Volkswagen is focusing its efforts to restore brand credibility in what executives refer to as the “diesel crisis” and launched a three way assault at NAIAS to due so. This included the rollout of the Atlas and Tiguan production crossovers along with the retro electric van Buzz concept. The Atlas would make one shrug since it isn’t anything new to the marketplace, except that it is a new product that VW has never offered stateside before; a midsize 3-row crossover. VW executives admitted that one thing that has held back its popularity in the U.S. is the brand’s premium pricing on mainstream products. To remedy this, VW promised that the Atlas would start at $30,000 and top out around $48,000. One novel feature is the ability to tilt and slide the 2nd row of seats while a car seat is installed in order to gain access to the 3rd row. No diesels in this crossover, but a 3.6L V6 with 276 horsepower gets the propulsion done. The Atlas spans 198.3 inches, swallows 96.8 cubic feet of cargo, and seats seven. That’s a formula that normally plays well in Peoria. Now to see if Americans take notice.
For 2018 Volkswagen attempts to draw the compact Tiguan crossover more in line with American tastes. Volkswagen claims that roughly 25% of its sales volume was represented by diesel powered vehicles and it hopes to retain buyers who recognized the strong design and precision engineering offered in its other products. As part of its efforts to mend relationships with disgruntled consumers after last year’s diesel-gate scandal, the redesigned compact Tiguan gains a third row seats. This long wheelbase Tiguan is 10.6 inches longer between the wheels. Referred to as 5+2 seating, it is obvious that the third row is intended for occasional use or for children. The exterior is freshened with LED headlights and tail lights and features VW’s modern chiseled sheet metal. Without any diesels available, the Tiguan forges ahead with a turbocharged direct injection TSI 2.0L 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8 speed automatic. Active all wheel drive available under the guise of 4motion with four selectable drive modes. A digital cockpit allows the instrument panel to be reconfigured. The new Tiguan may not be a revolutionary crossover, but it does seem to be a sign that VW is committed to paying attention to Americans want in a small crossover.
Volkswagen has teased the world with two concepts that drew inspiration from the original Type 2, best known to Americans as the “Microbus.” The first concept in 2001 was dubbed with the obvious moniker “Microbus Concept.” A good ten years passed and no return of the beloved Microbus appeared. Instead VW gave us the “Bulli” concept which was a small MPV with styling again reminiscent of the original air-cooled hippie van. Alas, this concept would not come to fruition either and American customers were offered a rebranded Dodge Caravan dubbed Routan instead. Now in 2017 VW debuted the oddly named I.D. BUZZ concept that closely mimics the original Samba bus. I.D. stands for “identity,” “idea,” “individual,” “intelligent” and “iconic design.” BUZZ, VW claims, is a phonetic word play on “bus” and the “buzzing” of the van’s electric drive system. Sorry, Volkswagen, but Bulli was a much more endearing name. Officials insist that the I.D. BUZZ isn’t a retro design, but that the original van’s shape was so iconic and efficient that it is the intuitive package that houses an all-new all-electric vehicle architecture. That may be the case but there is no mistaking the pronounced beltline that dips down toward the front fascia with a massive VW logo proudly displayed front and center. Four little hockey-pucks on the corners of the roof provide sensors for autonomous driving and a 111 kW battery provides energy for propulsion while stowed below the cargo floor. A perfectly flat load floor provides for seemingly limitless interior configurations. While VW hopes this electric, autonomous concept would satisfy forward thinking Americans, many of would just be happy if the storied German brand would just offer this heritage inspired van to fill the van void in its portfolio.
It’s hard to stay mad at Volkswagen over the diesel emissions scandal when they follow through and put whimsically nostalgic concepts into production with special editions like the Beetle Dune and Beetle Denim. Offered as a coupe or a convertible the Dune is a largely an appearance package, running a standard powertrain devoid of all wheel drive, though available engines and transmissions have yet to be disclosed by VW. We suppose that is appropriate since Beetle-based dune buggies typically took advantage of the VWs light weight and made do with two-wheel drive. Physical upgrades include a wider track and raised suspension. Interior details unique to the Dune are special sport seats and dune badges. Offering a unique Sandstorm Yellow paint scheme, LED taillights, black honeycomb front grille, massive rear spoiler, and a new wheel design, the Dune promises to keep the familiar Beetle shape fresh.
Though no diesel models were on the show floor this year, it was hard to ignore VW’s diesel scandal. The VW executives spent a good portion of their 20 minute press conference talking about what they are doing to correct the distrust created by the diesel calibration that cheated emissions regulations. Still, Volkswagen has significant product that utilizes conventional gasoline and the Passat is the most significant vehicle in its US lineup. The Passat remains a unique model built at the Chattanooga, TN assembly plant. Conservative, but handsome, styling has been updated for 2016 and tragically not only loses its diesel engine options but no manual transmission is any longer present on the option sheet. The Passat starts at $22,440 and offers the 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder that provides 170 horsepower and an impressive 38 mpg highway. Buyers can upgrade to the 3.6L V6 model and be propelled forward by 280 horses achieving a much more modest 28 mpg highway. The V6 can only be acquired when the top line SEL Premium trim is selected at a much less value-focused $36,835. Will the Passat still attract buyers while losing its most distinguishing powertrain options? Only time will tell.
Volkswagen seems determined to convince America that the brand can provide precision German engineering while appeasing America’s desire for larger, more powerful vehicles. The Cross Coupe GTE concept is VW’s interpretation of just such a combination. Intended to preview the brand’s upcoming 7-seat crossover the Cross Coupe differs from that production model by hacking down the wagon portion of the green-house into something far less practical. To our eyes it still doesn’t look like a coupe but it seems that our friends in Wolfsburg are eager to associate themselves with such spectacularly low volume hardware as the Acura ZDX and BMW X6. Even if buyer’s aren’t willing to give the abbreviated crossover bodystyle another chance, we can expect the full-fledged 7-passenger version to wear the same square jawed face of the GTE concept. Production for the 7-seater begins in Chattanooga, TN by the end of 2016. The GTE is powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain which produces 276 horsepower by means of a 3.6L VR6 and two electric motors (54 and 114 hp). It is capable of traveling 20 miles on electrified propulsion alone and is estimated to achieve a fuel economy rating of 70 MPGe. While it remains to be seen whether the production 7-passenger crossover will employ the GTE concept’s powertrain we can expect that Volkwagen will finally have a legitimate 3-row crossover to offer stateside coming late 2016.
Back in the 1960’s, the Beetle was a car at the bottom of the automotive food chain. If one wanted a cheap and reliable car the Beetle was an obvious choice. Problem was, the Beetle offered very few comfort and convenience features. VW replaced the Beetle with the highly successful Golf (known for a time as the Rabbit in the States). When the New Beetle hit the roads in the late 1990’s it was fully modern in features and retro in style. Problem was, it wasn’t the most manly of cars. VW decided to replace the New Beetle with a more macho car, one that had finally grown up. Indeed, this car is far more civilized and comfortable than any of its forbearers. The question remains, has it improved enough in the last decade and a half to remain relevant? Read more…
If you want style in the Volkswagen lineup you’re going to be shopping for a CC. One of the original “four door coupes” continues in 2014 as a entry level luxury sedan distinguished by sleek styling and an athletic turbo four cylinder that may be rated at only 200 hp but feels like closer to 250. During our week with the oft-verlooked Passat alternative we came to enjoy features like opening the trunk with a wave of your foot under the bumper, the easy to fold down back seats and the superb cabin materials. We didn’t find much love for the slow to respond infotainment screen or the couple rattles that materialized around the interior. With strong competition in the mid to upper $30k segment the CC has to rely on its looks to get by but for some buyers driving a car that isn’t found in every driveway in the community is appealing enough to sign on the dotted line.
The Passat has been a comfortable and roomy family sedan since we were gifted our own built-in-America version a few years back. What it has lacked is a good base engine and a bit of style. The Passat Sport aims to address both with a few design flairs, and thankfully, a new 1.8-liter turbo four to replace the lethargic I5. Are the updates enough to warrant a recommendation? You’ll have to watch to find out, but if passenger space is high on your priority list then the Passat should be high on your test drive list.
We have to admit we were expecting a more extreme conversion to the off-road adventure-themed Beetle that was the star of this year’s Volkswagen press conference, but it turns out the Dune concept is just a sandy hill away from dealer showrooms. Or at least it looks that way. The Beetle uses the production 2.0-liter turbo four for power and packs an all wheel drive system but it’s been raised 2 inches for more ground clearance over the, well, presumably sand dunes, and the wheel/tire package is a bit more aggressive. Other than that we’re looking at a Beetle with a kyack rack and some extra lights. Would it sell? We doubt it, but the soft-roading crossover phase is reaching new heights everyday, so maybe VW already has this penciled into showrooms sometime in the next year.