By Michael Goetz
One of the few genuine surprises at Detroit was the world premier of the Volkswagen Concept BlueSport, a mid-engine, minimalist roadster. BlueSport was created to forward several propositions; that a fun-to-drive car can be made in a sustainable format; that a compact roadster is equally suited to thrive in both urban and “winding road” settings; that VW’s design language will return to simple and emotional shapes.
There can be no denying that this car would be fun to drive. Its 2.0-litre TDI diesel produces 258 lb-ft of torque from 1,750 rpm. It’s light and short, with a 45:55 front/rear weight distribution. It’s fitted with a six-speed dual clutch transmission. VW says the car can accelerate from 0-100 km in 6.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 226 km/h.
The sustainability aspect is covered off by this fact: average fuel consumption is rated at 4.3 L/100. Some of this is achieved by the auto-stop feature, which shuts the engine down in traffic, and regenerative braking, which means the engine can spend less time and effort producing electricity.
The face of BlueSport is an interpretation of a new VW design language, which was introduced for the first time on the Sirocco and the new Golf.
Immediately after its unveiling in Detroit, we spotted the car’s principle exterior and interior designers, Christian Felske and Peter Witt, in the crowd.
A quick Q&A ensued, excerpts of which follow….
What is the essence of VW’s new design language?
Felske: “During the last 10 years, we risked losing a clean automotive design language, so we’re coming back to that. A clean, simple design is better able to summon feelings and emotions. We don’t want to fall back into what we did in the 1990s.”
Was it difficult to achieve a clean design with this concept?
Felske: “A clean design is always difficult, you run the risk of being too banal. In this case the package was very good. It was very easy to make a very clean design over this package. The most difficult aspect was the foldable (manually operated) soft-top, because, when folded, it needs to sit on top of the engine. We needed it be thin, but a modern soft-top needs sound dampening and insulation. We worked together with Kharman, they ultimately completed the design – it’s a working unit.”
Roadsters are often created to celebrate something retro. How retro did you want to go with BlueSport?
Felske: For sure we didn’t want to make a retro design. Of course, when one thinks of mid-engine roadsters and VW, one thinks of the Porsche 914. We didn’t want to repeat any feature of that car. We wanted to make a modern car.
Where was the car designed?
Felske: The team at our studio in Berlin designed it, with lots of involvement with our main studio in Wolfsburg.
Did you show the car to focus groups?
Felske: “No we didn’t. We were quite sure we were on the right track. People like our earlier mid-engine concept, Eco Racer. We are quite confident we can do a production car based on this concept, and that’s where were put our focus … demonstrating that we could make this car at an affordable price.
How close is VW to confirming a production version?
Felske: “I don’t want to say anything, just that we made it look possible.”
Explain the design philosophy for the interior?
Interior Designer Peter Witt: “We wanted to take it back to a simple shape, because today, dash and instrument panel design is out of control. I like the simple stuff. Emotional and simple. We came up with the very compact centerpiece. This helps its sporty nature too; helps reduce things to the basic relationship — man and machine. Of course the interior must match the exterior, and not be too expensive to produce, as this would be an inexpensive car. The overall focus is simple, compact, and sporty.