The Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE concept closely follows on from the design themes initiated by the CrossBlue seven-seater show car revealed at the 2013 Detroit auto show. It is also the first time the GTE moniker — a badge destined to adorn Volkswagen’s new line of high-performance plug-in electric models — has been applied to a vehicle outside the Golf line. But the concept means a lot more for the brand than what’s on the surface.
Speaking with Volkswagen design chief Klaus Bischoff at this year’s NAIAS in Detroit, we learned that the MQB-based Cross Coupe GTE concept previews “more or less” where Volkswagen is headed with the design for the seven-seater when it goes into production at the end of 2015 in Chattanooga, TN. It also a showcases Volkswagen’s new dual DRL front face and the company’s move to incorporate gesture controls in the cabin.
Carried out at Volkswagen’s main design studio in Wolfsburg, Germany, under the guidance of exterior design director Oliver Stefani, the main changes to the exterior design of the Cross Coupe GTE concept over the CrossBlue lies in its roofline, rear overhang, part of the front fascia and also part of the rear fascia. “That’s it,” says Bischoff.
But the car’s front face also gives some clues as to what Volkswagen is considering implementing for some of the higher-end vehicles in the model range and coupe versions in particular – an all-new dual DRL signature.
“This is something we’re really fond of and we’re trying to do,” Bischoff says. “The word signature means this is something that is strong, recognizable, and characterful. This is something that we, for these coupe versions, want to implement. You will see this more often from us.”
Aside from the DRG, the interior, designed under the direction of Volkswagen’s head of interior design, Tomasz Bachorske, has seen the biggest changes. Demonstrating a number of new technological features for connectivity and displays, it shows the direction Volkswagen cars will be taking in the near future, including gesture control.
“We revised the architecture, refined it, and of course this is closer to production the other car, but in the end, we’ll use our modules that we have currently,” says Bischoff. “This is a little more visionary with its 10.1-inch touch screen, so the size we are considering in the moment is 8-inch and then, when the car’s on the market, will come 9- and 10-inch.”
Besides the growing screens, Bischoff says Volkswagen will soon be incorporating an all-digital IP display, employing some of the Audi’s TT virtual cockpit functionality as well as touch screens.
“We are full steam ahead in our touch philosophy,” Bischoff divulges, “and next year, it’s already decided, that we are going into gesture control. That’s what we’re doing at the moment.
“We will have faster reactions and better connectivity — Wi-Fi in the car, all possible applications, and the connectivity to CarPlay, to the Android systems. Whatever the standards are, we will implement them.”
The Cross Coupe GTE concept went from sketch to full size concept in just six months, which is impressive. But with development cycles getting shorter and shorter it’s not hard to believe that the Volkswagen crew could pull it off. What is more impressive is that Volkswagen plans to maintain this momentum across the production lineup as well.
“We will go in America to a new modus operandi,” says Bischoff. “We’ll shorten our steps by two years. So that means a huge pressure for the design team.”
This translates into a five-year product lifecycle for Volkswagen, down from the current seven-year-long product cycle. And with many competitors with still shorter product cycles, it’s a smart move.
Though seating has been reduced to five for the Cross Coupe GTE concept it’s still a fairly large vehicle, measuring 4847mm long, 2030mm wide and 1736mm high. It is just slightly shorter, wider and taller than the seven-passenger CrossBlue (4987mm, 2015mm and 1733mm) and the CrossBlue Coupe concept shown at the 2013 Shanghai auto show (4889mm, 2015mm, 1679mm), but larger than the first Cross Coupe concept shown in Tokyo back in 2011 (4345mm, 1868mm and 1523mm). Given these dimensions it seems the production version will likely be earmarked for the US and Chinese markets.