A mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout. A torquey yet fuel-sipping diesel engine. A curb weight of just 2,600 pounds. A clean and appealing design. The Volkswagen BlueSport Concept was all of these things and more.
And for years, Volkswagen has waffled back and forth on whether it will ever see production. Sometimes they say they're going for it, sometimes they say they aren't. What's the deal, you guys? Why can't we own this amazing car yet?
(Welcome to Long Lost Concept Cars, a new semi-regular series we're trying out on Fridays where we highlight amazing concepts from years past that never made it to production — but maybe should have.)
For all the reasons I listed above, the BlueSport Roadster seems to check off a surprising many of the boxes that enthusiasts would list as requirements for their dream car. An affordable, mid-engine Boxster-fighting sports car with a diesel engine? Why the hell not, right?
It's fair to say that the BlueSport generated a ton of buzz when it showed up, looking almost production-ready, at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. Created by VW design chief Klaus Bischoff and his team, the roadster blended many of the best design cues we've seen from both VW and Audi in recent years into one very attractive and production-feasible package.
But while there has been persistent talk of the concept becoming a reality for some time now, it's never materialized. The problem is that Volkswagen has had a hard time making a business case for a small, mid-engine diesel sports car; that's always a tough sell, but our current lackluster economic climate probably hasn't helped things.
According to Automobile, the BlueSport was still on track for production in 2011, said to share a platform with, in typical VW Group fashion, an Audi and a Porsche. Later that year the car and its Audi version were canceled.
Then Ulrich Hackenberg told Motor Trend in early 2012 that the BlueSport was in "pre-production" and necessary to "emotionalize" the VW brand:
Production of the BlueSport sports car remains less certain. "We are always fighting this, in a positive sense, and I always say our creativity is beyond the market," Hackenberg says of the BlueSport. "Up to a level, we are developing, or we are pre-developing, such cars." Then VW needs to go to the market to determine if the potential volume for the car is there.
If VW can find a global market for 40,000 or 50,000 BlueSports a year, it's a go. "The market of such cars is dominated by the Mazda, which is a good car. It has maybe 80 percent of the market. It's a small market."
If VW can count on no more than 20 percent of the Miata's potential market, Hackenberg will not build the car.
Unfortunately, later that same year Hackenberg said the project was off, citing what he believed to be a flagging market for small sports cars. But then as recently as May of this year, VW said they were still thinking about it.
Come on, Volkswagen! Make up your minds! Do it (preferably) or don't. All this flip-flopping is giving us BlueSport balls.
What was it? A two-seat, mid-engine sports car with a diesel engine meant to compete with the Mazda Miata and other small, fun cars.
What were the specs? The BlueSport was powered by a 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and a very healthy 258 pound-feet of torque. It had VW's generally fantastic six-speed DSG with paddle shifters, an estimated zero to 60 mph time of 6.2 seconds, and a slim curb weight of 2,600 pounds.
At the 2009 Detroit show, VW also talked about the possibility of gasoline engines, particularly their 1.2, 1.4 and 2.0-liter TSI motors. The latter engine, which sees duty in the Scirocco R and other cars, could have had as much as 265 horsepower. Not bad at all.
What else made it special? The BlueSport would have been the first new rear-wheel drive Volkswagen in decades. It could also be seen as a legitimate successor to the Porsche 914, which was co-developed with VW and branded a VW-Porsche in Europe.
Its platform was also said to be the basis of new sports cars in the VW Group family called the Porsche 550 and Audi R4.
It's also worth noting that the car was supposed to be an affordable, lightweight, back-to-basics sports car, not an overtechnologized and overpowered supercar. We need more cars like that.
What did it look like on the inside? Clean, attractive, sporting and remarkably close to what a production car could look like. With the flat-bottomed steering wheel, it looks down right GTI-ish in there, just without the hatch or back seats.
Did it actually run? Indeed it did, but only one working version was ever made. Fifth Gear's Vicky Butler-Henderson got to take a spin in one back in 2009, and while it came off as decidedly unpolished — it's a concept, after all — she seemed impressed and saw its potential.
Was it ever planned for production? That depends on who you ask and when. The last we seem to have heard was a solid "maybe." From everything I have read about the BlueSport, the executives at Volkswagen like it in theory, but they seem concerned about whether they can sell enough of them to justify production.
Should it have been built? Yes. Absolutely. And while it's been nearly five years since the concept showed up, I still think it should be built.
As with other cars in the VW Group, there is probably concerns about the BlueSport undercutting other models. Porsche, for one, was worried that an entry-level 550 version would cheapen their brand too much (Because their plethora of sedans and SUVs don't do that at all, obviously). There's also the question of whether it would steal Audi TT and Porsche Boxster sales.
But I say that no matter how many Phaetons they once tried to sell, people will always see Volkswagen differently from Porsche and Audi, especially in the U.S. I think VW's image is too different from the premium brands to truly hurt their business. Can you honestly see the average Boxster buyer going for this instead? Maybe a few might, but I don't think most would.
I still love the idea of the affordable mid-engine sports car. No one really does that anymore. If VW was able to build this car — and hopefully they'd keep that lovely design, which hasn't aged at all — and price it to compete with the Miata or the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S, they may have a real hit on their hands.
Sadly, at this point, I'm skeptical that the BlueSport will ever make it into VW showrooms. But I hope it manages to find its way there someday.
Long Lost Concept Cars runs on Fridays. Got a favorite forgotten concept you'd like us to feature? Drop a suggestion in the comments.