Super-size CC: world debut for new VW C Coupe GTE in Shanghai | CAR Magazine

Super-size CC: world debut for new VW C Coupe GTE in Shanghai

Published: 20 April 2015 Updated: 21 April 2015

The new Volkswagen C Coupe GTE has broken cover at the VW Group pre-show party the night before the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show – a second world debut for VW at this year’s Chinese motor show, following the earlier announcement of the Scirocco GTS.

The VW C Coupe GTE is a vast four-door coupe, very much in the manner of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, and the ‘concept’ is powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. That’s concept in inverted commas because Volkswagen has already confirmed the C Coupé previews a new large car that’s set to go on sale in China in 2016.

The VW C Coupe GTE, eh? Haven’t I seen this somewhere before?

Actually, you haven’t. But if you’re confused – and we were – that’s because the C Coupe looks remarkably similar to the VW Sport Coupe Concept that was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva motor show in March. Or at least, it does from a distance. Once you get closer, however, you begin to realise just how big this car really is.

Its size is such that it’s even based on the VW Group’s larger MLB architecture, rather than the MQB platform that underpins the Sport Coupe Concept (as well as the whole current Golf family, the Passat and the next generation CC that the Sport Coupe Concept previews). MLB is the platform used for the new Audi Q7.

So how big is the VW C Coupe GTE, exactly?

At 5071mm lying down – yes, over five metres – this new swoopy-roofed saloon is longer that the short-wheelbase version of the current Volkswagen Phaeton (5059mm, since you’re asking). It’s also slightly wider at 1930mm across (Phaeton: 1903mm) but that coupe-look roof means it’s also just a bit lower at 1445mm at its most erect (1450mm). The 3014mm wheelbase exceeds that of even the long-wheelbase Phaeton, which is good news for passenger comfort.

Those are 22-inch alloys, incidentally, if that helps you get a grasp on the scale of this thing. And since we’re on the subject of exterior appearance, you’ll enjoy knowing that the paint is called ‘Golden Atmosphere’.


VW C Coupe GTE concept 2015

Am I detecting a subtle hint here: is the C Coupe GTE really the next VW Phaeton in disguise?

Wrong again. Sorry. Rather, this is the first sight of a new model line that will bridge the gap between the Passat and the Phaeton. Call it Volkswagen’s A6, if you like – and you may as well as VW is refusing to drop any hints about its real moniker. Whatever it’s called, it will appear first as a proper saloon (rather than a coupe, which might follow later), and is set to be exclusive to China initially, where it will also be built.

When pushed, VW brand head of design Klaus Bischoff did admit that there are elements of the exterior that may point in the direction of the next Phaeton, though – a car he confirmed will be coming in ‘mid to late [20]17’. Expect this to include some variation of the new deeper grille design you see here, which is the new identifier for VW’s larger cars. The Phaeton will still have a ‘standalone face’, though, Bischoff claims.

What’s UK-relevant about the VW C Coupe GTE, then?

Focus on the interior. While it looks fantastically flash, there’s nothing that’s entirely beyond the realm of possibility – and a number of items that are very much current near-future VW thinking.

The all-digital instrument cluster from the Passat (and TT) is here combined with a larger (12.3-inch) central touchscreen, and the two work in even closer unison while continuing to display different information. Also note that the interior design is ‘very horizontal and not driver orientated’ (Bischoff again), a reflection of the increasing importance of multimedia integration within the vehicular environment.

Drivers – and more significantly – passengers want to be able to continue their digital lives even while they’re on the road. We will see more of this ‘egalitarianisation’ of interior design from Volkswagen in the future.

VW C Coupe GTE concept interior 2015

Anything else special about the interior of the VW C Coupe GTE?

The prestige car market in China is dominated by people who like to be driven rather than drive themselves, which explains the additional attention lavished on the rear passenger compartment of the C Coupe. There’s far more wood and leather back there, and ahead of each of the two individual rear seats is masses of leg room and a 9.5-inch display neatly integrated into the front seat back – a treatment that’s ‘under consideration’ for production according to Bischoff, to replace the ugly but useful clip-on tablet accessories VW currently offers.

The full-width ‘black panel’ hides the screens when switched off, for security, while their content is controlled via smartphone or tablet. Each backseat passenger also gets an additional 4.5-inch touchscreen on the centre console, for operating the four-zone climate control and the electric seat adjustment. Of course there are privacy blinds, an electronically variable tint for the panoramic roof, and a champagne cooler.

A further touch that really puts the chauffeur in their place comes with the ability to integrate your daily schedule with the C Coupe’s satellite navigation. Not only does the oligarch in the back have the power to control exactly how much of this the chauffeur sees, the C Coupe can also automatically plot the optimum route between each destination and change it on the fly if the schedule is altered. Meaning driver and driven don’t even need to speak to each other. Bourgeoisie bliss.

There’s another nod to China on the outside, as the C Coupe GTE becomes the first VW to ever demonstrate exterior ambient lighting.

Exterior ambient lighting? What’s that then?

This starts with the illuminated badge in the grille, spreads to a line across the nose and then right round the car, ending by lighting up the rear VW logo. The Chinese precedent is set by the night-time lightshow put on by many of the country’s modern buildings and bridges.

It’s not something Volkswagen is yet planning to offer in the USA and Europe, but Bischoff concedes it could become one of the first examples of a Chinese automotive styling element that influences the rest of the world. Sounds like insignificant waffle, but in a culture that’s currently heavily influenced by Western tastes and trends it’s also a sign of growing self-confidence.

I suppose the VW C Coupe GTE is super-powerful and fast, like all the best concept cars?

Surprisingly, no. VW has remained thoroughly realistic in this department, too. Combining a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with an electric motor buried in the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the C Coupe GTE pushes a maximum of 242bhp and 369lb ft in the direction of the front wheels. This means 0-62mph in 8.6sec and 144mph flat out.

With a lithium ion battery pack that can be charged on the mains it also offers 31 miles of electric-only running – enough to bring the official combined engine and electric motor CO2 output to 55g/km and return fuel consumption of 123mpg. That’s not VW being unrealistic; that’s the testing procedure. You can’t have one anyway. So don’t worry about it.

But perhaps for the first time ever, it looks like buyers in China are going to have access to a VW the rest of the world might just be jealous about. Looking forward to seeing the real thing in 2016.

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first