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VW Tiguan GTE Active concept is a plug-in hybrid off-roader

Volkswagen is hoping to take the focus away from the emissions scandal with a concept car that wants to take on the tough American off-roader market.

The VW Tiguan GTE Active concept is an off-road-focussed version of the Tiguan GTE. It will go on sale in 2017, having been unveiled to the world at the 2016 Detroit Motor Show.

The job of turning the wheels is down to a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 147bhp and two electric motors, one at the front with 53bhp and one at the rear with 113bhp. Power can be sent to all four wheels via VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

To help save the planet, the Tiguan GTE Active Concept only uses electric power at start-up, a time when the most fuel is normally used. Power is sent to the rear wheels during this stage, with the front motor decoupled from the drivetrain and shut off to conserve energy.

If a loss of traction is detected or 4Motion Active Control is selected by the driver, the front wheels join in with the rear wheels to provide maximum traction and a hefty dollop of torque (the rear motor provides 270Nm of torque alone).

A battery capacity of 12.4kWh and a 64-litre fuel tank give the plug-in hybrid a range of 580 miles, 20 miles of which can be travelled on electric alone so on some journeys you will never need to even sip your liquid gold reserves. Fuel economy is a claimed 75mpg.

VW has attempted to eke out extra miles with a few clever tricks. For starters, the moment the driver takes their foot off the accelerator the engine and motors are all shutdown and disengaged from the drivetrain (if there’s enough battery).

Then there’s regenerative braking, which uses braking forces to recharge the lithium-ion battery, and the TSI engine, which only the front wheels when running on its own.

The VW Tiguan GTE Active concept ─ based on the second-generation model first unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show ─ is the first sports utility vehicle (SUV) from the German manufacturer to make use of the MQB platform, which underpins the Golf and many other models.

It measures 4,494mm long, 1899mm wide and 1,766mm tall so it’s not quite the size of the Range Rover, but with great portions of the car clad in chunky, rugged plastic it seemingly takes off-roading almost as seriously.

In fact, like the Range Rover and other off-roaders in its class, the Tiguan concept has a choice of six driving programs, ranging from Comfort and Eco to Rocks, Gravel, Snow and Sludge & Sand. Maximum ground clearance, meanwhile, is 245mm (up from the standard Tiguan’s 200mm).

Interior tech comes in the form of a 9.2-inch touchscreen display and VW’s MIB infotainment system, which offers navigation, a connected smartphone, Media playing and the driving mode. Said display can be split into separate areas or display one task at its largest.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are included so only the most obscure mobile phone devices will be unable to connect to the car.

VW said to expect a US launch in 2017 as part of ‘an SUV product offensive’, albeit with the Tiguan GTE Active in a longer wheelbase and seven-seat configuration. A European launch is yet to be confirmed.

VW Tiguan GTE Active concept pictures

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