Cool Concept: Volkswagen Alltrack

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VW concept drops cover at the NY Auto Show.

Concept vehicles remain an important part of most any automaker’s planning strategy, and are used to help gauge customer reaction to possible design changes, in addition to giving engineers and designers freedom to work beyond the constraints they have with their current model lines. Some automakers, such as Honda, build concepts that closely resemble an upcoming product. Others, such as GM and Hyundai, develop concepts that never see production. Still, the styling cues and perhaps some of the engineering and technologies on display may show up in various vehicles down the line.

NY Auto Show

Volkswagen rolled out an all-new concept this year at the New York International Auto Show. The Volkswagen Alltrack is an off-road vehicle, one that resembles the U.S.-spec Passat from the front and suggests a European design for much of the cabin area and rear section. This arrangement is seen in the Subaru Outback, thus the Alltrack doesn’t break new ground. What it could do if it does come to production, is provide Volkswagen with a viable wagon-like off-roader and an alternative to its Tiguan and Touareg crossovers, perhaps allowing Volkswagen to siphon some sales from Subaru or at least give Volkswagen owners one more reason to stay with the brand.

Volkswagen Alltrack ConceptFor Volkswagen, the Alltrack is about offering the versatility of an SUV, but without its oversized footprint. Call it a more environmentally-friendly size if you will or simply a design that makes use of existing Volkswagen parts and takes that to the next level.

Raised Profile Vehicle

The Alltrack features a raised profile, oversized bumpers and flared side skirts. A solid underbody guard made of a steel plate protects the engine, the oil pan, the gearbox and the exhaust system from damage when driving off-road, with a second underbody shield located at the rear of the car. Exterior treatments include door mirror housings, trim strips on the radiator grille and matte chrome window surrounds.

The displayed model is powered by Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter turbodiesel four cylinder engine, a 140-horsepower motor that makes 236 foot-pounds of torque. Paired with a 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, this vehicle features VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive with an offroad driving program. Volkswagen describes 4MOTION as a system with an interaxle differential, a design where drive energy is distributed between front and rear axles. For example, whenever a difference in rotational speeds in the two axles is detected, 4MOTION will split torque evenly between both for better grip. 4MOTION is best seen at work on slippery or loose surfaces such as on wet roadways or on a gravel path.

No Distribution Plans

Volkswagen has also tweaked the Alltrack’s AWD system to provide higher control level thresholds on gravel surfaces. The automaker has placed a wedge of material in front of the tires, a design that helps decelerate the vehicle more effectively. The electronic differential and engine torque control have been modified as well, to work cooperatively. The Alltrack’s hill descent mode kicks in when this vehicle navigates gradients that exceed 10 percent, automatically applying the brakes. Adaptive cruise control, standard with this model, is also deactivated. Volkswagen says that the Alltrack has a ground clearance 1.2 inches higher than similar models with improved approach and departure angles too.

Lest you think this model will appear in the U.S. market in the near-term, you’ll want to manage your expectations accordingly. Volkswagen says that is has no plans to sell this vehicle in the U.S. — instead, the automaker is gauging customer reaction to “a potential future model that is similarly sized and combines offroad ability with wagon versatility.” In other words, we may see a vehicle similar to the Alltrack, perhaps a Passat-version of this model if sufficient interest is shown by auto show visitors.

Photos courtesy of the Volkswagen Group of America.

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