Once again, we're hearing rumors that Volkswagen might introduce to the U.S. market a new midsize SUV. Perhaps to catch customers not enticed by the Routan minivan or expensive Touareg SUV, a new midsize SUV could help the automaker reach its ambitious sales goals.
Automotive News reports that Volkswagen of America CEO Jonathan Browning told the Automotive Press Association yesterday that a midsize SUV between the Tiguan and Touareg represents a "great opportunity," which would help Volkswagen present a better "core portfolio" to its customers. As for details about the model, AN says Browning was tight-lipped and wouldn't confirm if such a model is in development.
With this information in mind, we think a couple of things could be afoot at the German automaker. On one hand, there is some room between the Touareg and Tiguan utilities in size. The Tiguan has a 102.5-inch wheelbase, stretches 174.5 inches, and weighs 3591 pounds with a six-speed automatic transmission, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and 4Motion all-wheel drive. In comparison, the Touareg has a 113.9-inch wheelbase, stretches 188.8 inches, and weighs 4711 pounds with a 3.6-liter VR6 engine, all-wheel drive, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Split the difference and you have a theoretical car that's 182 inches long, about the size of the Volvo XC60.
If that setup doesn't allow for much model differentiation, there's always the option of stretching the Touareg even bigger. At current the Touareg and Q7 share the same basic underpinnings, but the Q7 rides a stretched platform which means it has a 118-inch wheelbase and is a whopping 200.3 inches long. The next generation models will probably ride the same platform, which could mean we'll see a bigger Touareg and a new midsize model that sits comfortably in the middle of the (newly wider) size difference. If history is any guide, the new midsize SUV could occupy the same niche proposed by VW's 2002 Magellan Concept, which boasted six seats and a stretched, lifted wagon-like appearance.
VW also has its trump card: the Passat Alltrack. The 188-inch off-road wagon would be an unlikely choice to span the gap between the Tiguan and Touareg, but it's still a possibility. At current VW hasn't announced any plans to bring the model to the states.
If the mid-size SUV or Passat Alltrack does prevail, don't rule out an American assembly line to make it. VW's Chattanooga, Tennessee plant can make up to 170,000 Passats a year (after VW recently added 1000 workers to the roster), but additional investment could boost total capacity to 250,000 units.
What do you think about a new model -- should VW go midsize SUV, jack up the Passat, or forget about the whole thing?