VW Tiguan GTE Active hybrid concept charges into 2016 Detroit show

Published: 11 January 2016

► Off-road focused Tiguan concept
► Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid
► New Tiguan launches in USA in 2017

The centrepiece of Volkswagen’s stand at the 2016 Detroit motor show is this, the butched-up VW Tiguan GTE Active concept.

With aggressive 245/70 mud-plugging tyres and a skyscraping ride-height, it’s quite possibly the meanest-looking Tiguan we’ve seen. Look past the off-road add-ons, however, and you’ll find plenty of production-relevant tech, not least its plug-in hybrid powertrain.

There’s a particular focus on promoting environmentally friendly technology in Volkswagen-land at the moment, after all…

Haven’t we seen the VW Tiguan GTE before?

Volkswagen revealed the new 2016 Tiguan at the Frankfurt show in 2015 and previewed the Tiguan GTE at the same time.

Its drivetrain is closely related to that of the VW Golf GTE, combining a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors, one on the front axle and one at the rear, enabling the GTE to automatically switch between front-, rear- or four-wheel-drive modes.

The total system power is around 218bhp, and with all three power sources engaged VW claims a 0-62mph time of 6.4sec.

A 12.4kWh lithium-ion battery positioned under the boot floor powers the motors, and since the GTE is a plug-in hybrid, can be pre-charged via the mains as well as partially recharging via the engine and front electric motor on the move.

Electric-only range is 20 miles, and VW quotes a total driving range of 580 miles from a full tank.

Is all the off-road stuff just for show?

VW describes the concept as being developed ‘for extreme off-road use’. Underbody ground clearance is up from 7.9 to 9.6 inches, and approach, departure and ramp angles have all been improved. With the dual motor setup, the concept’s also claimed to be able to tackle extreme terrain in electric-only mode too.

Don’t rule out some of the off-road enhancements reaching the market in certain production Tiguan variants, although whether they’ll look quite as extreme as the Active concept, with skid plates and tow hooks galore, is debatable.

Anything else I should know about the Tiguan GTE Active?

The concept also gives us an early look at VW’s next-generation infotainment system, centred around an enormous 9.2in touchscreen with gesture control ability, along with a digital instrument panel and a head-up display.

We’ll get a closer look still at the system when it appears in the renewed Mk8 VW Golf before the end of 2016.

The new Volkswagen Tiguan launches in Europe later in 2016, and the USA in 2017, in long-wheelbase, seven-seater guise stateside.

Click here for a full list of the most important new cars at the Detroit show.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer