are the C-shaped Daytime Running Lights in the front bumper.
The vehicle’s side profile displays sporty proportions with a long, extended bonnet and a matching extremely long roof section. Also defining its style, are the opposing window and character lines and the flared wheel arches. The latter are filled out with large 22-inch alloy wheels and size 285/40 tires.
Wide rear shoulders taper towards the rear, forming a sporty rear end with maximum presence. The thin LED rear lights underscore the impressive overall width. The horizontally aligned rear has a clean and organized layout and the tailgate extends far into the bumper, which creates a low load sill.
Anyone looking through the windows into the closed T-Prime Concept GTE discovers one aspect above all else: sporty and stylish elegance and the horizontal orientation of its surfaces. A closer look reveals a mix of cool aluminum (surrounds, door handles), blue leather (upper part of dashboard, door panels, steering wheel rim) and glossy-black surfaces (wing-shaped front side of dashboard, center console, door accents and multifunction switch arrays on steering wheel). Forming a contrast are the warm color hues of the wood accents (wrapping around the dashboard and doors, propshaft tunnel trim) and other leather surfaces (seats, trims beneath wood accents). The interior is transformed into a mobile living space in its interplay of colors and materials, perfected ergonomics (including individual seats in the rear) and a new operating aesthetic. In the T-Prime Concept GTE Volkswagen is presenting a living automotive world whose atmosphere matches that of the connected, progressive, personal residence.
As soon as a door of the SUV concept is opened, the variety of functions of the digital interior reveals itself. The team of designers and engineers behind the car has exploited an opportunity to create an entirely new concept of vehicle and infotainment control in the T-Prime Concept GTE, completely forgoing conventional switches. With the exception of the steering wheel stalks, all controls are implemented as touch-sensitive surfaces with white backlighting or—in the case of gearbox control—have been engineered to be completely new “by-wire solution.” A key feature of user operation is gesture control. Proximity sensors and voice control are also used throughout the vehicle.
Forming one visual and functional unit are the Active Info Display (digitalized instruments) and the infotainment display (head unit). Located under a continuous, elegant glass surface, which is slightly curved—a world first in a vehicle—and aligned towards the driver for optimal ergonomics, they merge to form the newly developed Curved Interaction Area. Spanning the area in front of the driver like an arc, the Curved Interaction Area symbolizes the cockpit of the future—a future that will begin at Volkswagen as early as 2017.
The new Active Info Display of the T-Prime Concept GTE has a 12.0-inch screen. All indicators are virtually implemented in software—such as the power meter that is typical of a Volkswagen with a plug-in hybrid drive and, of course, the speedometer. In the middle, between these two round instruments, all imaginable information can be shown by thematic tiles. In Navigation mode, for instance, a 3D map display can be shown. Here the power meter and speedometer are relocated to the sides to make more room for the map display. Information such as navigation and assistance functions, phone contact images or the coverflow of the media library may be shown, depending on what is needed.
The curved home screen of the 15.0-inch infotainment head unit can be configured by the driver or front passenger. Here, three thematic tiles can be freely arranged on a defined screen grid or can be bundled. Users can fill a large main screen area with a wide variety of content or menu levels, such as two smaller thematic sub-areas. Content includes the media library, weather data, voicemails or navigation instructions. In exactly the same way, the individual thematic tiles of the Active Info Display can be configured in the head unit first, and can then be moved to the digital instruments by a swiping motion. This is a new technological and intuitive type of user operation that is simply fun to use. The user can always press a home button located low and at the middle of the head unit to return to the top menu level from any other menu. To the left and right of the home button are capacitive control surfaces for climate control and for seat heating and seat ventilation.
Revolutionary features of the T-Prime Concept GTE include “by wire” control of the gear shift unit for the 8-speed automatic gearbox on the center console. This is implemented as an elegantly designed glass scroll wheel with a chrome surround that is fitted with sensors which enable intuitive operation of functions. Located in front of this glass scroll wheel is a display with a virtual scroll wheel—as soon as the driver operates the real roller, the roller in the display turns accordingly. Implemented as touch-sensitive surfaces are the controls around the glass scroll wheel for the hazard warning lights, the Auto Hold function, starting and stopping the engine and the electric parking brake.
Another highlight is the multifunction steering wheel without switches. The smooth surface of the multifunctional areas use touch feedback. The individual functions are activated by pressure or with a swipe gesture. When the surfaces are touched, the driver of the T-Prime Concept GTE gets touch feedback, or “pre-sensing”, which lets the driver locate the function. As soon as the driver activates the function, the control gives stronger tactile feedback.
A 9.6-inch display surface is also located between the two individual seats in the lounge-like rear seating area; it was integrated in the continuous surface of the center console. From here, users can adjust climate controls and seat adjustments using touch-sensitive surfaces. A tablet (10.1-inch) snaps onto each backrest of the front seats. These tablets let rear passengers access all conceivable media library functions.
The color and materials of the T-Prime Concept GTE are based on water, earth, wood, metal, and fire, in tribute to Chinese lifestyle, where these five elements are inseparably intertwined. Water, the all-dissolving and flowing element is reflected in the petrol-blue body paint color “Beihai Blue” (inspired by a beach on the South China Sea). Xirallic®—a cyan-colored substance with crystal effect pigments—makes the paint sparkle when viewed from above; meanwhile a deep sea blue is seen on the edges. The instrument panel and the back sides of the seats carry the exterior color scheme over into the interior with the turquoise blue leather color “Ipanema Blue”.
The earth is a solid element that brings everything into balance, and leather and Alcantara in the light-grey contrasting color “Mistral” create a visual effect of earth in the interior, including the seats. Wood is created by combining earth and water. Open-pored wood accents in “Walnut Trunk” make it possible to visually experience this natural material very intensely. Cool metal as a shaping external force can be found in the polished and satin aluminum accents, both exterior and interior. Finally, the burning element of fire sets the scene; Volkswagen uses the look of fire for the leather piping on the seats in the color “Himalayan Brown.”
About Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc., an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWoA) is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. VWoA’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state -of-the- art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest automaker. VWoA sells the Beetle, Beetle Convertible, CC, Eos, e-Golf, Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R, Golf SportWagen, Jetta, Passat, Tiguan and Touareg vehicles through approximately 652 independent U.S. dealers. Visit Volkswagen of America online at www.vw.com to learn more.