Volkswagen is toying with the idea of introducing a road-biased seven-seat SUV purely for the American market – and has a concept hinting at what it might be like on display here in Detroit.

The CrossBlue plug-in hybrid, if given the green light, would slot into the SUV range below the mid-sized Tiguan and the larger Touareg.

The concept is powered by a TDI diesel engine plus with two rear-mounted electric motors and drives all four wheels through a twin clutch automatic gearbox.

VW claims 35mpg economy on the US test cycle in hybrid mode and up to 303bhp and 700Nm of torque.

The show car has six individual seats although, if approved for production at VW’s Chatanoonaga plant in Tennessee, the plan is to fit seven. Diesel and petrol powertrains would be offered alongside the hybrid.

“This is a car for a specific segment which only exists in the USA,” said Ulrich Hackenberg, the head of VW product planning and engineering.

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“In the US it is essential to have a seven-seater. Seven-seat SUVs are replacing minivans (MPVs in Europe). It is important for females to like a car that they take their children to soccer in and they don’t like a minivan.”

Hackenberg said the CrossBlue would be “more of a road car with the possibility to go on bad surfaces” than the go-anywhere Touareg and less of a premium model.

“There is a sweet spot that it could hit and maybe it would be suitable for China – not now but in the future,” he added.

It is based on an extended version of the new modular vehicle architecture which underpins the Mk VII Golf and is destined for a whole range of VWs from Polo to Passat.

That means the plug-in hybrid drivetrain could easily be adopted for the next generation Tiguan SUV in other markets, said Hackenberg.