Volkswagen group goes crossover crazy (2008)

Published: 25 January 2008

Volkswagen is about to launch a slew of small crossovers – led by the Audi Q1, Skoda Yeti and VW Polo SUV. The joint Cayenne/Touareg/Q7 project has been seen as a success, so the Germans are repeating the plan with a family of smaller 4x4s. Skoda’s baby mud-plugger will arrive first in 2009, followed by the Audi Q1 a year later and the Polo SUV in 2011 - but all our eyes are on the baby Audi.

Ingolstadt reckons that up to half of the 200,000 A1s it plans to build a year could be the tall-roof, four-wheel drive baby off-roaders. Whereas the Yeti and Polo will be sold as five-doors, Ingolstadt’s junior mud-plugger could be sold in sporty, three-door-only trim.

Audi is talking about prices from £16,000 to £20,000, on the Continent at least – pitching it squarely against the upcoming Mini Crossman (which has been delayed so many times that pessimists believe it may never materialise), the Land Rover LRX and a potential Volvo XC30.

Audi is planning a narrower range of engines for the Q1, with only two displacements: a 1.4 petrol four (in power outputs spanning from 122 to 170bhp), and a 1.6-litre common-rail diesel (from 80 to 130bhp). All engines will be offered with six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG twin-clutch gearboxes. As previewed on the A1 concept car in Tokyo, the Q1 will eventually be offered as a mild hybrid.

Audi Q1: the looks

Visually, the Q1 is tipped to follow the theme set by Q5 and Q3. The trick is to ensure sufficient differentiation between the three model lines and to establish a strong visual link to the base models, in this case the A1. So the number of doors, the position, width and angle of the C-posts, the relation between grille and headlamps, the plan view and the proportion of the overhangs will all echo the A1 premium supermini.

Expect a coupe-type roof, a tall windowline and a minimalistic greenhouse. There may be a five-door version, and design chief Wolfgang Egger’s team are pondering a shooting brake theme (check out the A2 Open Air and Steppenwolf concepts).

Click ‘Next’ to read about the Audi Q1’s electric future

Audi’s electric future?

By 2015 at the latest, all Audis will switch to electrically operated brakes. In a parallel development, the Ingolstadt R&D wizards are working on electric wheel hub motors which may one faraway day put the conventional internal combustion engine out of work.

How about unsprung masses, you ask? Well, Audi has already patented a new inertia-neutralising suspension concept which is said to cure this problem at speeds higher than 30mph.

Audi and GM: similar ideas

The intermediate mild hybrid approach will in the Q1 feature a small diesel engine which drives a generator and thus the battery. This effectively means full-time electric propulsion, a solution remarkably similar to GM’s E-Flex idea. Highlights include electric launch and complete cycle brake regeneration with engine-off under a trailing throttle.

VW Polo SUV - a tougher Polo

Why the wait for the Polo SUV in 2011? Because VW decided to switch from the old mix ’n’ match platform to the new modular MQB components set; we’ll first see this platform in the Mk2 Audi A3 in 2010 and it’s reportedly dramatically cheaper to develop and build, since its hardware can be spread across three model ranges and their derivatives.

All three will use VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, the group’s preferred solution for transversely installed engines. Don’t expect low-range transfer cases or mechanical diff locks, but there will be a variable torque split between the axles and between the wheels, plus all the climb-and-descent assistance systems introduced in the Tiguan.

Polo: supersize me!

The Polo SUV measures a full four metres in length – the same footprint as the Golf only two generations ago, don’t forget. Downsizing is thus restricted to the engine displacement. The three diesel units are brand-new common-rail 1.6-litre motors rated at 75, 90 and 105bhp.

The smallest petrol engine is a direct-injection 70bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder. In twincharger form, this bonsai Kraftwerk is good for 105bhp. Sandwiched between these two is an 85bhp normally aspirated 1.4-litre four-pot. Two rungs up, we find a turbocharged 1.4-litre TFSI which churns out 122bhp and 148lb ft of torque.
Despite the macho off-road claddings, the Polo SUV will also be offered in front-wheel drive guise. Labelled Trend & Fun, this variant is likely to cost £12,000. The least expensive 4WD Track & Field model will be priced at £13,000, sources say.

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel