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VW announces seven-passenger CUV at Detroit auto show

Mon, 13 Jan 2014

Last year at the Detroit Auto Show, VW showed the CrossBlue concept. Built on VW's new MQB modular architecture, the CrossBlue was designed to both showcase the versatility of MQB (it also underpins the upcoming Golf, the new Audi A3, as well as SEAT and Skoda models) and illustrate that VW was serious about the seven-passenger market in the United States.

Prior to the Frankfurt motor show, we took the CrossBlue for a spin. On a runway. At 25 mph. It seemed like it could be a nice product. This year, VW announced that they will indeed have a seven-passenger CUV for the Yankee contingent. What's more, we'll see it in 2016, a year after its MQB sibling, the Golf GTD arrives here. If the GTD arrives. It's been confirmed, unconfirmed and semi-reconfirmed by our sources at Volkswagen. Expect a turbo four in the new ute, expect a six, expect some manner of diesel. We hope it's the whonker-stonker they use in the Audi Q5 TDI -- though that engine's so far only been used in longitudinal applications. The “Q” in MQB stands for “transverse,” after all.

Noting that nearly 35 percent of the Passats that roll out of Chattanooga are powered by compression-ignition mills, VW unveiled a different take on a high-mileage family sedan. According to Volkswagen, the Passat BlueMotion concept performs like one. The 42-mpg four-door features a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine with cylinder deactivation. Under light loads at certain speeds, it only utilizes the outside pair of jugs. The BlueMotion also makes use of the Jetta Hybrid's DSG trans; allowing the wheels to be totally disconnected from the drivetrain to reduce mechanical drag. Though we've only seen cylinder deactivation on larger engines with more cylinders here in the states, VW's been using the 1.4 with cylinder deactivation in European Polos and Golfs.

Speaking of the Golf, VW -- as expected -- pulled the wraps off of the GTI's more radical sibling, the new, 290-hp, AWD Golf R. We'd already seen it at Frankfurt, but Detroit's its first appearance in North America.

Sharing a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with the Golf R -- though it features 80 fewer horsepower -- was the Beetle Dune concept. Presaging a possible Beetle-based crossover, the Dune is curiously AWD-less. It does, however, use VW's brake-based “XDS differential” to assure traction in questionable conditions. Rugged looks aside, seems to be about as soft as soft-roaders get. On the other hand, it's got a degree of cute we haven't seen in a jacked-up, production-oriented vehicle since, uh, the Suzuki X-90? And that was only a two-seater. In the Dune, you can crank up the Jimmy Cliff and bring your pals. If you get stuck, just sing “You Can Get it if You Really Want” while the extra legs you brought along push, push and push, push and push. You'll succeed at last.

On the success front, Wolfsburg is cutting its Stateside division no slack. The mandate's still in place: sell 1,000,000 VWs and Audis a year in the U.S. by 2018. 2018 is only four years away. The VW Group as a whole sold 600,000 cars in the States in 2013. 40,000 of them were Porsches. A smattering were Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Bugattis. Which means that Volkswagen and Audi have to nearly double their sales volume in under half a decade.

Can a CrossBlue-derived ute, a new Golf, a crossover Bug, a pair of small new Audis plus a series of refreshes and next-generation models put them over the hump? We have no doubt the Group will see more U.S. growth -- the products have almost universally moved in directions that are either more market-appropriate (Passat, Jetta, 7-passenger crossover) or are just flat-out better than their predecessors (Golf, A6, Beetle). A million, however, still seems like a slightly tall order.

About the Detroit auto show

The North American International Auto Show, known to most as the Detroit auto show, continues to serve as a barometer for the entire industry. This year, we'll expect to see the new Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the 2015 Ford Mustang and the BMW M3 and M4. The 2014 Detroit auto show is held at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Mich. and is open to the public from Jan. 18-26.

By Davey G. Johnson