The future of Volkswagen’s SUV lineup shown in the flesh at the Beijing Motor Show

LISTEN 10:12

The Chinese automotive market has grown so fast in recent years that all major automakers have opened shop in the country or developed specific models for the Eastern Asian state. In its quest for global domination – not quite successful as of late due to the "Dieselgate" scandalVolkswagen is looking to increase local sales with new China-spec models, one of which is the Phideon sedan.. At the 2016 Beijing Motor Show, the German automaker pulled the curtains off of a new concept that could conceivably follow in the footsteps of the Phideon as a new offering for this massive SUV-starved market.

The concept is called the T-Prime GTE and for all intents and purposes, this is the model that Volkswagen has chosen to preview its future lineup of SUVs. The list of the T-Prime Concept GTE is that it’s a full-sized SUV that relies on a plug-in hybrid powertrain and comes with all-wheel drive. It also has a full menu of new technologies like the Curved Interaction Area that the German automaker plans to have some use for in the future, presumably related to its entire model lineup, not just to SUVs. Whether we see these features in production VWs is a question best asked another time. For Volkswagen, what’s important is that these features are ready to be showcased for the world to see.

It’s also fitting that the T-Prime Concept GTE is making its debut at the Beijing Motor Show. As one of Volkswagen’s most important markets, it’s imperative for the company to put its best foot forward in the Chinese markets. Showing a model like the T-Prime Concept GTE is a great first step towards introducing the future of Volkswagen SUVs, both in China and all of its other markets in the world.

Updated 04/25/2016: Volkswagen unveiled the T-Prime Concept GTE at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show.

Continue reading to learn more about the Volkswagen Beijing Concept SUV.

  • 2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Engine:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    139 mph
  • car segment:
  • car fuel:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:


2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Exterior
- image 674008

First, let’s get the measurements out of the way. The T-Prime Concept GTE is a big vehicle. Like really, really big. It measures 199.6 inches long, making it 6.7 inches longer than the current iteration of the Touareg. It’s also 78.7 inches wide and 67.2 inches high. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the T-Prime Concept GTE doesn’t really look like an actual concept. It’s a recent trend, I know, but it was smart to preview the T-Prime as more production-looking than anything else.

For instance, the front section of the SUV carries features that we’ve already seen on new models or recent concept cars, including the slender headlamps with LED strips that run into the grille and C-shaped daytime running lights. The checkered front grille is a nice wrinkle but the way the whole thing coyly integrates itself into the headlights is a trick we’ve seen from VW before.

The side and rear profiles of the T-Prime Concept GTE are what you’d expect from a full-sized SUV. The body lines are straightforward and extend from the front to the rear. The wheel arches are flared, which is another expected design detail. While they do exude a more muscular appearance than any of the company’s existing crossovers and SUVs, there’s little about the sides of the T-Prime that makes you think that this is a concept vehicle, which is likely what Volkswagen intended when it designed the model. It’s the same thing at the back, which counts the the angular taillights and its triple arrow-shaped patterns as the most notable design details. A consolation prize goes to the tailgate that somewhat extends far into the bumper, creating the illusion of a low load sill.

Rounding out the exterior details of the T-Prime Concept GTE include the "Beihai Blue" body paint that was inspired by a beach on the South China Sea and the set of 22-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 285/40-series tires.


2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE
- image 674010

When Volkswagen previewed the T-Prime Concept GTE, it wasted little time emphasizing the luxurious interior of the concept without actually divulging any details about it. But now that the concept has been launched in full, it’s easy to see why VW took great liberty in touting the concept’s cabin.

First up is the dashboard, which features a combination of “Ipanema Blue” leather, glossy-black surfaces, and wood accents. As if the use of three distinctive materials wasn’t enough to showcase the visual gymnastics of the dash, Volkswagen also created an integrated Active Info Display and infotainment system with a 15-inch head unit that are all covered by a curved glass surface. The whole setup is called the Curved Interaction Area, a name it likely got for being designed in such a way that both displays “face” the driver. Volkswagen indicated that this setup is what we’ll see on future VW models beginning in 2017.

Move past the dash and you’ll see that the cabin of the T-Prime Concept might as well serve as a living catalog on the kinds of materials that are at Volkswagen’s disposal. The fancy leather, glossy-black surfaces and wood accents were all used generously throughout the cabin, right down to the door panels and steering wheel rim.

Speaking of the steering wheel, Volkswagen didn’t seem to have too many problems bombarding it with buttons and controls with swipe gesture capabilities, all while wrapped in that aforementioned blue leather. Move to the center console and you’ll see a similar glass surface treatment as the aforementioned CIA. The concept itself doesn’t appear to have a traditional gear shifter. Instead, Volkswagen is introducing “by wire” control for the eight-speed automatic transmission that operates via a glass scroll wheel with fitted with sensors. It doesn’t seem like a technology that’s ready for production anytime soon, but the whole idea is a nice nod to the continuing technological evolution of the auto industry.

Somewhat surprisingly, Volkswagen was less clear on the seating configuration for the concept. No mention was made on the specifics in that regard, but the automaker did continue to tout the concept’s "lounge-style interior" that may be a nod towards a 2+2 seating configuration, a somewhat surprising choice given the size of the SUV. Unless Volkswagen wants to emphasize the generous amount of cabin space this type of configuration provides,

I’m not sure this kind of setup will translate to a production SUV anytime soon. Not lost on this fountain of details are the colors and shades that Volkswagen specifically used on the T-Prime Concept. I already mentioned the Beihai Blue body paint and the Ipanema Blue leather on the interior, but Volkswagen also used Himalayan Brown for the leather piping on the seats and Mistral on the light-grey leather and Alcantara that serve as contrasts to the earth-themed tone of the cabin.


2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 673990

The Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE utilizes a plug-in hybrid powertrain made up of an electric motor, a battery pack, and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine. Like with all of VW’s GTE cars, starts in silent electric E-mode that can drive up to 31 miles in urban cities. Once the hybrid engine is brought to life, the concept is capable of producing as much as 376 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, of which 248 ponies and 273 pound-feet of torque are supplied by the turbocharged four-cylinder engine alone. Do the math and the electric motor is responsible for the extra 134 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. When the hybrid engine is in full use, all that power is coursed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox that in turn sends the power to all four wheels courtesy of VW’s 4MOTION permanent all-wheel drive.

Volkswagen goes on to say that the concept will accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in six seconds and hit its top speed at 139 mph. It also revealed that in addition to the 31-mile all-electric, single-charge range. the concept is also capable of 29 miles per gallon of fuel in hybrid operation when the battery is flat. As far as combined fuel economy goes, Volkswagen claims that the T-Prime Concept GTE will return up to 78 mpg, which we suspect is really MPGe.

The automaker also added that there are two different ways to externally charge the lithium-ion battery of the concept. The conventional method is plugging the charging cable into a 220-volt outlet, which can charge the battery from empty to full in eight hours at a power of 3.6 kW. A faster alternative is also available through public charging stations that offer 7.2 kW in power. In these stations, charging the batter to full only consumes two hours and 30 minutes.


2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Exterior
- image 674005

As one of the biggest automakers in the world, Volkswagen has the capacity to really make a huge impression in the growing SUV market. What it did with the T-Prime GTE Concept was more than “make an impression;” it served notice to everybody else that it can create a vehicle that has the tools to be one of the most sought-after SUVs in the market. Granted, a lot of the details are unlikely to find its way into production, but from a “big picture” perspective, the T-Prime GTE Concept, features and all, is the kind of model that could really establish its presence in a market that’s currently overflowing with options.

I don’t know what Volkswagen’s plan is for the concept, but for what it’s worth, it built and developed something that’s worthy of going to production. Whether it takes the form of the next-generation Touareg or an entirely new model altogether, this concept shows that VW is ready for that dance.

  • Leave it
    • We don’t know much about it
    • Fancy features likely to remain with the concept
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert -
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
About the author

Press Release

Volkswagen debuted the T-Prime Concept GTE in a world premiere at Auto China 2016 in Beijing today. The concept car previews the future Volkswagen SUV. The T-Prime Concept GTE is a full-size sport utility vehicle with a plug-in hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive. Volkswagen’s new Curved Interaction Area is a completely new digital display and control concept. The innovative curved infotainment display merges with the interactive displays and controls, resulting in a new human-machine interface (HMI) that is intuitive, precise, and fun-to-use. This SUV show car combines the best of many automotive worlds: the comfort and spaciousness of a saloon, the superior traction of an off-road vehicle, the agility of a sport sedan and—thanks to innovative drive technologies—the efficiency of a compact car.

2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Exterior
- image 673972

In the future, Volkswagen wants to offer an exciting SUV in every relevant market segment. The product campaign starts this Spring with the global market launch of the new Tiguan which will also be offered with an extended wheelbase in certain markets. Following in car classes above it are a new mid-size SUV (for the USA and China), the successful Touareg and a vehicle in the style of the T-Prime Concept GTE. Beneath the Tiguan, two new SUV model series will make their debut simultaneously: in the Golf class, there will be an SUV inspired by the T-Roc concept, and the T-Cross Breeze that was presented in Geneva shows the direction that will be taken in the Polo class (SUV).

SUVs are booming worldwide, and this is especially true in the segment of the large C-SUVs to which the T-Prime Concept GTE belongs. Forecasts for China predict 18 percent growth between 2017 and 2023; in Europe and Russia growth might even reach 26 percent. Around the globe, annual volume of the exclusive SUVs will reach the milestone of two million unit sales around 2020. With the new T-Prime Concept GTE, Volkswagen is now responding to this trend by introducing one of the most advanced cars in the world.

The T-Prime Concept GTE was created under the leadership of Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development Volkswagen Brand, and Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design at Volkswagen. “Our team has created a charismatic and sporty all-round vehicle with this SUV, which appeals with its impressive sense of presence and confident poise,” says Klaus Bischoff.

The concept vehicle’s progressive interior reflects the desire for the digital capabilities of a new era. It is, simply put, a lot of fun to have a world of displays and controls that consist exclusively of touchscreens, gesture and voice control, touch-sensitive surfaces and shifting “by wire” that can always be used intuitively. The Active Info Display (interactive, digital instruments) and the screen of the infotainment system, which is curved for the first time in a vehicle, meld in the T-Prime Concept GTE to form the Curved Interaction Area—a multifunctional and interactive display landscape.

“Very quickly,” says Dr. Welsch, “this type of human-machine interface could become the norm in the top segment. Progress is immediately apparent here, because the real automobile is melding with the virtual world that is so real today.” Meanwhile, an array of assistance systems ensures top levels of safety and convenience in the T-Prime Concept GTE. These systems contain numerous technologies, and they enable such processes as semi-autonomous parking.

2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Exterior
- image 673973

The concept car is powered by a 375 horsepower plug-in hybrid drive, incorporating an electric motor, turbocharged gas engine, and battery, which can charge externally or during the drive. With a sufficiently charged battery (14.1 kWh energy capacity) this SUV—like all Volkswagen GTE cars—always starts in the practically silent electric E-Mode. It permits up to 31 miles of zero-emission driving in metropolitan areas. GTE mode forms an efficient alliance between the electric motor that is integrated into the housing of the 8-speed automatic gearbox and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine (TSI®). The electric motor develops a power of 134 hp and a maximum torque of 258 lb-ft; the TSI has an output of 248 hp and 273 lb-ft. In boosted GTE mode (kickdown), the full system power and an impressive 516 lb-ft of system torque are available. The T-Prime Concept GTE is equipped with 4MOTION® permanent all-wheel drive, which distributes power to the front and rear wheels via the limited-slip differential, which is also integrated into the 8-speed automatic gearbox.

In hybrid operation, such as when the high-voltage battery is flat, fuel consumption is 29 mpg in combined mode using energy from the charged battery, the combined fuel consumption in the NEDC cycle for plug-in hybrid models is 87 mpg. In GTE mode, the T-Prime Concept GTE accelerates to 60 in 6.0 seconds and has a top speed of 139 mph.

There are two different ways to externally charge the lithium-ion battery of the T-Prime Concept GTE. In the conventional solution, the charging cable is plugged into a 220-volt outlet. From a completely flat state, the battery will fully charge at a charging power of 3.6 kW in eight hours. It is also possible to "fuel up" at public charging stations at a power of 7.2 kW. Then the battery is fully charged after just two hours and 30 minutes.

The T-Prime Concept GTE can be driven in three different drive modes: E-Mode, Hybrid, and GTE. The system is designed so that the drive utilizes battery energy first, and so it starts off in E-Mode. While driving in E-Mode, the driver can intentionally activate the TSI and therefore the Hybrid mode by pressing the accelerator pedal beyond a defined pressure point. The driver can return to the zero-emission E-Mode via touchscreen at any time (provided that the battery still has sufficient charge); in this case, the all-wheel drive is also active. The GTE mode can also be activated via touchscreen. The driver brings out the most agile character of the SUV in this mode. The accelerator pedal, gearbox and steering characteristics are now even sportier. In boosted GTE mode, the TSI and the electric motor also work together to access the full system power and maximum system torque. As soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal, all drive sources are shut off and decoupled from the drivetrain, provided that the battery is sufficiently charged. In this form of coasting; the electric motor operates as a generator and feeds the energy recovered from braking into the lithium-ion battery. In this case as well, the TSI is shut off and decoupled.

Models like the PHIDEON, which was presented early this year in Geneva and is now making its show debut in China, the charismatic second generation Tiguan, and the BUDD-e zero-emission van that attracted international attention, all illustrate just how versatile Volkswagen design is today and will be in the future.

2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 673974

“With the new T-Prime Concept GTE, we are once again showcasing how Volkswagen can ideally master the whole range of differentiation possibilities, even within the individual SUV model series," says Klaus Bischoff. The chief designer continues: "On the one hand, this concept shows the authentic Volkswagen SUV design of the modern era; but at the same time it takes entirely new approaches. A concise example is the chrome radiator grille that extends across the entire width of the front end and integrates the LED headlights. With this impressive ’face’ we are creating an entirely new, iconic SUV product sub-brand.”

Another identifying design feature of future Volkswagen full-size SUVs are the opposing window and character lines. The window line begins in the hood and ends in the side window of the D-pillar at the rear. The so-called character line, meanwhile, begins in the rear lights, slices through the rear wheel arches with a razor-sharp undercut (an overhang drawn out from the sheet metal) and ends in the front wing. The two opposing lines lower the SUV’s visual center of gravity and, as in a sports car, they form athletic muscular surfaces over the wheel arches, a clearly identifiable waist and a highly dynamic shoulder section.

Klaus Bischoff: “The roof line that descends towards the rear in a sporty style is also striking. This creates an unusually dynamic and yet elegant SUV. The overall radiance of the T-Prime Concept GTE makes it unmistakably clear that it is playing in the top league.”

Technically, the T-Prime Concept GTE is based on the Group’s modular longitudinal platform (MLB); it covers full-size models with longitudinally mounted engines and gearboxes. The concept vehicle is 199.6 inches long. By means of comparison: the SUV is 0.4 inches longer than the first-generation Phaeton. This Volkswagen, which is equipped with two individual rear seats, has a width of 78.7 inches and is 67.2 inches tall. Balanced proportions, a very dynamic silhouette and an athletically tensed body with pronounced shoulders together create an entirely new SUV dynamic.

At the front end, the large chrome radiator grille merges with the headlights and extends across the entire width of the body, which gives the T-Prime Concept GTE its unmistakable charisma. Typical of all Volkswagen plug-in hybrid and electric models are the C-shaped Daytime Running Lights in the front bumper.

The vehicle’s side profile displays sporty proportions with a long, extended bonnet and a matching extremely long roof section. Also defining its style, are the opposing window and character lines and the flared wheel arches. The latter are filled out with large 22-inch alloy wheels and size 285/40 tires.

Wide rear shoulders taper towards the rear, forming a sporty rear end with maximum presence. The thin LED rear lights underscore the impressive overall width. The horizontally aligned rear has a clean and organized layout and the tailgate extends far into the bumper, which creates a low load sill.

2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 673975

Anyone looking through the windows into the closed T-Prime Concept GTE discovers one aspect above all else: sporty and stylish elegance and the horizontal orientation of its surfaces. A closer look reveals a mix of cool aluminum (surrounds, door handles), blue leather (upper part of dashboard, door panels, steering wheel rim) and glossy-black surfaces (wing-shaped front side of dashboard, center console, door accents and multifunction switch arrays on steering wheel). Forming a contrast are the warm color hues of the wood accents (wrapping around the dashboard and doors, propshaft tunnel trim) and other leather surfaces (seats, trims beneath wood accents). The interior is transformed into a mobile living space in its interplay of colors and materials, perfected ergonomics (including individual seats in the rear) and a new operating aesthetic. In the T-Prime Concept GTE Volkswagen is presenting a living automotive world whose atmosphere matches that of the connected, progressive, personal residence.

As soon as a door of the SUV concept is opened, the variety of functions of the digital interior reveals itself. The team of designers and engineers behind the car has exploited an opportunity to create an entirely new concept of vehicle and infotainment control in the T-Prime Concept GTE, completely forgoing conventional switches. With the exception of the steering wheel stalks, all controls are implemented as touch-sensitive surfaces with white backlighting or—in the case of gearbox control—have been engineered to be completely new “by-wire solution.” A key feature of user operation is gesture control. Proximity sensors and voice control are also used throughout the vehicle.

Forming one visual and functional unit are the Active Info Display (digitalized instruments) and the infotainment display (head unit). Located under a continuous, elegant glass surface, which is slightly curved—a world first in a vehicle—and aligned towards the driver for optimal ergonomics, they merge to form the newly developed Curved Interaction Area. Spanning the area in front of the driver like an arc, the Curved Interaction Area symbolizes the cockpit of the future—a future that will begin at Volkswagen as early as 2017.

The new Active Info Display of the T-Prime Concept GTE has a 12.0-inch screen. All indicators are virtually implemented in software—such as the power meter that is typical of a Volkswagen with a plug-in hybrid drive and, of course, the speedometer. In the middle, between these two round instruments, all imaginable information can be shown by thematic tiles. In Navigation mode, for instance, a 3D map display can be shown. Here the power meter and speedometer are relocated to the sides to make more room for the map display. Information such as navigation and assistance functions, phone contact images or the coverflow of the media library may be shown, depending on what is needed.

The curved home screen of the 15.0-inch infotainment head unit can be configured by the driver or front passenger. Here, three thematic tiles can be freely arranged on a defined screen grid or can be bundled. Users can fill a large main screen area with a wide variety of content or menu levels, such as two smaller thematic sub-areas. Content includes the media library, weather data, voicemails or navigation instructions. In exactly the same way, the individual thematic tiles of the Active Info Display can be configured in the head unit first, and can then be moved to the digital instruments by a swiping motion. This is a new technological and intuitive type of user operation that is simply fun to use. The user can always press a home button located low and at the middle of the head unit to return to the top menu level from any other menu. To the left and right of the home button are capacitive control surfaces for climate control and for seat heating and seat ventilation.

2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept GTE High Resolution Exterior
- image 673976

Revolutionary features of the T-Prime Concept GTE include “by wire” control of the gear shift unit for the 8-speed automatic gearbox on the center console. This is implemented as an elegantly designed glass scroll wheel with a chrome surround that is fitted with sensors which enable intuitive operation of functions. Located in front of this glass scroll wheel is a display with a virtual scroll wheel—as soon as the driver operates the real roller, the roller in the display turns accordingly. Implemented as touch-sensitive surfaces are the controls around the glass scroll wheel for the hazard warning lights, the Auto Hold function, starting and stopping the engine and the electric parking brake.

Another highlight is the multifunction steering wheel without switches. The smooth surface of the multifunctional areas use touch feedback. The individual functions are activated by pressure or with a swipe gesture. When the surfaces are touched, the driver of the T-Prime Concept GTE gets touch feedback, or "pre-sensing", which lets the driver locate the function. As soon as the driver activates the function, the control gives stronger tactile feedback.

A 9.6-inch display surface is also located between the two individual seats in the lounge-like rear seating area; it was integrated in the continuous surface of the center console. From here, users can adjust climate controls and seat adjustments using touch-sensitive surfaces. A tablet (10.1-inch) snaps onto each backrest of the front seats. These tablets let rear passengers access all conceivable media library functions.

The color and materials of the T-Prime Concept GTE are based on water, earth, wood, metal, and fire, in tribute to Chinese lifestyle, where these five elements are inseparably intertwined. Water, the all-dissolving and flowing element is reflected in the petrol-blue body paint color “Beihai Blue” (inspired by a beach on the South China Sea). Xirallic®—a cyan-colored substance with crystal effect pigments—makes the paint sparkle when viewed from above; meanwhile a deep sea blue is seen on the edges. The instrument panel and the back sides of the seats carry the exterior color scheme over into the interior with the turquoise blue leather color “Ipanema Blue”.

The earth is a solid element that brings everything into balance, and leather and Alcantara in the light-grey contrasting color “Mistral” create a visual effect of earth in the interior, including the seats. Wood is created by combining earth and water. Open-pored wood accents in "Walnut Trunk" make it possible to visually experience this natural material very intensely. Cool metal as a shaping external force can be found in the polished and satin aluminum accents, both exterior and interior. Finally, the burning element of fire sets the scene; Volkswagen uses the look of fire for the leather piping on the seats in the color “Himalayan Brown.”

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: