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Special Drive: Volkswagen Design Vision GTI Concept +VIDEO

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More than just a design exercise…


By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

LOS ANGELES, December 10, 2013. So far, the Volkswagen Golf R has been the fastest version, but will it be in the future? Before the R-model arrived, the crown has always been worn by the GTI. With the unveiling, last May, of the Design Vision GTI Concept at the yearly GTI gathering on the shores of Lake Wörthersee, Austria, the cards may be placed differently. The concept is the most powerful Golf variant that VW has ever built…

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For its North American debut, Volkswagen shipped the car to the Los Angeles Auto Show, where many Golf GTI fans could start dreaming indeed.

The concept is extremely light thanks to its body of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). Even though the nose has been extended with 2 inches, the length is 0.6 inches shorter than of the GTI, mainly thanks to a more compact rear bumper. It is 2.2 inches lower and 2.8 inches wider, while the track has increased to 62.8 in. up front and 62.2 in. in the rear. Those dimensions add to a super sporty design, hinting at lots of power with the low and wide stance and the pronounced C-pillars that run wide and deep along the sides. And look at the center-lock design of the wheels… it is a trick to hide the wheel bolts for a truly racy design. No trick is the ceramic brake discs and re painted calipers, which are visible through the spokes of the 20-inch wheels.

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The concept does not only show the vision of the team of Klaus Bischoff, Head of design of the Volkswagen brand, it also offers stunning performance. Even though the GTI of the new Golf is no sissy with the availability of 230 hp from its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine, it has to bow deep to the concept car, that uses a 3.0-liter V6 with twin turbochargers, generating 503 hp and 413 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm. The same goes for the 300 hp strong Golf R that is due to arrive in January.

You will believe me that I did not have to think twice when I was offered a short stint with this exceptional concept car, even though the word concept automatically means ‘no throttle’, as I have experienced during many a concept car drive.

So early morning, I drove up to the huge parking area around Hollywood Park, a thoroughbred race course in Inglewood, 5 miles east of the LA Airport, where the impressive looking GTI was ready for some hot laps.

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When I get into the concept car, I realize the cockpit matches the exterior by its simplicity. As in a race car, the rear seats are lacking and instead you see a cross member, plus two race helmets.

The necessary switches are at your finger tips on the flat bottomed steering wheel: the paddle shifters, the drive mode selector for ‘street’, ‘sport’ and ‘track’, and a start/stop switch. Integrated in the lower part of the center console is the button for deactivating the ESP system and one for activating the fire extinguishing system, as well as an electrical kill switch.

For sporty looks, the concept’s interior is equipped with CFRP parts combined with dark Alcantara and black and red Nappa leather.

As it has stopped raining – indeed, it never rains in California! – we can start the V6. As expected, a potential rumble reaches the ears and I can picture the Concept and me rocketing to 62 mph in just under 4 counts. Picture yes, but not feel, as I comply with the rules without complaints. But even at ‘no-full-throttle’, the car accelerates like a cheetah (5.90 seconds to 62 mph). And no, we did not reach top speed on the parking’s asphalt either. VW says it is 186 mph, which I believe. Push the pedal and feel the car’s immediate response! Not unimportant is the availability of 369 lb-ft of torque from just 2,000 rpm

During ‘moderate’ acceleration, the you can hear the turbo screaming. There is no turbo lag, just grip when the power reaches all four wheels by means of a DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission and an AWD-system.

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Handling wise on the uneven asphalt and through the small slalom, the Design Vision GTI does not deliver any surprises. The electronic limited slip differential works away any under steer

As expected the suspension has a very stiff set up; it is lower and has stiffer springs and chocks than the GTI, but it does not feel uncomfortable. In the slalom the car is turning quick even though the steering feel is a bit light, too much assisted. Emergency braking should not be a problem, as the ABS-assisted ceramic brake system with 380 mm discs up frond and 356 mm in the rear does the job in a firm and super effective way.

Future design

Andreas Mindt, Marc Lichte, and Philipp Römers, the trio that developed the Golf VII and its GTI model, also did the job with the Design Vision GTI. The result is the sportiest looking Golf ever with the performance of a racing car.

At Hollywood Park, design chief Andreas Mindt said that the crispier lines of the exterior design of the concept car will find its way into all new VW models. Until now a radius of 6 mm is used, but those of the concept are 3 mm.

“This is what Dr. Winterkorn wants… For the show, the car got full LED lighting, but in series, it gets something else.., may be TFT..”

Whát did he say…… ?! series…?

No need to ask if there this is a possibility. We will not get the answer. Probably his team wants that as much as a good number of drivers. But if Volkswagen take the Golf to the next level, then, may be Golf GTI-R would be a proper name…

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