Detroit 2010: Volkswagen Concept Coupe Hybrid Concept
By Chris Haak
Volkswagen yesterday revealed its terribly-named New Compact Coupe concept car in Detroit. The car’s name is on par with the company’s so-called New Midsize Sedan, which has been shown over the past few months in renderings, but never in the metal. The NMS is slated to be produced at the company’s all-new Chattanooga, TN assembly plant upon the plant’s opening next year.
The NCC is a remarkably production-ready-looking vehicle for a concept car. Volkswagen chief designer Walter de Silva described the car’s design as combining a coupe’s more graceful forms with the interior space and functionality of a comparably-sized sedan. Mercifully, Mr. de Silva decided to explain the car’s design in English this year rather than slipping into his native Italian as he did last year when describing last year’s BlueSport Roadster.
To my eyes, the NCC concept takes VW into an Audi-like design direction, and in particular with the upper and lower swage lines and the shape of the tail lamps. Not Audi-like, however, is the car’s horizontally-oriented grille and headlamp treatment. It’s refreshing that Volkswagen has abandoned the Audi-like horse collar grille treatment. Looking at the NCC in the metal, it’s a far more dynamic shape, particularly in the profile view, than many of the company’s other bread-and-butter models like the current Golf/GTI and Jetta.
Though this wasn’t explicitly stated by VW management, with the new Jetta scheduled for launch within the next several months, and with the new Golf/GTI already on the market, many view the NCC as a thinly-disguised hint at the future direction of the new Jetta sedan (and that it might be hinting that a Jetta coupe will return to the lineup after more than a decade’s absence).
Aside from the car’s attractive design and production-ready appearance, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the New Concept Coupe is its hybrid drivetrain. Volkswagen, like other German automakers, had for many years built its tent in the diesel camp. The company currently sells no hybrids, but hybrids are seen in the US as a way to achieve better fuel economy (while diesels have that distinction in Europe), and the company wants to significantly expand its US sales. Not to put too fine a point on it, but VW needs hybrids in the US more than it needs diesels if its plans to double its US sales over the next three years.
The NCC is powered by a 1.4 liter TSI (turbocharged direct injection) four cylinder that produces 140 PS on its own, and is coupled to a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox. This drivetrain is then coupled to a 27 PS electric motor and a 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery. The NCC can travel in pure electric mode, so the car is classified as a “full hybrid,” and of course the electric motor can also provide a boosting effect to the gasoline engine. Combined fuel consumption is roughly 45 miles per gallon. Volkswagen claims a top speed of 141 miles per hour and a 0 to 60 acceleration time of 8.6 seconds.
Since the car is officially labeled a concept, no on-sale date or pricing was announced, but don’t be surprised to see something very close to this car in US showrooms within the next year. In fact, it’s plausible that VW could produce the NCC (with hopefully a better name) in its new plant in Tennessee at some point. The weakening dollar certainly makes a compelling argument at this point for at least considering such a move.
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