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California dreaming: Volkswagen bus updated with new tech

Volkswagen California update 2019

Volkswagen has updated its California camper for 2019. There’s a freshened face, living area upgrade, more safety tech and electric power steering.

Here’s what you need to know about the new bus.

Getting a grilling

On the outside, the new California gains Volkswagen’s corporate nose. There’s a large grille spanning the area between the angular headlights, plus a larger vent beneath.

Other than that, it’s business as usual. What matters most with a camper is what’s inside, after all.

Changing rooms

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New alloy handles on all cupboard doors join push-button opening for the sink, cooker and fridge. There are sliding doors in place of shutters for the rear cupboard and wood grain trim.

There are also new beds with a sprung base for better comfort. A ‘sunrise function’ uses individually selectable LEDs in the roof to slowly raise the brightness around wake-up time.

Digital revolution

Volkswagen California update 2019

This and many other functions can now be controlled by the new full-colour touchscreen instrument panel. Menu items include Camping, Cool Box, Light and Set-Up. 

The hydraulically deployable roof can be set on its way via the Pop-Up Roof menu, while there’s also a Level function, which acts as a spirit level for the bus. That should help when deciding where to park your California for a secure and comfortable night’s sleep.

The new overhead control panel joins upgraded infotainment, which comes with greater smartphone integration and connectivity – including the now-familiar VW Active Info Display as an option. Buyers can choose from 6.5-, 8- and 9.2-inch screens.

Turning electric

Volkswagen California update 2019

The new California switches from hydraulic to electric power steering. This allows for the integration of Lane Assist, Park Assist and Trailer Assist semi-autonomous driving functions.

The most innovative new feature is probably Cross Wind Assist, which helps stabilise the van when there are strong side winds.

Exclusive: VW Motorsport boss talks ID.R and how it relates to road cars

Volkswagen ID.RThis weekend at Goodwood Festival of Speed, the electric Volkswagen ID.R smashed a McLaren Formula 1 car’s 20-year-old hillclimb record, twice. All after less than two years of development.

For engineers like VW Motorsport director Sven Smeets, EVs are a new and near-unexplored frontier.

We caught up with him at Goodwood to talk ID.R, developing electric power and how this radical racer relates to what we’ll be driving in years to come.

The Goodwood hillclimb record

Just so we’re clear on the ID.R’s performance, that previous record was 41.6 seconds, set in 1999 by Nick Heidfeld driving a McLaren MP4/13. The McLaren was fully prepared for the run, with custom gearing and tyre warmers keeping its rubber toasty for the start.

The ID.R, driven by Romain Dumas, posted a 41.1sec on Friday, a 39.9sec on Saturday and then a 42.3 during Sunday’s official shootout… in the wet.

Last year, the first variant of the ID.R took the Pikes Peak hillclimb record, and it’s since become the second fastest car around the Nurburgring. Let’s learn more from Sven Smeets…Sven Smeets

What were the biggest leaps forward with ID.R?

“If we went back to Pikes Peak, the car would be completely different. The battery could have serious weight reduction – and I’m not talking about 5kg – versus what we have now. Of course, the less weight we have, the less drag on the battery. Everything else follows.

“We already have some idea of how we would get more power. There are plenty of ‘next time’ ideas. If we went back now to the beginning, the car would look completely different.”

What have you learned from running at Goodwood?

“We have much fewer cells here, but we’re still asking for serious performance. We’ve learned about the balance between performance extraction and heat management. It’s interesting, how you regulate to optimise. You look after the battery like it’s your baby.”Volkswagen ID.R

Your thoughts on the ID.R’s record run?

“We were a little bit taken by surprise, to be honest. I spoke to Romain when we were testing and he was not super-optimistic. Because rain was forecast for Sunday, we had Friday and Saturday to give it a go.

“Of course, the record was our target, but we wanted to build up to it. Romain had a bad start, and a bad first corner because he was distracted by the start. Yet he still got 41 seconds. 

Will there be another ID.R?

“We have some ideas for the future, which we will be discussing with marketing and the board from August through September. Hopefully some of them will be taken up, including some that go in different directions from records and hillclimbs like this.

“Things that were not possible in 2017, we can do now. In 2016, the Nurburgring lap wouldn’t have been achieved.”

Romain DumasHow does the ID.R relate to road cars?

“On a certain level, we are interacting with the team behind the ID road cars. There is big work behind the scenes so that by 2022 there will be something properly presented. Many things are asked of us.

“We have a one-to-one connection with the performance people who build Volkswagen ‘R’ cars today. They will get our first electric test car. In terms of what we do, it’s very interesting for them to see what happens.” 

Volkswagen T-Cross review: a Polo with SUV attitude

Volkswagen T-Cross

Small and tall: that’s how increasing numbers of people like their cars. The market for supermini-sized SUVs is booming. And Volkswagen, with the new T-Cross, wants a slice of that crossover cake.

Nissan launched the Juke – arguably the car that popularised the compact crossover – back in 2010, so Volkswagen is late to the party. Its many rivals now include the Renault Captur, Ford Ecosport, Vauxhall Mokka X, Citroen C3 Aircross, Peugeot 2008, Seat Arona and new Skoda Kamiq.

The T-Cross is on sale from April 2019, with prices starting at £16,995. Can it stand out in such a crowded class?

It’s a pumped-up Polo

Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen likes SUVs that start with a ‘T’. And it now offers five of them: T-Cross, T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and Touareg (in order of size, from little to large).

The T-Cross is based on the Polo hatchback, but is 54mm longer and a lofty 138mm taller. Its footprint is roughly the same size as Mk5 (2003-2009) VW Golf, so we use the word ‘little’ advisedly here.

Four vertically-unchallenged adults – five at a squeeze – can sit comfortably, and the boot holds 385 litres. That compares to 355 litres in a Polo.

The styling is chunky and funky

Volkswagen T-Cross

Whether owners acknowledge it or not, part of crossovers’ appeal is how they look. They compress the rugged style of an SUV into a smaller, more socially acceptable package.

The T-Cross isn’t as radical as some rivals, but it’s more than simply a high-riding hatchback. Pumped-up wheelarches, chunky sills and a stocky stance bestow a suitably ‘go-anywhere’ look. Never mind that most won’t venture further off-road than mounting a kerb.

Its most distinctive angle is the rear view, especially the full-width light bar. Trend-spotters will recognise this as the must-have styling feature for 2019, seen on the new Porsche 911, Peugeot 508, Audi A8 and others.

Volkswagen calls it an ‘urban SUV’

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross won’t be climbing any mountains, then – particularly as all versions are front-wheel drive. Customer demand for a 4×4 model simply isn’t there, we’re told. The Suzuki Jimny can breathe easy.

Volkswagen calls this an ‘urban SUV’, which sounds like an oxymoron. However, an elevated driving position and squared-off bodywork do help when manoeuvring and parking. Those beefier bumpers might be beneficial on city streets, too. Leaving the airport in Palma, Mallorca’s congested capital, the T-Cross felt instantly at home.

Visibility is further heightened (literally) for rear passengers, who benefit from theatre-style seating. They’re perched around 50mm higher than the driver and front passenger, allowing a good view of the road ahead.

There’s one engine, with two power outputs

Volkswagen T-Cross

Two engines are offered at launch. Actually, if we’re being pedantic, there’s just one – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol – but available in two states of tune.

The entry-level 95hp motor serves up 62mph in 11.5 seconds, with fuel consumption of 57.6mpg and 112g/km CO2. Trade up to the 115hp version and you’ll hit 62mph in 10.2 seconds, and economy and emissions are identical. Note these are NEDC figures, though; the more stringent WLTP stats, which become mandatory later in 2019, aren’t available yet.

In terms of transmissions, the 95hp car has a five-speed manual gearbox only, while the 115hp model offers a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic.

Other European markets get 150hp 1.5 petrol and 95hp 1.6 diesel engines. The former may come to the UK at a later date, depending on demand.

It’s practical enough for a small family

Volkswagen T-Cross

This car has the R-Line styling tweaks. Two 1.0-litre TSI petrol engines are available in the UK: 95hp and 115hp.

Not all crossovers are as capacious as they look, but the T-Cross is usefully more practical than a Polo. It would be perfectly adequate for a couple with one child.

One useful feature is the sliding rear seat. Move it fully forward and luggage space swells from 385 to 455 litres. The only downside is a large downward step in the boot floor. The front passenger seat backrest also flips down for loading long objects.

There’s plenty of stowage space for family detritus, plus up to four USB ports for charging phones, tablets and other devices. Cries of “Are we there yet?” should be a thing of the past.

The interior is packed with tech

Volkswagen T-Cross

Indeed, technology is a T-Cross strong suit. An intuitive eight-inch touchscreen media system is fitted to all models, and connects seamlessly to your smartphone via Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

Volkswagen’s Active Info Display is an option (standard on top-spec R-Line), replacing the traditional instruments with configurable digital dials. And you can download the Volkswagen Connect app for info specific to your car, such as average fuel economy and when the next service is due.

Other optional niceties include keyless entry and start, automatic headlights and a 300w Beats audio system with a large subwoofer in the boot.

But the lines between VW, Seat and Skoda are blurred

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross is less successful when it comes to perceived quality, specifically inside the cabin.

As you may know, it’s virtually identical to the Seat Arona and forthcoming Skoda Kamiq under the skin. Yet while Volkswagen has traditionally positioned itself as an ‘in-between’ brand – above the likes of Ford and Renault, and below Audi and BMW – the differences in feelgood factor here are marginal.

Nothing rattled, squeaked or fell off, of course. But the T-Cross feels built to a budget, with hard plastics that might make you think twice about paying a premium versus its VW Group cousins.

It tries to be down with the kids

Volkswagen T-Cross

Thankfully, you can jazz up your T-Cross to the extent that nobody will notice the minor details. Fancy Energetic Orange paint or Bamboo Garden Green alloys? Step this way.

Indeed, the T-Cross is a tad anonymous in silver, white or black, so we’d go for one of the brighter shades; Flash Red and Makena Turqoise look great. The latter is a minty-fresh shade last seen on modified hot hatches in the 1990s: we approve.

The interior can also be customised with tiger stripes on the dashboard and two-tone seats. A list of permitted colour combinations prevents you going too wild, however. Probably a good thing when it comes to resale value…

Yet the driving experience is very grown-up

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross feels pretty sensible on the road, too. It’s easy to drive, with the calm, measured maturity Volkswagen does so well.

As noted previously, the car feels in its element around town. Its light steering is direct, if a little lifeless, and its suspension is supple enough to soak up potholes and speed humps.

It also keeps its composure on faster roads, without the bounciness that afflicts some small SUVs. Body-roll is kept in check and the handling is safe and predictable at the limit. Yes, a Polo is slightly more agile and engaging, but few buyers will care.

The engines are peppy and refined

Volkswagen T-Cross

If you can afford it, the 115hp T-Cross is the one to go for. It’s the same engine used in the Up GTI, and feels fizzy and eager to rev.

The more powerful engine is mandatory if you want an automatic ’box, but the DSG does blunt performance. Unless you select Sport mode, it constantly tries to change up in the name of efficiency. Go for the snappy manual instead.

In either state of tune, the TSI is exceptionally smooth and refined. Rev it hard and you’ll hear a distinctive three-cylinder snarl, but most of the time it’s inaudible.

A sporty T-Cross R could be on the cards

Volkswagen T-Cross

Despite the Up engine transplant, a GTI version of the T-Cross seems unlikely. Volkswagen has always limited those three iconic letters to hot hatchbacks – perhaps rightly so.

We could, however, see a T-Cross R in the not-so-distant future. A precedent has been set by the recently launched T-Roc R, which borrows its 300hp engine from the flagship Golf. Stranger things have happened.

Possibly not so strange as a convertible, though. The T-Cross Breeze concept, a drop-top SUV in the mould of the Range Rover Evoque, actually previewed today’s production car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016. Thankfully, there are no plans to build it.

Volkswagen T-Cross verdict: 4 stars

Volkswagen T-Cross

If you like how the T-Cross looks, it could be the pint-sized SUV for you. Volkswagen took its time, but the end result is a solid all-rounder that majors on practicality, comfort and connectivity.

It certainly has the edge over the dated Captur, Ecosport and Mokka X. Its in-house Arona and Kamiq rivals, however, are a sterner test. The Volkswagen is the most expensive of the trio, but a more upmarket image (and thus likely stronger residual values) could mean the monthly payments are almost identical.

Us? We’d stick with the Polo, or upgrade to a Golf – still perhaps the most solid all-rounder of all.

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 SE manual: specification

Price: £19,545

Engine: Three cylinder 999cc petrol

Drivetrain: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Wheels: 17 inches

Power: 115hp@5,000 rpm

Torque: 148lb ft@2,000rpm

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Top speed: 120mph

Fuel economy: 57.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 112g/km

Length/width/height: 4,235/1,799/1,584mm

Kerb weight: 1,655kg

Volkswagen T-Cross review: in pictures

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Volkswagen offers a £1,000 ‘thank you’ to van customers

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

As a thank-you for increased in sales in 2018, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is offering up to £1,000 off new vans and trucks.

There are Ts and Cs, mind. The caveat is that you have to be an existing customer, or the family member of an existing customer living at the same address. You must also order your vehicle in the first quarter of 2019, for delivery before the end of June. 

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

So what’s available in the VW Commercial vehicles range, and how much money do you save?

Unfortunately, the £1,000 isn’t a blanket discount across all models. We start at the bottom with the Caddy and Amarok pick-up, which are eligible for £500 off. The Caravelle and California can be had with a £750 discount. And the Transporter and Shuttle (and other derivatives thereof) attract the full £1,000 discount.

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

 

“We are kicking off 2019 with a big ‘thank you’ to our customers for their fantastic support over the years,” said James Douglas, head of sales operations at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

“The loyalty bonus is available across our fantastic range of vehicles. We look forward to welcoming our owners into a Van Centre soon to help them find the perfect vehicle for their business needs and lifestyle.”

Ford and Volkswagen to build pick-ups, vans together – and maybe electric cars

Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger pickup trucksVolkswagen and Ford have announced a global alliance that will lead to the introduction of a new dual-brand pick-up truck in 2022, quickly followed by a commercial van partnership.

The two automotive giants have also committed to explore potential collaborations on electric cars, along with autonomous vehicles and mobility services. Future vehicle collaborations may thus be announced in the future – potentially in a matter of months.

Both companies stressed it is purely an alliance; there is no cross-ownership between the two firms. Savings from the alliance are expected from 2023. 

Volkswagen Transporter

“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said.

“It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess said: “Volkswagen and Ford will harness our collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world.

“At the same time, the alliance will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness.” 

British boon?

2018 Ford Transit Custom

Both the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok pick-ups will be due for replacement around 2022, which is why the first stage of the alliance is timely.

The next step, to develop replacements for the Ford Transit and Volkswagen Transporter, could be a boon for British automotive. In the announcement, it was confirmed Ford will take the lead to build new large commercial vans for European customers.

2019 Volkswagen Caddy

Volkswagen, in turn, will develop a city van for the two firms, replacing the current Volkswagen Caddy (above) and Ford Transit Connect.

The alliance will enable the companies to share development costs, leverage their respective manufacturing capacity, boost the capability and competitiveness of their vehicles and deliver cost efficiencies, while maintaining distinct brand characteristics.

Volkswagen is going to deploy mobile electric car charging stations

VW mobile charge points

VW has opened 2019 with a preview of its new mobile charging solution. It’s another example of how car makers are innovating to solve the challenge of how to eliminate electric car range anxiety for good.

What is it?

In simple terms, it’s a middle ground between having an extra onboard battery and being restricted to hard-wired charge points. Volkswagen’s compromise is essentially a power pack that can be set up almost anywhere.

VW describes it as a ‘flexible charging station’ that can be set up ‘independent of the power supply wherever it is needed’. Think along the lines of a mobile version of Tesla’s power wall – banks of batteries that Volkswagen can deploy wherever it sees fit.

It’s not a be-all solution to what many see as an under-prepared infrastructure. Rather, says VW, a temporary solution that allows electric cars, such as the upcoming ID. range of VW EVs, to charge wherever a charge is needed. Volkswagen cites pop-up events, parking lots and business premises as examples. A service can be deployed and provided quickly and easily, without the fundamental long-term structural changes needed for a permanent charge point.

What’s it made up of?

VW mobile charge points

The MEB (VW Modular Electric Toolkit) battery pack that forms ‘the energetic core of the charging station’ can store up to 360kWh of power and can charge up to 15 cars at once. The MEB is also used in Volkswagen electric cars. Batteries that need exchanging in cars can potentially be re-used in columns in future.

As you’d expect, it’s fully quick-charge capable. Up to 28kWh can be delivered in as little as 17 minutes – that’s 80 percent of the charge capacity of the current e-Golf. The power pack can be plugged in so that it doesn’t run down. If it is sat independent of mains power, the stations that get to less than 20 percent are to be exchanged for a charged one.

A temporary approach doesn’t mean you’ll be hard pressed to find one, however. You’ll be able to use apps to find your nearest VW charging station.

Other advantages of the charging stations? They’re capable of connecting directly to renewable sources of energy. Generating wind or solar power? You can store it in a Volkswagen mobile charge point. Say goodbye to dirty coal-made electricity and hello to genuinely carbon-neutral electric automotive power, potentially…

When can we expect to see them?

VW has no intention of slacking on this. The first mobile quick charging stations are to be deployed locally in Germany in the first half of this year as a pilot, before expanding to other locations in 2020.

Thomas Schmalz, Chairman of the Board of management of Volkswagen Group Components, highlights the long-term usefulness of the project. As well as plugging gaps in the infrastructure today, suitable points for permanent charging locations can be mooted for tomorrow.

VW mobile charge points

“Cities can, for example, find out the most suitable places for a permanent charging point before making major investments in developing the network.

“In addition, it will be possible to set up a large number of charging stations temporarily – exactly when and where they are needed”.

All in all, it sounds like a great temporary solution as well as a way to prepare for a more hard-wired electric car future.

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New Beeetle

Will we all want a Volkswagen Beetle when it’s gone?

BeetleWe all want what we can’t have. At least, that’s what eBay reckons when it comes to the soon-to-be-discontinued Volkswagen Beetle.

We reported last week on VW’s plans to put the slow-selling Beetle out to pasture – and how the company would remain open to bringing back a new model if demand was sufficient. With that in mind, eBay is now predicting a last mad dash for remaining stock, as well as second-hand examples.

It’s not without precedent; similar situations cropped up during the many times Dodge tried to kill the Viper.

The Beetle’s death-knell has been ringing for some time. Volkswagen confirmed that both the Beetle and Scirocco would not be replaced in March of 2018. Meanwhile eBay reported that 19 Beetles were sold per hour in the three months preceding the announcement last week (September 2018). 

Indeed, since the news of the current car being discontinued, an inordinate amount of attention has been bestowed upon a model that enjoyed very little limelight prior to its death. We can thank the fame of the Beetle name for that.

The Motoring Research view

Of all the retro remakes, the Beetle has had a really tough time. Retreading and reinterpreting styling tropes from the past has almost always equated to a licence to print money, but not here.

The Beetle, however, beyond 2003 at least, never really made it happen. It was very much the fad that detractors dismiss these sorts of cars as. Especially following the relaunch of the model in 2011, sales figures in comparison to other retro-themed cars have been poor to say the least.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, though. The Beetle might not be anywhere near the boutique darling the 500 and Mini have grown to be, but perhaps, like the original, it could find latter-day popularity. Time will tell.

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Volkswagen Golf Mk3 A59 Rallye, prototype, 1993

Rare, exotic and unseen Volkswagens due at 2018 Classic Days Germany

Volkswagen Golf Mk3 A59 Rallye, prototype, 1993

It’s always a rare treat when a manufacturer opens its storage to reveal quirky perfectly-preserved and sometimes hitherto secret machines from its past. Volkswagen is the latest brand cracking open its vaults, if only a bit, to let out some gems for the Classic Days festival to be held at Schloss Dyck in Jüchen from 3 to 5 August.

Six cars have been selected to be brought out for the show – with two rare racing Golf prototypes heading the roster. Take your pick between a Mk3 A59 ‘Rallye’ prototype and the mad twin-engined Mk2 ‘Pikes Peak’.

The Mk3 ‘Rallye’ was a commission from Volkswagen Motorsport back in 1993 and features a 275hp engine. It’s just undergone a serious restoration and is in full working order.

The ‘Pikes Peak’ Mk2, meanwhile, was entered into that year’s running of the famous hillclimb event. Its combined twin-engined output is a heady 652hp – in a Golf! Sochi Kleint – the man to take it up America’s mountain in ’87 – will be reunited with it at the event.

Incidentally, it won’t be the fastest or most famous Pikes Peak racer at the event, with VW wheeling out the incredible record-holding I.D. R for the event.

Also joining the rabid Golfs is an altogether different prototype – a classic and elegant Type 3 convertible.

As for the production cars, don’t assume they’re mundane alternatives. The very rare and exotic SP2 coupe leads the production trio, with a convertible 1303 Beetle and a ‘Yellow and Black Racer’ GSR Beetle joining it.

The SP2 is an exotic South American slice of VW’s past, with the sloped rear-engined coupe being manufactured and sold exclusively in that region, making it a rare sight indeed on European shores.

The GSR was the original ‘hot but not’ people’s car. Not particularly heavily endowed but with aesthetic attitude thanks to the bright yellow paint with matte accents – the R-Line of 1973.

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Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR

Race-bred Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR revealed

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRVolkswagen has unveiled its new flagship Golf GTI at the Wörthersee festival in Austria. Presented in ‘near production-ready’ form, the GTI TCR uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine delivering 290hp to its front wheels via a dual-clutch gearbox. Top speed is 164mph with the electronic limiter removed.

The TCR is the road-going version of VW’s 350hp Golf TCR racer. A redesigned front bumper and splitter feeds air to two extra radiators, while the rear boasts a larger roof spoiler and aggressive diffuser housing twin tailpipes. A new colour, Pure Grey, is available exclusively for this special edition.

That 290hp output – developed at 5,000-6,800rpm – comfortably outguns the 245hp Golf GTI Performance and isn’t far behind the 310hp, 4WD Golf R. It’s also snaps at the heels of the 310hp GTI Clubsport S from 2016 – the car that broke the front-wheel-drive Nürburgring lap record. Maximum torque of 273lb ft arrives at 1,600rpm.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR

The GTI rides on forged 18-inch alloys, with beefed-up brakes and a locking front differential. A stainless steel exhaust is standard, although many buyers will doubtless choose the (optional) titanium system from Akrapovič.

Inside, the TCR has hip-hugging sports seats, a racing-style ‘12 o’clock’ marker on the steering wheel and (oh yes…) go-faster stripes on the seatbelts. You’ll also spot illuminated TCR logos on the sills and projected onto the road surface when you open the door.

If you want the full-whack 164mph – standard VMax is 155mph – the limiter is removed as part of a special package that also includes 19-inch wheels, 20mm-lower suspension and Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). The latter allows the driver to switch the electronic dampers between three levels of stiffness.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR

It’s not yet known whether the TCR will, in future, be offered with a manual gearbox, nor indeed how much it will cost. As a guideline, the Golf GTI Performance lists at £29,820, while the Golf R is £32,850 – so expect something between the two. Whatever the final price and spec, future classic status is assured.

Volkswagen has a history of using Wörthersee – the world’s biggest festival for VW cars and culture – to reveal show-stopping concepts. Read on to revisit the highlights from previous years.

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2013 Volkswagen Design Vision GTI

The wildest Wörthersee concept of all debuted in 2013. Looking like a Mk7 Golf after six months on steroids, the Design Vision GTI packed a 503hp 3.0-litre V6, semi-auto DSG gearbox and four-wheel drive. It blitzed to 62mph in 3.9 seconds and hit 186mph flat-out. Huge 20-inch alloys housed ceramic brake discs, allowing this uber-GTI to “eat up any race track”.

Inside, there was a rollcage in lieu of rear seats, plus lightweight fabric door pulls inspired by RS Porsches. Fittingly, it was painted white (‘White Club’), a colour popularised by the Mk5 Golf GTI.

2014 Volkswagen GTI Roadster

Volkswagen GTI Roadster

This 2014 concept used the same 503hp V6 as the Design Vision GTI, but could scarcely have looked more different. Its full title was ‘Volkswagen GTI Roadster Vision Gran Turismo’ – a nod to its appearance in the popular Playstation game. 

Reimagining the Golf GTI as a hedonistic sports car, the Roadster had a chopped, speedster-style windscreen, upwards-opening doors and a huge rear wing. Its design was the result of an in-house competition and the car debuted ‘virtually’ in Gran Turismo three days before it was revealed at Wörthersee. Its colour, Tornado Red, is another classic GTI hue. 

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

Volkswagen had two surprises for fans in 2015. The first, the Golf GTI Clubsport, was a special edition to mark 40 years of the GTI the following year. With 265hp – or 290hp for limited periods on overboost – it was also the most powerful Golf GTI to date. Zero to 62mph took 6.3 seconds and top speed was 155mph.

A bespoke suspension set-up, trick front differential and downforce-inducing rear diffuser ensured the Clubsport wasn’t merely quick in a straight line. Inside, it boasted lashings of Alcantara trim, plus optional hip-hugging bucket seats.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTE Sport

VW’s second show car for 2015 was rather more radical. In its own words: “the Golf GTE Sport transfers the Volkswagen GT tradition into tomorrow’s world”. The carbon-bodied hot hatch was a plug-in hybrid, its 300hp petrol engine supported by two electric motors. Total output was 400hp: good for 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds and 174mph.

Lift up the scissor doors and the GTE Sport’s interior was even more futuristic. A central spar divides the cabin in two, with minimal instrumentation and a steering wheel that resembles a gaming joypad. Sadly, this one never made production.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S

On the 40th anniversary of the GTI, Volkswagen treated Wörthersee worshippers to the Clubsport S. Displayed alongside all seven generations of GTI, this 310hp crazy Golf had the number ’07:49:21′ emblazoned across its bonnet – its record breaking Nürburgring lap-time. 

Just 400 examples of the GTI Clubsport S were built – a sizeable 150 of which came to the UK. The car had an aluminium front subframe, no rear seats and wore track-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The 0-62mph sprint was quoted as 5.8 seconds, while top speed is TCR-topping 165mph.

2017 Volkswagen Up GTI

Look familiar? This is the Up GTI concept, revealed at Wörthersee in 2017, but the production car – now on sale – looks very similar. Amazingly, this smallest of VW hot hatches is around the same size as the original Mk1 Golf GTI. A 115hp output from its 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine is near-identical, too (0-62mph in 8.8sec, 122mph).

The Up’s styling borrows much from its Golf GTI big brother, including trademark red go-faster stripes and ‘Clark’ tartan seat trim. At the time of writing, prices start from £13,750, making this pocket rocket a bit of a bargain.

2017 Volkswagen Golf GTE Performance

Volkswagen Golf GTE Performance

Another highlight last year was the world premiere of the Golf GTE Performance Concept. This turned up the wick on Volkwagen’s plug-in hybrid Golf GTE, raising output from 204hp to 272hp. The added oomph was complemented by bigger brakes, a wider track and the roof spoiler from the GTI Clubsport S, plus some rather natty graphics.  

Is this the future for the Golf GTI? Time will tell. One thing is for sure: Volkswagen has plenty of surprises in store for Wörthersee yet. Click through our gallery below for more photos of all the cars featured here.

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Volkswagen Lupo GTI vs. Polo GTI

Pocket rockets: Volkswagen Up GTI vs. retro Lupo GTI

The VW Up GTI is finally here. We drive it back-to-back with the much-loved Lupo GTI in this first UK test.