VW shows off R-Line SUVs, new concepts
German automaker brings 2 trim levels and 2 concepts to the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
Firmly entrenched in both the American hot-hatch and midsize-sedan markets, Volkswagen is aiming for a bigger share of the ever-popular SUV segment in the United States while capitalizing on the Passat's recent sales success. The company's presentation at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit shows a focus on SUVs of all stripes, from the punched-up Tiguan and Touareg R-Line editions to the sheer people-moving ability of its new 6-seater SUV concept. On top of those, VW is teasing a hotter Passat Performance Concept, which features a smaller — yes, smaller — but allegedly punchier turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine.
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What's hot? The front and rear R-design bumpers, 19-inch Mallory alloy wheels and black wheel-well trim sharpen the looks of the Tiguan SEL trim, on which the Tiguan R-Line is based.
What's not? Beyond the touches mentioned above and a "sport-tuned suspension," the R-Line logos placed around the vehicle are all that separate it from the standard Tiguan.
How much and when? The Tiguan R-Line will become available during the third quarter of 2013; pricing has not been announced.
MSN Autos' verdict: The styling of the Tiguan R-Line should turn enough heads to boost sales, but pricing will dictate just how much of a hit it is or isn't. If priced too high, the lack of performance upgrades may make the R-Line seem like wasteful spending; too low, and there's no reason to choose the standard Tiguan SEL with its slightly blander styling.
What is it? The Touareg SUV with R-Line body pieces added, similar to the Tiguan R-Line.
What's hot? With 20-inch wheels, the R-Line body kit and a slightly sportier chassis than the standard Touareg, the R-Line brings some extra swagger to an already good-looking SUV.
What's not? As with the Tiguan R-Line, those looking for something more akin to VW's Golf R, with a punchier engine and drivetrain, may find the aesthetically oriented changes in the Touareg R-Line shallow.
How much and when? The Touareg R-Line will go on sale along with the Tiguan R-Line in the third quarter of 2013. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.
MSN Autos' verdict: Provided the R-Line trim doesn't come at too high a premium, the package should be a nice option for those who are looking at a Touareg but want something that stands out a little bit.
CrossBlue SUV Concept
What is it? A new diesel-hybrid SUV that will seat up to six and could develop into a model that would be set between the Tiguan and Touareg in the lineup. If that happens, we can only assume an odd name starting with "T" will be forthcoming.
What's hot? The combination of VW's TDI Clean Diesel engine with electric motors at the front and rear of the CrossBlue rates at 305 horsepower and — wait for it — 516 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph is estimated to take 7.2 seconds, all while seating six comfortably.
What's not? The CrossBlue, developed specifically for the U.S. and Canadian markets, seems a little like Volkswagen is playing "me too" with the midsize crossover market.
How much and when? There is no official timetable or pricing schedule for the CrossBlue Concept.
MSN Autos' verdict: Vehicles like the Ford Edge show that there's a market for this kind of suburban road-going SUV. Volkswagen's CrossBlue is likely to find an audience based on the goodwill of VW's name in the marketplace, and if its performance numbers translate to a production model, you may see a great number of them on the road soon.
Passat Performance Concept
What is it? Coming off the best sales year for Volkswagen's American-built sedan, it shows off a sportier take on the Passat that could expand its audience.
What's hot? The 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injected 4-cylinder TSI engine, already in use and popular in the European and Asian markets, produces 250 horsepower. The suspension is sportier and lower than on the standard Passat, and the electric steering is said to enhance handling.
What's not? "Carbon-like" touches and "carbon-style" inserts are meant to look really cool in the Passat Performance Concept's interior — but don't.
How much and when? There's no official plan for a production run of the Passat Performance Concept at this time.
MSN Autos verdict: The Volkswagen Passat Performance Concept shows smart thinking on Volkswagen's part. The Passat is on a hot sales streak right now; a punched-up sportier version is likely to be well-received. We'd be more interested in seeing that 250-horsepower engine misused in other, smaller VW's.
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.