Whoever is naming new VW concepts is going down an ever weirder rabbit hole. In the past couple of years we've had the T-Roc and the T-Cross Breeze — both from subsequent Geneva Show reveals — and now the T-Prime GTE Concept unveiled at the Beijing Show.
Despite sounding rather like something you might order for Sunday lunch, the T-Prime is a big SUV concept, which — although Volkswagen won't admit this publically — previews the new Touareg, its largest SUV.
So what do we know? The T-Prime runs to about 5-metres long and is powered by a plug-in electric drivetrain with a smallish battery pack helping out a 2-litre petrol engine. These two pair to drive all four wheels — well, for the first 31 miles — with no exhaust emissions if the battery is fully charged.
It's worth digging into the detail a little on the drivetrain, because post diesel-gate VW is making a head-long surge towards electrification. And looking at the specs here and comparing it to the (already available) Passat and Golf GTE, we reckon this is an entirely feasible powertrain, which you will be able to buy in the next Touareg.
The electric motor generates 134bhp, the petrol one 248bhp, and combined they're good for a 0-60mph time of 6-seconds, a top-speed of 139mph and can get 87mpg on the European fuel economy testing cycle. It's a similar setup to the one Volvo has just launched in its T8 XC90 — from which you can charge the battery from flat to full in 8-hours at home, or 2.5 hours from a higher-output (7.2Kw) public DC charger.
The T-Prime looks, well, just as you would expect a big Volkswagen to look. The means it's generically handsome and easily identifiable as being from the German brand. Some will say it's dull, but we'd call it smart — with the exception of the front grille, which features the new VW corporate face and the GTE-signature c-shapes in the lower bumper. It's all a bit bright, shiny and in-your-face if you ask us — as though the T-Prime has just received an over-zealous bit of teeth whitening and is now permanently grinning to show its dental work off.
The body panels are (in the modern VW way) super-sharp in the lines which run along them. Thank VW's 5-stamp sheet metal pressing technology which allows it to create more complex shapes and sharper creases than other makers. Note too, that the rear lamps appear to be involved in a game of Tetris. At least the Germans haven't lost their sense of humour after all that diesel trouble.
Increasingly we feel like stuck records saying this, but it's a reflection on where the car industry is heading, that it's inside where things get really interesting. The T-Prime debuts Volkswagen's new "curved interaction area", which is another way of saying they've used a gently curved, 4K AMOLED screen right across the dash, merging together the auxiliary switch zone where you normally find the lights, the instrument cluster and the centre screen zone.
This interaction area (despitethe full name) looks great — we are particularly impressed to see VW ditch the "skueomorphic" and old-fashioned approach of digitally rendered dials, instead going for a flat design approach, with a pair of circular displays to show speed and energy usage.
The centre infotainment zone looks similar to what we first saw on the Budd-e concept at CES, with a reconfigurable tiled homescreen and 3D mapping. No mention of the gesture control from Budd-e though; perhaps because in our hands-on experience it didn't work very well.
The T-Prime's tech sits together nicely with the gloss black consoles, the drift-wood style trim and the white leather, creating a modern yet not austere cabin ambience.
Likely to sit on the same platform as Audi's Q7, the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche's next Cayenne, if the T-Prime does truly preview the next Touareg then Volkswagen is heading in a quite obvious and entirely logical direction with the design, which if it looks similar to this we're sure will be a hit with buyers.
Here's hoping that the Concept's infotainment system, tech setup, interior colour and trim modernity make the transition to the to-be-confirmed production car. Which we'd expect to see that at some point in 2017. And with 7-seats, which the current Touareg lacks.