NZ primed for future flagship VW sports ute

The T-Prime is a pointer to something big in the VW sports utility family. Whether it’s the Touareg is a matter of conjecture


WHETHER the T-Prime GTE concept that Volkswagen is showing off in China at the moment is a precise preview of the next Touareg or a pointer to something even bigger is still unclear.

Putting aside that conjecture, though, it seems apparent that the look of what is being presented at the Beijing motor show is already familiar to VW’s top man in New Zealand.

Asked if he thought the T-Prime GTE could be considered a first look at the next generation Touareg, Tom Ruddenklau offered that “it could very well closely resemble the new Touareg, I suspect.”

He also added that the GTE also has styling similar that he has seen on another similar concept, which wasn’t designed for a petrol-electric drivetrain, that he has just viewed behind closed doors in Germany.

Ruddenklau has left impression the car he saw in Germany a couple of weeks ago is a Touareg study.

“It’s a stunner … the one I saw wasn’t in GTE format, but it (the Beijing car) looked strikingly familiar to what I saw.”

Yet there’s still possibility the GTE and the car seen in Germany might be siblings rather than twins.

 A replacement for the current Touareg is obviously due. That much is obvious. However, in preparing for forecasted growth in the global sports utility market, Volkswagen is also now ramping up for a massively expanded SUV range and has made clear it is considering “several” new models around its current family.

The 2014 T-Roc and the T-Cross Breeze, at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, are also portents of this programme; but they’re to slip under the Tiguan. T-Prime is very much at the other end of the scale. It’s big. All the brand is saying about this one is that it is intended to represent a preview of the flagship of Volkwagen’s future sports utility family. Some say that means it’s a future Touareg, others that it’s something larger and more flamboyant.

There’s still some time for New Zealanders to consider how this plays out in a local market sense, as Ruddenklau says we should expect to see the current Touareg – now in its fifth year – in circulation here for at least another year.

“There’s certainly more potential for it. That premium SUV segment is going gang-busters and we have been caught with a few supply issues – we always wish we were doing some more.”

There’s also another freshen coming before it moves on, with confirmation that the local car’s infotainment system is going to update to the MIB system that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and internet connection.

Ruddenklau says the current model is still selling well and he has no qualms about keeping it in the showroom for at least another year. It’s possible the replacement might show by the end of 2017 but “it’s more likely to be the start of 2018 for us.” Meantime, in addition to the audio platform update, the current line will adopt some special editions as it enters its run out.

Nonetheless, there is acceptance that the car’s inability to seat more than five occupants is a shortcoming when the market demand for seven-seater SUVs is on the rise. VW NZ has a plan to meet that, but not for perhaps another 16 months – and not with Touareg.

Rather, it’s the next-size down Tiguan that’ll first answer the customer call. The latest generation car is here around August and, from late 2017, the five seat cars that start off the sales run will be joined by a long-bodied seven seater.

“It (seven seat Tiguan) is around the same size as a Toyota Highlander and (Hyundai) Santa Fe. We will get that with some good engines and it will be quite a special car, I think.

“I’m not 100 percent sure about what shape or form the new Touareg will come, seating-wise.”

T-Prime presents an intriguing ‘what-if’ in its own right. Based on the MLB platform for front- and all-wheel drive cars with a longitudinal engine, the T-Prime GTE has a length of 5069mm, a width of 2000mm and stands 1708mm tall. Is that a Touareg? Roughly, yes.

It’s a luxury four-seater and, as part of Volkswagen’s renewed focus on electrified propulsion, has a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that pairs together a 185kW/370Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 100kW/350Nm electric motor.

It can travel up to 50km on pure electric power then, when reverting back to GTE mode, can call upon a total output of 280kW/700Nm. This enables 0-100kmh in 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 224kmh, VW says. Drive is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Charging the 14.4kWh battery takes eight hours when using a 230-volt mains system and 3.6kW, but faster 7.2kW public charging systems can fully charge the T-Prime in two and a half hours.

When the battery pack is fully charged, the T-Prime GTE has a claimed overall fuel economy rating of 2.7 litres per 100km. When exhausted, the economy is somewhat less impressive, of course.

Would that suit Touareg customers here? Ruddenklau believes the time is right for a hybrid in his vehicle. “I think the plug-in space within the upper end is going to be pretty popular. We are itching to get our hands on other electric models

The dashboard does away with traditional buttons, replacing them instead with a large 15-inch central touchscreen and 12-inch digital instrument cluster than are joined in one fluid, glossy concave surface. Labelled the ‘Curved Interaction Area’ this offers gesture support and capacitive switches.