VW creates new eco sub-brand
It will encompass clean diesels, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles, as well as other ideas to help reduce fuel consumption and emissions – from weight reduction to engine stop-start systems.
The first model to go on sale in the UK from the brand will be the second-generation Passat Bluemotion in about three months' time.
This will feature all the things on the current car – high gearing, weight trimming and reduced frictional losses – plus a new 2.0-litre turbodiesel with a stop-start system that cut the engine when in stationary traffic.
That means the saloon's average economy rises to 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions fall to 128g/km - compared with the 55.4mpg and 136g/km of the current 1.9-litre Passat Bluemotion. However, the new engine delivers an extra 5bhp and has greater refinement and driveability.
A new Passat Estate Bluemotion will also be available, which will have only marginal increases in consumption and CO2.
VW announced plans to gradually peg emissions of the Passat Bluemotion back to 109g/km at the Paris show last autumn, though this might not happen until the next model is introduced which will have a smaller 1.6-litre engine.
Record-low CO2 for four-seater
Later this year, VW will achieve record-low CO2 for a four-seater car when it reveals the Bluemotion version of the next Polo. Insiders are hinting its CO2 output could be 'in the 80s', which would put it on a par with the two-seater Smart Fortwo diesel - currently the UK's lowest-emitting fossil-fuel car.
VW also has two more 'clean' Passats on the way, though it's doubtful whether either would come to the UK because of the tax regime.
The first is the Blue TDI, powered by a 143bhp 2.0-litre diesel that slashes nitrogen oxides (linked to asthma and breathing difficulties) by 90% with the aid of an extra catalytic converter and a chemical additive called Adblue. Aimed primarily at smog-conscious America, it would be uneconomical in the UK because the technology is expensive and there are no tax advantages for choosing it.
The other new Passat is a combined natural gas-petrol Ecofuel model, with a 148bhp 1.4-litre engine featuring a turbocharger and a supercharger.
In combination with a seven-speed semi-auto gearbox, this can trim CO2 emissions to 119g/km, putting it just below a new tax-break point in Germany. Unfortunately, the scarcity of natural gas pumps in the UK would make it largely irrelevant to all but fleets with their own fuel stations.
Looking further ahead, VW will introduce a petrol-electric hybrid power system when the next-generation Touareg SUV arrives in the UK in the next couple of years.
It combines a new 3.0-litre V6 supercharged engine with an electric motor driving through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, giving a maximum power output 370bhp and 407lb ft of torque.
VW says the system already gives average fuel consumption of more than 31mpg with CO2 emissions of 210g/km, but there are suggestions this could fall to less than 200g/km by the time the car goes on sale.
Like the rival Lexus hybrid powertrain, it allows a limited amount of electric-only running when driving gently at low speed or cruising, with the petrol engine – or a combination of both –seamlessly taking over for acceleration.
The system is being honed in a current Touareg to make it a little smoother on downshifts, but otherwise it feels production-ready. It will be shared with Audi and Porsche for their Q7 and Cayenne respectively, and will also feature in other large VWs in the future.
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