When we first saw the ridiculously powerful Volkswagen Golf R 400 Concept, there was only one word to describe it: Zounds! Also, possibly "gadzooks." But while VW refuses to confirm anything yet, one word looks like it's leaping out now – real.
Every year Volkswagen tends to come out with another crazy Golf concept. There was the GTI W12, which rummaged through everything in the VAG parts bin, stealing an engine from Bentley, a rear design from Lamborghini, other bits from Audi, etc. etc.. Then there was the Design Vision GTI, which was basically a wolf-like Audi R8 in a sheep-like Golf's body.
All that is very wonderful, and clearly never, ever going to see production. They don't look so much like street cars as they do the imaginings of Dr. Frankenstein's methanol-fueled comic book characters. They just weren't going to happen.
And, to be honest, when I first saw the drawings of the Golf R 400, I thought it was much in the same vein. It had a chopped roof, ridiculously big wheels, and it looked to be colored in with a highlighter. It was, in short, cartoony.
The concept that's debuting at the Beijing Auto Show, on the other hand, is definitely not cartoony.
Except for the rear bumper, with its oversized carbon-fiber trimmed vents, it looks like exactly the kind of Golf you'd make if you were making, well, an uber-Golf. It's aggressive, yet somehow normal, all at the same time. It looks like the kind of thing a factory could churn out.
The customer-ready looks don't just stick to the outside, either. While the interior looks properly sporty, it's actually a lot less crazy than concepts tend to be, even ones intended for production.
Sure, those aren't so much seats as they are alcantara shells, but except for the carbon trim here and there, that dash looks like it's made out of the same stuff regular cars are made of. Again, not very concept-like. It's got climate control, and parking sensors, and an infotainment screen.
Alright, so the one concession VW has made to pie-in-the-sky dreams is that the Concept is fitted with a
proper manual transmission (EDIT: apparently while that's a 6-speed gearshift pattern on the knob, it's got a dual-clutch automatic that still allows you to row your own. No clutch pedal here.) But that's not so much to ask for.
The 2.0 TSI engine puts out 400 horses, and while that is ludicrously more horses that ever have the right to be living under the hood of a small German hatchback, it's got four-wheel drive, electronic diff locks, and electronic stability control.
And yes, while it's possible VW might say "screw this," out of a fear of cannabilising its product line, it wouldn't be the first time the company that made the People's Car did so.
But with rumors of an Audi RS3 based on the same platform on the horizon, I wouldn't rule it out.
Photos credit: Volkswagen