This street-and-track special is a stunning example of transforming base metal into a precious alloy. Once it was a standard 2005 Jetta with 2.5-liter engine, six-speed automatic gearbox and front-wheel drive, but now that it's been blessed with a highly massaged 550-bhp, twin-turbocharged, European-spec R32 powertrain, modified twin-clutch DSG transmission and VW's 4MOTION all-wheel drive, all wrapped by aggressively contoured bodywork that looks at home on the street or track, it demanded a new badge. Inspired by the success of the R32, the R GT nomenclature stands for the ultimate expression of Volkswagen's core quality: fun to drive.

Chief designer Derek Jenkins said he wanted to bring European authenticity to the project, where each enhancement would be tied directly to a more involving, more dynamic driving experience, where "bling" would be used only in creation of a bigger bang. Painted a smoke gray with silver "ghost" graphics, the Jetta R GT was purposely subdued in hue, leaving it up to the car's forms to suggest its function. Screaming graphics or computer-generated riots of color would have been inappropriate to the R GT's spectacular technology. Even though it's far more aggressive looking with the new front and rear bumper fascias, side rocker panels, rear spoiler and muscular fender flares, the race-ready design speaks volumes about the car's capabilities without being shrill.

Jetta R GT crouches on huge 9.5x19 custom-built forged aluminum modular Avus wheels with DTM-style center locks, wrapped by 265/30-19 Michelin Pilot Sport 2 ultra-performance radials--and that's just in street trim. When the Jetta arrives at the track, the integrated AP Racing air jacks can be deployed to quickly mount race wheels and rubber: 9.5x19-inch. Avus DTM-spec center lockers and 265/30-18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup competition radials. Continuing the theme of a car that bridges the gap between street and track, the team fit a KW three-way-adjustable FIA Competition race suspension and huge Brembo racing brakes. The fronts are comprised of WRC tarmac-spec, one-piece-billet, eight-piston calipers with 380x32mm rotors; the rears are four-piston calipers gripping 330x32mm rotors.

The completely redone interior was also designed for cruising or competition, though its four R32 Recaro race buckets, six-point integrated roll cage, Stack F1-style ST8600 digital display and Schroth Profi II ASM harnesses suggest where the car would feel most at home. Black leather, black Alcantara and matte carbon-fiber trim form handsome interior complements to the nondescript yet elegant grays of the car's exterior.

Despite the extensive modifications, the Jetta R GT was designed to operate just like a standard production Volkswagen. As HPA's Marcel Horn pointed out, VW's narrow-angle V6 is an excellent and robust basis for performance tuning, and even when tuned to the extreme is a comfortable everyday runner as well as a formidable weekend warrior. In the Jetta R GT, the engine has been modified with dual Garrett GT25R ball-bearing-based turbos, which feature proprietary HGP integrated exhaust manifolds and turbine housings. The fuel system was upgraded to slake the system's thirst for 100-octane gasoline, and though little needed to be done to engine internals to accommodate the increased output (stronger con-rod bearings were about it), much was done to optimize airflow and cooling, including a cast aluminum short runner intake manifold, dual 3.0-inch (70mm) ceramic-coasted downpipes, dual air-to-air intercoolers and a quad bypass exhaust system that retains the stock catalytic converters. Because the standard DSG transmission could not safely withstand the Jetta R GT's massive increase in torque (VW puts DSG's limits at 300 bhp and 350 Nm of torque), HPA worked closely with Volkswagen's engineers to develop a one-off gearbox that allows all the engine's power to reach the four wheels. It was also tuned for lengthened gears and sportier shifts.

Marcel Horn says the Jetta R GT should be able to reach 60 mph from a dead stop in less than four seconds. Aided by 4MOTION traction and rapid-fire shifts from the DSG gearbox, it is a singular experience. The best analogy would be that of a Touring Car with the most world's nicest cockpit.

By Andrew Walker
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