Volkswagen‘s experience with large sedans in North America hasn’t been altogether positive. Its Phaeton was a phlop on this continent, but found more success in China, which explains the company’s decision to unveil its latest luxury sedan concept, the C Coupe GTE, at the Shanghai auto show.

VW says this concept was designed to appeal to Chinese customers, “who always follow the trends of European car design with great interest,” according to VW Group design head, Walter de Silva.

Sized to slot in between the Passat and Phaeton, the C Coupe GTE measures more than five metres long and nearly two metres wide, both dimensions being notably larger than the current North American Passat. The look “very clearly shows the new ‘face’ of top VW sedans (and) the design DNA shown here will accompany us worldwide, and on the way to the new Phaeton,” said VW brand design boss, Klaus Bischoff.

We’re fans of the going-away view, but find that broad grille a bit harder to like. Still, even in these images, the car has presence to rival a big Audi—and it’s that sort of similarity that kept the Phaeton from gaining traction here. If this concept leads to a production model for Canada and the U.S., its success will likely depend on how the car is priced and positioned in the marketplace.

Power comes from a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that combines a 207-hp turbocharged four-cylinder TSI engine (probably the well-known 2.0-litre version) with an electric motor integrated with the eight-speed automatic transmission. VW claims a combined power output of 242 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and an all-electric driving range of about 50 km, at speeds up to around 130 km/h.

We dig the two-place rear seat, which VW says speaks to the idea of creating a car that appeals as much to drivers as those who wish to be driven, and for the latter, the navigation system features a “chauffeur” mode that lets the “boss” transfer their daily itinerary from a smartphone to the infotainment system, which then plans a route for the chauffeur to follow.

Should Fritz the chauffeur and his employer find themselves running late, he can engage the drivetrain’s ‘GTE’ mode, which sharpens throttle response and commands the engine and electric motor to work in tandem for maximum performance.

Those riding in back can command privacy from the outside world with electric window blinds and electrochromic sunroof glass controlled via touchscreens on the console between the rear seats.

Whether VW will bring a production model based on this concept to North America is a question mark; nonetheless, this concept paints an interesting picture of the company’s vision for the future of its high-end offerings.


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