Volkswagen to unveil new midsize SUV

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The Tiguan compact SUV has been one of VW’s stars in the U.S., with sales growing by 49 percent through the first seven months of 2016. The company hopes to build on that success with the new midsize SUV.

With new leadership for the North American market, VW plans big changes. An expanded factory in Tennessee, and an all-new 2017 mid-size SUV are all pointing the way. It will VW’s entry into the lucrative soccer-wagon market.

After test driving a camouflaged prototype, Volkswagen North America chief engineering officer Matthias Erb said the new sport utility vehicle fills a gap for growing families. “If someone already had a Passat but wanted something bigger after having two kids, we didn’t have anything to offer them,” he said, “the Tiguan was too small, because a compact SUV offers essentially the same space as a midsize sedan.”

VW hasn’t finalized a name for the new SUV just yet, but their recent choices (Touareg and Tiguan) have started with a “T” so for now call it To Be Decided. VW plans to unveil it on October 27th and display it the L.A. Auto Show in November, so full details are not far off.

The test mule shown is heavily masked both inside and out, but larger than the 5-passenger Touareg, and easily has room for 7 adults. Two 6-foot, 260-pound men can fit into the third row seats, with two more in the second row. Third-row entry is easily achieved through an unique second-row seat that tips forward with both the seat base and back, allowing more space for getting in and out.

The new SUV is coming at a good time for VW. Challenges will include changing consumer perceptions of Volkswagen as a seller of compact sedans, and to filling the needs of U.S. drivers, who don’t need vehicles that can hold their own on the Autobahn.

The success of the new SUV is also key to the future of VW’s Chattanooga plant, which has made only the Passat sedan since opening, to great fanfare, in 2011. Most other Volkswagens destined for the U.S. are made in Mexico.