Volkswagen Crossblue SUV revealed

* VW SUV concept at Detroit motor show * 134mpg diesel-electric plug-in hybrid * Car likely to be made, but unlikely to be sold in UK...

Volkswagen Crossblue SUV revealed

This is the Volkswagen Crossblue, a new concept car that previews a large SUV that the car maker is planning to launch in America.

Unveiled at the Detroit motor show, the Crossblue is bigger than Volkswagen's current big SUV, the Touareg, at 4987mm long, 2015mm wide and 1733mm high. It sits on a version of the MQB chassis that underpins the latest Golf, Audi A3 and Seat Leon. It is nominally a four-wheel-drive car, although it is powered by a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid set-up, and what VW calls 'propshaft by wire'.

The Crossblue's front wheels are powered by a combination of VW's latest 187bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine and a 54bhp electric motor, while the rear wheels are driven using an additional 114bhp electric motor. The car can operate in all-electric mode for short distances (around 20 miles) or as full four-wheel drive, where the diesel engine drives both the front wheels and a generator that provides power to the rear electric motor. The transmission is a six-speed dual-clutch DSG unit.

The maximum combined power output of the system is 302bhp, with 516lb ft of torque enough for a 0-62mph time of around seven seconds, and a top speed of 127mph (75mph is the limit in all-electric mode). VW claims the diesel-electric systems in the Crossblue offers an overall average economy of 134.5mpg.

The refuelling and charging layout features two fuel flaps. The one on the passenger's side covers the regular diesel refuelling pipe; another on the driver's side disguises two electrical sockets; one for recharging and one that can provide electrical power to external devices.

The concept car has six seats, although Volkswagen openly admits that the second row could feasibly accommodate three passengers instead of two, making the production car a potential seven-seater. Even with the third row of seats in place, the concept has around 335 litres of luggage capacity but with those seats folded away and the second row also stowed, loadspace increases to almost 2000 litres. The front passenger seat can also fold forwards, offering a maximum load length of more than three metres.

The Crossblue is designed to further Volkswagen's progress with all-important American buyers. Despite the company's success in Europe and Asia, it has a relatively modest 3% share of the US market, where sales of traditional minivans have quickly been shed in favour of more stylish large SUVs.

A production version of the Crossblue has not been confirmed, but it's almost certain to appear within the next two years, offering six or seven seats and sitting below the more luxurious Touareg in VW's line-up. It would almost certainly be built in the US or Mexico, and despite the fact that VW sells a higher percentage of diesels in America than most other brands, a turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine would be the standard motor.

Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of VW America, described the concept as 'exactly the right type of vehicle for the US market'. It's considered a long shot to reach showrooms in Europe, though, making UK sales extremely unlikely.

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By John McIlroy