What is it?
The most powerful road going Volkswagen Polo ever – the limited edition R WRC.
As its name suggests, the Polo R WRC has been created to homologate the German car maker’s Polo-based World Rally Championship contender, which has already racked up five victories this year at the hands of Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala.
As specified by FIA regulations, 2500 examples of the new three door-only hot hatch are planned to be assembled alongside more sedate Polo models at Volkswagen’s Navarra plant in Spain, with orders already totaling 600 — even before the first customer deliveries.
Similarities between the road car and competition machine are few. Still, there’s enough here to suggest the Polo R WRC could mount a serious challenge to the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST, Renault Clio RS and Peugeot 208 GTi.
Power for the hottest production Polo yet comes courtesy of a turbocharged 2.0-litre version of the Volkswagen Group’s EA113 four-cylinder direct-injection engine – essentially the same unit used in the last generation Golf GTi. It produces 217bhp on a band of revs stretching from 4500rpm to 6300rpm and 258lb ft of torque on tap between 2500 and 4400rpm – all of which is channelled through a standard six-speed manual gearbox.
This provides the Polo R WRC with 40bhp and 74lb ft more than the existing Polo GTI whose turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol unit from Volkswagen’s EA211 engine family, delivers 177bhp and 184lb ft. It also packs 20bhp and 43lb ft more than the turbocharged 1.6-litre direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine that powers the Fiesta ST-2.
Despite the ramp up in reserves, Volkswagen has resisted the temptation to provide the Polo R WRC with a Haldex-style multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system. Such an arrangement has been developed by daughter company Audi for the limited-volume S1 Quattro – a car which shares its Volkswagen Group PQ25 platform structure with the Polo. But it retains front-wheel drive in the interests of weight saving, development costs and pricing.
Underneath, there’s a lightly modified version of the Polo GTI’s MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension, which retains the same 1445mm front and 1435mm rear tracks but supports larger 18-inch alloy wheels shod with lower profile 215/35 R18 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres as standard. The steering, an electro-mechanical system, has also been brought over from the Polo GTI with the same ratio.
The stylistic changes over lesser three-door Polo models are not quite as dramatic as you might expect from a car conceived to bring a dose of rally excitement to the road. But this is Volkswagen, and unlike some compact hot hatch rivals, it is rarely prepared to go to extremes when it comes to appearance of production models, even one that is built in such low volumes as its latest R model.
Apart from those rather appealing 18-inch alloys, you get special WRC livery, bi-xenon headlamps, deeper front bumper with integral splitter element and enlarged air ducts to increase cooling efficiency, black exterior mirror housings, a spoiler atop the tailgate and a new rear bumper boasting a diffuser-style optic to its lower section that houses twin chrome tailpipes.
Inside, the Polo R WRC receives an expensive-looking flat bottom steering wheel and WRC-badged sport seats – both with Alcantara and featuring blue stitching, R-line themed instruments with blue coloured needles, metal pedals and a black roof lining. It’s a high quality driving environment, offering loads of lateral support and fittingly sporty ambiance.