28 March 2005

By far the most extreme of Volkswagen’s new models is an exciting showroom version of the Concept R show car, likely to be launched as a Roadster and Coupé. Early concerns that the sexy two- seater, styled under the guidance of Murat Gunak (whose credits include the Mercedes-Benz SLK) would be too complex and expensive to put into production were recently laid to rest by VW chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder. He told Autocar’s German sister publication Auto Motor und Sport that ‘the roadster will be built,’ and also hinted it would retain a mid-rear mounted engine. ‘Pedestrian regulations are extremely difficult to comply with using a transversely-mounted engine at the front,’ he said.

The basis for the new car, which has been conceived as a rival to the ageing MG TF and new Mazda MX-5, is a specially adapted rear-wheel-drive platform that uses a combination of components from the Polo’s PQ24 and Golf’s PQ35 structures. Engines should include naturally-aspirated and turbocharged versions of Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder and the new 3.6-litre V6, with power channelled through either a six-speed manual or optional DSG gearbox.

While the styling is likely to closely resemble that of the roadster show car, expect the heavy folding hard-top roof to make way for a lighter and cheaper cloth arrangement. According to Wolfsburg sources, the coupé is being discussed but has not yet been signed off. Very much in the mould of the forthcoming Porsche Cayman, with greater body stiffness and more stowage space than its roadster cousin, it would be perfect to help Volkswagen throw off its conservative image.

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