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by Tim Beissmann

The Volkswagen CrossBlue concept has made its world premiere at the 2013 Detroit auto show, previewing a new mid-sized seven-seat production SUV designed specifically for North America.

Currently planned only for left-hand-drive production but being studied for right-hand-drive markets like Australia and the UK, the 5.0m-long CrossBlue is larger than Volkswagen’s existing Tiguan (4.4m) and Touareg (4.8m) SUVs but is set to be priced somewhere in between to make it more accessible to big families.

Based on the Volkswagen Group’s versatile MQB platform – the same one that underpins the Golf Mk7 and new Audi A3 – the Volkswagen CrossBlue concept is powered by an innovative plug-in hybrid system that combines a clean diesel engine, two electric motors, a lithium-ion battery and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Volkswagen stressed one of the strengths of the platform was that it could support hybrid propulsion systems as well as conventional petrol and diesel powertrains.

The 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine works in tandem with the 40kW/180Nm front-mounted electric motor and 85kW/270Nm rear electric motor for a combined system output of 225kW and 700Nm. Harnessing all that power, the CrossBlue can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 204km/h.

More impressive is its efficiency, however, with the plug-in people-mover officially rated at 2.1 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

The Volkswagen CrossBlue can also operate in pure electric mode for up to 33km at a top speed of 75km/h, with the rear motor solely responsible for propelling the car.

Other efficiency-enhancing measures include brake energy regeneration and a ‘coasting’ function, where the engine and electric motors are decoupled from the drivetrain when the accelerator pedal is released.

Although the concept features six individual seats, Volkswagen says the production version of the CrossBlue will feature seven in a 2-3-2 configuration. There’s 335 litres of cargo space available with all three rows of seats in place, 812 litres with the third row folded forward, and a van-like capacity of almost 2000 litres on offer with the second row pushed flat.

Practicality meets high technology in the cabin, with the centre console boasting a 10.2-inch touchscreen that provides access to all infotainment functions, the 3D maps of the navigation system, and the status of the hybrid system.

Second- and third-row passengers don’t miss out either, with iPad Minis integrated into the headrests and a Fender audio system sending soundwaves throughout the cabin.

The production version of the Volkswagen CrossBlue is expected to go on sale around the middle of the decade in North America and China.