This is the VW Design Vision Golf GTI, Volkswagen’s interpretation of the ultimate Golf GTI. It’s got nearly 500bhp, will hit 62mph in less than four seconds, and previews a new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine that’s destined for future VWs. The VW Design Vision Golf GTI is only a concept car, but we’ve had a brief taste of this hottest of hot hatches. Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the VW Design Vision Golf GTI.
How does the VW Design Vision Golf GTI match up against a regular Golf GTI?
It’s what a Golf GTI would look like if Volkswagen’s designers didn’t have to worry about pesky issues like road-going legality and pedestrian safety. ‘The idea of this car was to explain our thinking behind the Golf Mk7, and especially the GTI version,’ says VW’s head of exterior design Andreas Mindt.
It means you’re looking at a GTI pushed to comic extremes – it’s shorter, lower and wider. The enlarged front splitter juts forward, the triple black strakes either side of the central front intake are bigger, and the headlights are thinner with exposed daytime running lights beneath. The wheels are huge 20in alloys, the creases that runs from the front wheelarches (through the GTI badges) and towards the back wheels are sharper, and huge side blades emphasise the upright C-pillar and rear-biased stance. The distended bodywork and riot of wings and fins aren’t highly tuned aerodynamic aids though: ‘We haven’t spent too much time in the wind tunnel,’ admits Mindt with a smile.
Is the Design Vision Golf GTI concept mid-engined like the mad Golf GTI W12?
Despite the big side blades hinting at intakes for a mid-mounted motor, the Design Vision Golf GTI is somewhat more conventional than the Bentley-engined GTI W12 concept from 2007. Instead of a twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 slung where the rear seats once where, this latest hotrod Golf GTI has a new narrow-angle ‘VR6’ 3.0-litre V6 squeezed under the bonnet. It’s the same direct-injection engine that powered the CrossBlue Coupe concept unveiled at the 2013 Shanghai motor show, but this version has two turbochargers for a total of 496bhp, along with 413lb ft from 4000-6000rpm.
With all that grunt it can’t be front-wheel drive like a normal GTI, and nor is it rear-drive like the GTI W12 either (which attempted to put 553lb ft through its back axle). Instead the Design Vision Golf GTI is four-wheel drive, with a Haldex 4Motion system.
Is it quicker than the brutish GTI W12?
Not quite. Four-wheel drive and a slick twin-clutch DSG transmission mean it’ll smash 62mph in just 3.9sec, but despite only two driven wheels and an automatic gearbox the W12 was two-tenths quicker. And the new car tops a paltry 186mph versus 203mph. Still, it’ll paste the latest Performance Pack-equipped GTI, which with 227bhp records 6.4sec to 62mph and a 154mph top speed.
What about the interior?
There are Porsche 911 GT3 RS-like red fabric door pulls instead of conventional handles, and in place of the rear seats is a huge carbon-trimmed X-shaped strut brace that provides the mounting points for the front seats’ four-point red race harnesses. There’s only space in the back for two matt black helmets, strapped down by what look like the same sort of padded bands that Wayne Rooney wore to protect his gaping head wound. The bucket seats feature the same honeycomb trim as the front grille, and the carbon-trimmed dashboard is a departure for VW, focused and angled as it is on the driver to the exclusion of the passenger.
How does the Design Vision Golf GTI drive?
Thumb the red-rimmed starter button on the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel and the unsilenced V6 bursts loudly into life. Theoretically you can tweak the dampers and engine mapping between Street, Sport or Track settings via a dial on the steering wheel, but this is only a concept car so it doesn’t work, and nor do the gearshift paddles. So slot the gearstick into D instead, or S for sharper, faster shifts and just boot the throttle.
The twin-turbo V6 produces 413lb ft from just 2000rpm so it punches hard and early, and with four-wheel drive there are no traction issues pulling out of tight corners either. The engine roars louder and louder as the revs rise, when you lift there’s a screech from the wastegates, and when you brake the huge carbon-ceramics reign in this unique Golf, the gearbox downshifts aggressively and there’s a deep boom as the engine is blipped to match your road speed.
The steering is reasonably light, to overcome those 8.5in wide front tyres, but as the engineers haven’t had time to fuss over tuning the feedback through the wheel is surprisingly honest. The ride is pretty tough though – blame those big wheels and the low ride height. Push harder? This concept car creaks and too many full-throttle applications run the risk of over-heating the twin exhausts and igniting its priceless bodywork.
We’re not going to pretend a quick drive in a one-off concept car has delivered a thorough road test, but the Vision Design Golf GTI is much more exuberant and characterful than a normal GTI, a more focused machine for a much smaller audience. It’ll never make production, but long may VW keep building these OTT GTIs. And in the meantime, here’s hoping the new 3.0-litre VR6 finds a home in something more sporting than a Touareg SUV…