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VW's T-Prime GTE concept previews the new Touareg

VW’s SUV concept for Beijing is big, clever and does away with buttons altogether

At first glance, yes, this looks a lot like one of several hundred Volkswagen SUV concepts we’ve seen before.

But stick with us, because the T-Prime GTE is actually rather important. Revealed at the Beijing motor show, it previews the next-generation Touareg, due on sale sometime next year, and showcases a beautiful button-free interior.
 
The fact that VW will replace the Touareg comes as no great surprise, but the ferocity with which it’s planning to launch new SUVs is stark. The new Tiguan is already on sale, the Touareg will follow, then comes a sub-Tiguan model based on the T-Roc concept, followed by an even smaller Audi Q2-sized sibling based on the T-Breeze concept.

Can’t blame them, to be honest – between 2017 and 2023, the SUV market is expected to expand its belt by 18 per cent in China, and 26 per cent in Europe and Russia.
 
Back to the concept is hand. It is a plug-in hybrid, of course, combining a 248bhp 2.0 TSI petrol engine with a 134bhp electric motor stuffed into its eight-speed automatic gearbox. The total? 376bhp and 516lb ft of torque sent to all four wheels.

That means 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 139mph, although if you charge the battery and make the most of the 30-mile EV-only range, it’ll do 105mpg and emit 65g/km of CO2. In a moment of honesty, though, VW admits that with a drained battery, fuel economy and CO2 emissions are actually 35.3mpg and 187g/km. Still not bad for a big old 4x4.
 
Based on a jumbo version of the MQB platform, rather than the MLB chassis that underpins the Bentley Bentayga, the concept car is a four-seater, but expect the production car to add a rear bench so you can fit in one more. An even larger MQB-based seven-seater SUV is also under development, but aimed at US and China. UK seven-seater fans will have to wait for the production version of the Skoda VisionS, due this autumn.
 
The real future-gazing stuff for the T-Prime GTE is saved for the dashboard where you’ll find… the ‘Curved Interaction Area’. Essentially, the 15-inch central screen and the 12-inch digital instrument cluster are joined in one fluid, glossy concave surface.

But that’s not all, because with the exception of the indicator stalks, every control is either via a touch-sensitive screen, touch sensitive surface buttons or voice and gesture controls. Even the gear selector is a virtual scrolling wheel. Might take some getting used to, but the uncluttered cabin in undeniably appealing.
 
Expect a watered down version of something approximating this to make it into the 2017 Touareg, but it’s certainly the way interiors are heading, folks. So what do we think; is VW’s clean-cut vision of the future heading in the direction you want? Let us know below, please…

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