Volkswagen is lining up a hardcore performance version of its Polo to back up its assault on the World Rally Championship, details of which were officially confirmed last week.
The German manufacturer has previously shied away from allowing its performance division, R GmbH, to develop an extreme version of its small hatchback, saying that it was struggling to make the business case for an ultra-fast, ultra-expensive small car.
But the rally car mock-up revealed at the launch carried heavy amounts of R branding and is being labelled the ‘Polo R WRC’ by Volkswagen.
Speaking to Autocar, VW board member Ulrich Hackenberg admitted that the WRC campaign — which is based around the Polo and will start in 2013 — would make a variant beyond the current GTI “more likely”.
He said: “You can see how the World Rally Championship programme would increase the probability of an R version of the base model [Polo].” When asked for a timeframe, he said: “It is with the rally programme, not before it. I can’t give a precise date, but it’s along those lines.”
That means a Polo R is due, but it is unlikely to go on sale until 2013 at the earliest. The rally programme will have a car ready to test before the end of this year. But it won’t make its competitive debut until 2013.
The hot Polo is likely to use a further development of the Volkswagen Group’s 1.4-litre, turbocharged and supercharged motor. Volkswagen has cited the new WRC rules, based on smaller engines, as a major factor in its decision to enter the series because of their close links to production models.
The Polo R’s version of the motor is likely to produce considerably more than the GTI’s 177bhp. Expect a figure north of 200bhp. Four-wheel drive is unlikely, although the car could use the same system as Audi’s forthcoming S1, helping to justify the development costs of making the set-up work on that platform.