Updated 4.21.15 With 18 New Photos
VW + China = Love
You probably know that Chinese car buyers love VWs and they love limousines. Seems like a perfect opportunity to combine the two into a stylish market-leader, right?
Perhaps. The VW Phaeton has indeed been a relatively big hit in China, which is the car’s leading/only market along with Germany.
Phaeton ≠ S-Class
But there are three big issues with the Phaeton achieving big sales in China (or anywhere else…):
1 — it is ancient inside with very, very poor technology compared with the new S-Class
2 — its engines are too large and draw massive VAT taxes. In an effort to establish the flagship and a failed attempt to earn US sales, the Phaeton was powered by a W8 or W12 gasoline engine in most trims, with a V6 petrol option the smallest power plant. Diesel engines are offered in Germany, but the Chinese make diesel car sales prohibitively expensive. Tax breaks for diesels in Europe are not mirrored whatsoever in the US and China.
3 — the VW brand itself is the best-seller in China, but it is most certainly not a luxury brand. Most taxi’s are three or four-generation-old Jetta’s and Passats — making them ubiquitous and the opposite of exclusive.
Times are changing under China’s President Xi however. A side-effort of the corruption and graft crackdown means that high-ranking Communist Party officials and all PLA military personnel are forbidden from putting government license plates on luxury cars.
VW Limousines + China = Opportunity
Slide in: the new Phaeton replacement teaser. This absurdly-named ‘C Coupé GTE’ should not be confused with the very-recent Sport Coupé GTE. That previewed a VW Passat CC of the future. (These names all have two things in common: they are confusing and terrible.)
The new C Coupe GTE is a plug-on hybrid with a small four-cylinder gasoline engine up front, a big battery pack in back, and a cabin that is now ultra-modern with advanced technology.
Longitudinal Engine + Front Drive = ??????
The proportions are better than the current Phaeton as a result of the W12 engine no longer needing to fit up front. The W8 was huge too — causing the big overhang-design that still mars the big VW and Bentley Continentals. Removing that boat anchor up front let VW team’s push the front wheels forward dramatically.
This chassis design for the engine is pretty odd, mind you.
The 2.0-liter engine is not the typical transverse VW layout as on the current Phaeton, Continental, etc. It is more Panamera-like in being a longitudinal setup. This sends power into an 8-speed automatic with integrated hybrid assist. It sends all engine power up to the front wheels.
VW Limo + Coupe Style = BMW-fighter?
The roofline is now much lower and sportier, with an overall cab-backward design that recalls true luxury limo’s.
This C Concept GTE includes some interesting new design ideas, despite looking very blah from up front and back in these preview images.
Real photos should show how dramatic the upper beltline crease is– this is a huge, sharp and deep stamp in the surfacing that runs from the front fenders all the way around the car and folding into the taillamps. It is the freshest part of the design overall, besides the newly-premium stance and proportions.
VW C Concept GTE = Phaeton CC
So, you might ask: why would VW even bother replacing the much-loathed Phaeton? The opportunity is clearly there to earn Chinese sales from wealthy people why are shy about showing their money off. These people are rapidly ditching any outward signs of their affluence to avoid seeming corrupt. This makes a VW with S-Class-rivalling features, comfort and space seem like a good idea. For many eyes, it will just look like a giant Passat.
That will make the C Concept GTE another huge flop in the US market, but let’s keep moving forward.
Secondly, VW needs a new Phaeton-size architecture to continue all the NVH and tech knowledge learned making the first Phaeton. Much of that knowledge directly poured into the 2005-and-beyond Golfs, Passats and others — paying for the R&D efforts easily.
Thirdly, the Phaeton-sized VW is important as a glamour project for VW executive management, who are keen to do the heavy lifting and engineering on the next-gen Bentley Flying Spur in-house. And away from Porsche, which may snag the next Continental platform-sharing assignment.
Will the C Concept GTE actually materialize and be for sale as a sort of Phaeton CC — a 4-door coupe-ish limo?
Probably not. But it is important to show VW’s intentions to its most-important market recently: Asia.
2015 Volkswagen C Concept GTE