What is it?
It's powered by a transversely mounted turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and four-wheel-drive mechanical package, and forms part of a range of secret new models that are being put through their paces by company officials in an annual winter test drive programme.
Read our comprehensive review of the Volkswagen Polo supermini
Significantly more advanced than the front-wheel-drive Polo R WRC that was launched on the back of Volkswagen’s entry into the World Rally Championship early last year, the Polo R prototype shares just about everything except its steel body and interior fittings with the Audi A1-based S1, which is due to make its public debut at the Geneva motor show in early March.
The two German superminis have been developed alongside each other in a joint engineering program, with the aim of providing added performance flavour at the lower end of both the Volkswagen and Audi line-ups.
At the heart of the new car is Volkswagen’s EA888 engine. Exact details remain scarce, although engineering sources close to Audi technical boss Ulrich Hackenberg suggest the blown four-pot petrol unit has been tuned to deliver in the region of 250bhp. VW officials also hint that around 258lb ft of torque is available.
Drive on the prototype is sent through a six-speed dual clutch gearbox and an electro-mechanical multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system. Its inclusion has necessitated a complete rework of the rear suspension, with a new multi-link arrangement replacing the standard torsion beam set-up.
The idea is to provide the planned road car with a mechanical package that more closely resembles that of the Polo WRC rally car. The links are tenuous at best, given that the rally car is largely bespoke, but the intent to give the Polo a more sporting flavour through the efforts of Volkswagen’s increasingly active R division are to be applauded.