Volkswagen AG's upcoming sport/utility vehicle (SUV) — set for a 2002 launch — was developed to accept the company's still-prototype 12-cyl. engine, VW sources tell Ward's.

Use of the peculiar “W-12” (two of VW's narrow-angle VR6 6-cyl. engines married together to create a “W” configuration) presumably would give VW a unique position in the world's most quickly growing vehicle segment.

Although the source says prototypes of the new VW SUV were engineered for the W-12, there is no confirmation that the company will use the 12-cyl. engine in production — although it is a reasonable assumption, given VW's ambitions to move the brand drastically up-market.

The all-wheel-drive VW SUV also will employ a 4-valve-per-cylinder version of the standard VR6 as an entry-level engine, but engineered for the first time for longitudinal mounting.

VW already has the 24-valve version of the VR6 in production in its standard 2.8L displacement. The 2.8L VR6 may be downsized, however, to create a W-12 displacing 5L or less.

The W-12 also may provide VW with an avenue for distinguishing its SUV from the Porsche AG version (see story p.1), which is being co-developed by VW and Porsche. Both companies have said the co-developed SUVs will use specific powertrains. The Porsche likely is to be more powerful than a potential W-12 equipped VW version.