From £25,8459
Outrageously entertaining 500bhp, four-wheel-drive show car offers some pointers to the future for VW's iconic Golf GTI

What is it?

This is a Volkswagen Golf GTI like no other. Conceived by Volkswagen’s engineers and designers for the Wörthersee tuning festival held in Reifntiz, Austria in the summer, this just-for-show mega hatch packs almost 500bhp and can cover 0-62mph in a supercar-baiting 3.9secs as it sends its prodigious power to all four wheels.

Under the race-inspired Design Vision GTI’s craziness is Volkswagen Group’s clever MQB small car platform. The wheelbase remains the same as the standard Golf GTI that’s built on MQB, but the other dimensions have been tweaked.

The show car is 15mm shorter, at 4253mm, because it has a more compact rear end. The Design Vision GTI is 1385mm high, some 57mm lower than its sister, thanks to a lowered roof and suspension. It is also significantly broader at 1870mm instead of 1799mm. This has enabled the track widths to be pushed out to 1595mm (a 57mm increase) at the front and 1579mm (a 63mm increase) at the rear.

Volkswagen hasn’t revealed how much the car weighs, but it is clad mainly in plastic panels, and has the rear seats removed, a stripped-down cabin and none of the niceties like insulation and soundproofing that production cars have.

Under the bonnet, in place of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot found in the conventional GTI, the Design Vision has a three-litre, twin-turbocharged VR6. The engine produces maximum power of 496bhp at 6500rpm and maximum torque of 413lb ft between 4000 and 6000rpm, distributed to the front and rear wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and the Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system found in the VW Golf 4Motion.

The new powerplant is also featured in the CrossBlue Coupé SUV concept, albeit in a less outrageous state of tune, and is also reportedly planned for use in the future Passat replacement.

What's it like?

Volkswagen stresses that the Design Vision GTI is a show car and hasn’t been tuned for dynamic perfection. Nevertheless our short test on a temporary course in Los Angeles offered hints as to how grin-inducing this vehicle could be if it were ever developed into a production car.

For a start, it looks stunning, taking VW’s GTI philosophy and turning all the dials up to eleven. The car’s exterior designer, Andreas Mindt, told us that the styling draws cues from several generations of Golf GTI, as well as pointing to what we can expect from future generations of the iconic hot hatch. The wider track and lower roof give it a muscular and sinister appearance.

Like a modern racing car, the Design Vision’s cabin is pared-back to the essential controls and features carbonfibre-effect finishing and Alcantara.

There’s a TFT LCD instrument display, although it wasn’t working during our drive, and a large screen on the centre console that can be configured to show a circuit map and supply lap time information. In place of regular internal door pulls there are red fabric loops, a nod to the Porsche Cup racing car.

On the other hand, conventional indicator and light stalks, an electric parking brake and climate control dials are reminders of the Design Vision GTI’s road car roots. 

Behind the driver’s seat, where you’d normally find the rear seats, is a cross member, which has increased the body stiffness. There are also two black crash helmets stored behind the cross member, where the boot would be.

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The steering wheel, equipped with DSG gearshift paddles, features one switch and one button. The switch toggles between three driving modes – Street, Sport and Track – which progressively stiffen the damping and beef up the engine mapping.

The other button beckons the VR6 engine into life, and it isn’t long before the Design Vision GTI’s party piece makes itself known.

It burbles along obediently until you give the throttle an inquisitive squeeze. There’s very slight pause, as if somewhere deep in the bowels of the engine a blue touch paper is being lit, before all hell breaks loose. The engine’s friendly burble turns into a cacophonous bark, and the VW rockets forward with a tremendous surge of traction.

Sensory overload ensues. The power pushes you deeper into the firm sports seat. The engine whoomps and bangs like a WRC car at flat-chat through a forest. Lifting off the accelerator prompts an equally delightful array of chirrups from the turbos. It is impossible to drive without a broad grin across your face.

Even at the modest speeds we reached – the car is a priceless one-off, remember, and even applying full steering lock wasn’t allowed – it is terrific fun and surprisingly forgiving. We left the car in ‘Track’ mode for the duration of our test drive, but even in this most focused mode, and on pock-marked, uneven asphalt, the Design Vision GTI rides commendably for a stiffened vehicle running on 20in wheels and tyres. 

However, larger bumps do highlight a brittleness that is a reminder of the fact that the Design Vision is a not-completely-resolved concept rather than a fully developed production vehicle.

One aspect of the car that ‘Track’ mode doesn’t alter is the steering. Borrowed straight from the regular Golf GTI, it feels very light and somewhat at odds with the monstrous performance and race-inspired feel of this über-Golf. Understandable, though, given that the Design Vision GTI was designed to grace motor show car stands, not a racetrack.

Should I buy one?

If, by some barely credible stretch of reality, words such as ‘anaemic’ and ‘toothless’ pop into your mind when you’re flinging your still-new Golf GTI MkVII along a B-road, then you’re the sort of person who could accommodate a car like the Golf Design Vision GTI in your life.

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The sticking point, of course, is that it isn’t going to reach production. The Design Vision GTI exists purely to highlight the design and performance extremes to which cars produced on the MQB platform could be stretched.

The closest we will come to buying this ‘Super GTI’ will be when some of its striking design features are incorporated into future evolutions of the Golf GTI, and when that delicious V6 engine finds its way into future VW Group vehicles.

Volkswagen Golf Design Vision GTI

Price na 0-62mph 3.9sec Top speed 186mph Economy na CO2 na Kerb weight na Engine VR6, twin-turbo, petrol Power 496bhp at 6500rpm Torque 413lb ft at 4000-6000rpm Gearbox 6-spd dual clutch auto

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Flatus senex 30 November 2013

Why give this a star rating?

It is not going to be produced for heaven's sake! Unlike 99% of VW products it is an interesting shape. Just leave it at that. (I see star rating has now been removed. Thanks for this)
Flatus senex 30 November 2013

So VW can do "interesting"

If they can be bothered. Also if the customers can recognise flair when they see it
warren_S3 26 November 2013

Other than the black fins...

... I don't mind this, but it looks more like how the Rocco should have looked than a Golf. Problem with the Golf being so iconic, VW don't seem to want to put a 'concept' on any other platform (remember the 650 Golf from a few years back). I find the new batch of VW / Audi's quite bland, and whilst I really don't want black fins on every corner of the car, there is something refreshing about the design DNA which gets me more excited than most of the tedious boxes on the average VW dealership forecourt. Engine certainly looks promising.