It may be debuting at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, but the Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE is a very important statement for the company’s U.S. arm, for a couple of reasons.
The T-Prime boasts a green plug-in hybrid powertrain, demonstrating technology VW will probably rely on more in the wake of “Dieselgate.” It’s also a full-size SUV, previewing a model that more Americans will want to buy than almost anything in Volkswagen’s current lineup. In fact, VW has a production model in the works that may borrow some elements of the T-Prime.
The plug-in hybrid system consists of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, teamed with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. As with other VW plug-in hybrids, the T-Prime can operate in all-electric mode, hybrid mode, or “GTE mode,” where everything is tuned for maximum performance.
In GTE mode, the driver has access to the T-Prime’s full 375 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. That allows for 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds, and a top speed of 139 mph, Volkswagen says. When the driver lifts off the accelerator, the GTE can also shut off its engine and decouple it from the drivetrain. In this coasting mode, the electric motor acts as a generator and feeds power back into the battery pack. A full recharge from a plug takes 2.5 to 8 hours, depending on the source, VW says.
The exterior styling is handsome but not too exciting. There are plenty of standard Volkswagen styling cues, like creased sides, C-shaped LED daytime running lights, and a toothy chrome grille that blends with the headlights. The T-Prime is based on VW’s ubiquitous MLB platform, which underpins the current Audi Q7 and will be used in numerous other VW Group models in the future.
The interior is a technology showcase. The only analog controls are the column-mounted stalks; all other functions are handled by touch pads, screens, or gesture controls. That includes touch pads on the steering wheel and a glass scroll wheel on the center console. A 12.0-inch display screen takes the place of a traditional gauge cluster, and there’s a massive 15.0-inch screen in the center stack as well.
In the back, the T-Prime is more luxury conveyance than family hauler. The two individual rear seats sacrifice some of the practicality offered by a three-seat bench, but make room for a 9.6-inch screen integrated with the center console. It includes secondary controls for things like seat adjustment and climate control. A pair of 10.1-inch tablets also attach to the backs of the front headrests.
The T-Prime Concept GTE itself won’t go into production, but Volkswagen says a vehicle in the same “style” will. It’s part of a barrage of upcoming VW SUVs that will also include a new midsize model and the second-generation Tiguan compact.