It’s already won strong kudos, most recently landing honors as Motor Trend Car of the Year. But Volkswagen plans to show that it can keep the excitement building for its new Golf “family” with the North American debut of two extreme concept versions at next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show.
Designed to “erase the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds,” the GTI Roadster was originally designed as a CGI competitor for the classic PlayStation game GranTurismo 6. A sheet metal version was revealed at the annual Worthersee enthusiast gathering in Austria last May.
The Golf R 400 concept, meanwhile, “shows just how far the Golf R can be taken using the experience gained from VW’s involvement in World Rallycross,” the maker explains. The “400” in its name refers to the 400 PS – 394-horsepower – 2.0-liter TSI engine under the hood. It’s enough to propel the rally car concept from 0 to 100 kmh (0 to 62 mph) in just 3.9 seconds, with a top speed of 173 mph.
The two concepts are designed to show the flexibility of the expanding Volkswagen Golf line. The “family” has already become a familiar sight to Europeans, though it’s just ramping up in North America. Sales of the seventh-generation compact was delayed a year until a new production line in Mexico could be tooled up.
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Based on VW’s new modular MQB platform, the gen-7 Golf already has added some new versions, including a first-time battery-electric model. So, it remains to be seen if the German maker might be giving serious thought to using the GTI Roadster and R 400 as prototypes for future production versions.
The Roadster didn’t even exist – except as a CGI data file – in its initial concept, notes Karl Bischoff, the maker’s head of design.
“When Sony asked us if we would develop a Vision GTI vehicle exclusively for the game to mark the 15th anniversary of Gran Turismo we didn’t hesitate for a moment,” he says, adding that VW launched an in-house design competition that he judged along with Kazunori Yamauchi, Vice-President of Sony Computer Entertainment, and the inventor of the Grand Turismo series.
The winning design was unveiled on May 26th in digital form, and the concept version rolled out three days later at the Worthersee festival.
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The GTI Roadster picks up on the edgy design of an earlier game concept, the Design Vision GTI, pushing its over-the-top proportions even further with its edgy C-pillars and side skirts – and doors that swivel up and forward. In physical form, the Volkswagen GTI Roadster measures 163.7 inches long, 74.6 inches wide and just 43.9 inches in height, with a 98.2-inch wheelbase.
Lead designer Malte Hammerbeck says: “We were looking for a very provocative and aggressive red. The car should look fast, even when it is standing still, and the paint should emphasize its surface contours.”
The Roadster features a carbon-fiber monocoque design, with driver and passenger separated by a center bar that rises from front to rear. There are two low-slung racing bucket seats, with a track-style steering wheel finished in Alcantara. The location and style of the gauges and switches are designed to emulate a race car’s layout.
Weighing in at just 3,133 pounds, the GTI Roadster concept is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 producing 503 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to propel it from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds, with a top speed rated at 192 mph.
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Where the Roadster is conceived for track, the Golf R 400 was envisioned for use on the rally circuit. It’s actually a hair lighter, at 3,130 pounds – and nearly as fast, even with its smaller, 2.0-liter engine, which puts power to the pavement through Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.
While conceived for rallying, there’s also a focus on real-world fuel-efficiency, VW notes. The Haldex-based 4Motion system can decouple under low loads, or when coasting, so power is sent only to the front wheels and there are less frictional losses. Meanwhile, the VW XDS+ system can apply braking to the inside wheels, torque vectoring the car to enhance cornering.
The Golf R 400 is finished in Silver Flake paint, with a glossy black roof, carbon-look front splitter, as well as real carbon-fiber mirror caps and interior accents.
Compared to a standard Volkswagen Golf, the rally car was widened 0.8 inches on each side, to accommodate extra-wide 19-inch wheels. The nose was enhanced to mimic the Rallye Golf G60 of 1988.
There are no production plans for either concept. But whether they’ll influence future factory models remains to be seen.