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January 15, 2013 11:58 AM

VW's CrossBlue signals family hauling

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The all-wheel-drive CrossBlue signals a new VW model slotted between the compact Tiguan and the Touareg.

Photo credit: VW
Gabe Nelson is the Washington reporter for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- Volkswagen AG is making it quite clear that the CrossBlue, the three-row crossover concept that the VW brand unveiled Monday in Detroit, is meant as a family-hauler, not an off-road monster.

Yes, the CrossBlue concept has four-wheel drive. Yes, it gets a hefty 306 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. But it was designed, first and foremost, for families that might have bought a minivan in the past.

That much was obvious from VW's press conference Monday. Teenagers and young adults pranced around the stage, carrying balloons bearing slogans such as "You Rule" and "Congratulations." On the the back of the CrossBlue's front two seats, there were video screens to pacify those kids in the backseat, minivan-style.

Normally these iPad screens would snap in place. In the concept, they were fixed in place to prevent show-goers from making off with them.

"We only have six," joked the VW representative in one of the CrossBlue's second-row seats.

That touch was a sign of what VW is thinking as it tries to recast its lineup of family-sized cars. It has long sought something less expensive than the Touareg and easier to sell than the Routan, a rebadged version of a Chrysler Town & Country that has been knocked down to fleet-only status for 2013 and is expected to go away by the time a mid-size crossover hits the market.

Rainer Michel, vice president of product marketing and strategy at VW, said during an interview that Volkswagen couldn't design a minivan stand-in without having a screen in the backseat.

"You have to have it," he said.

VW decided to use iPads, rather than standard video monitors, to make the concept more state-of-the-art. But what they played was not forward-looking, nor was it likely to appeal to kids in the backseat. It was Motown concert footage, a nod to Detroit.

So, it's clear enough that with its first foray into designing a crossover for the American market, VW is trying to keep everyone happy.

That's a luxury of building a concept, of course. But it's also something the CrossBlue's eventual owners -- families fighting in the backseat and all -- can appreciate.

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