Volkswagen's design team in Santa Monica, California, headed by Derek Jenkins, was given the task of creating a concept GTI that infused futuristic design elements with the GTI's traditional 'sportiness.' So the idea of the R GTI was born and subsequently unveiled at SEMA 2006.

VW's desire for greater power output was fulfilled by APR, an Alabama-based VAG tuner, in the form of a stage three large turbo upgrade. The install begins with the standard 2.0T FSI engine being stripped of its airbox, intake plumbing, turbocharger assembly, fuel system, and complete stock exhaust. The APR turbo kit consists of an Inconel exhaust manifold and a larger Garrett ball-bearing turbocharger with twice the flow capacity of the stock turbo. The kit replaces all the pressure-side plumbing with high-strength silicon hosing. A large diameter, cast-aluminum, black powder-coated MAF/intake and cold air intake pipe feed the big turbo all the cool breeze it needs. The turbo discharges boost to the larger, front-mounted intercooler, which then delivers it to the engine.

The upgrade also includes a modified three-inch APR stainless steel turbo-back exhaust system with a high-flow metallic catalytic converter to ensure efficient flow-through. The turbo kit runs a peak boost of 21 psi and, when coupled with a turbo-back exhaust, produces 356 peak hp and 300 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm.

To make sure this new-found horsepower and torque reaches the ground, the factory clutch (which can take about 270 hp) has been upgraded. Installing the clutch provided a good opportunity to replace the factory differential with one more suited to racing. The Quaife differential is an obvious choice. When accelerating out of a corner, the standard differential, during wheelspin, will shift power to the wheel with less grip. The Quaife limited-slip differential does just the opposite. It will send power to the wheel with better grip. This system provides additional benefits in straight-line performance, as it allows a 50/50 split to both driven wheels and reducing torque steer.

Once the car posted a zero to 60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, a more advanced brake system was deemed necessary. The factory front rotors have been replaced with a set of 312.9-inch two-piece floating cross-drilled rotors with Brembo four-pot calipers custom painted in the colors of the German flag. For balanced braking, the factory rears have been updated with an OEM MkV R32 12.2-inch rear brake kit with matching drilled rotors and color-matched calipers.

The H&R RSS Clubsport ('Nrburgring set-up') coilover kit replaces the factory suspension. The downside to this aggressive street kit is diminished ride quality. To further decrease body roll and increase lateral stiffness, a pair of H&R shot peened and heat-treated 50CrV4 spring steel anti-roll bars have been installed. The front 26mm and rear 24mm anti-roll bars feature forged adjustable ends and urethane/Teflon composite bushings to ensure squeak-free operation.

To make use of the 10mm wider front carbon fiber fenders, the R GTI is fitted with a set of specially constructed 'hexagonal-inspired' 9x19-inch aluminum alloy wheels. These unique custom-made wheels were designed with Jenkins' lightweight theme in mind. The reduced mass helps minimize unsprung weight, improving ride quality and cornering. To avoid any rubbing issues with the 265/30 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, the wheels were machined with special offsets: et 40.5 in the front and et 55.5 in the rear. The benefits of the R GTI's reduced weight and wider track width are obvious when comparing it to a vehicle with similar modifications. The R GTI is able to navigate the road course faster and clock off quicker zero to 60 mph times.

For new body panels, carbon fiber is employed throughout the vehicle with a purpose beyond decoration. OSIR Design's expertise in hand-laid carbon fiber was employed to fabricate the front fenders, hood, side skirts, rear hatch, roof spoiler, interior belt line trim, and even the rear-view mirrors. The front seats were replaced with R32 Recaros reupholstered in black leather and accented by red stitching. To keep weight down, the stock rear seats were scrapped and replaced by a single carbon fiber piece with two molded bucket seats. Jenkins included a custom aluminum billet shift knob with a Price Is Right-type wheel inscribed with the R GTI logo that can be spun by the driver's thumb. The R GTI's exterior finish is a combination of glistening black paint and carbon fiber with flat black stealth graphics mimicking the hexagonal pattern found on the grille.

The large grille opening is framed in carbon fiber, features an abstract variation of the GTI hexagonal mesh, and is inlaid with the famous red GTI grille stripe. At both sides, the front bumper supports side vents containing Cibie LED foglamps, and the array is tied together with a lower carbon fiber lip spoiler. The rear bumper is completely redesigned and features a lower carbon fiber diffuser that incorporates the center-mounted twin exhaust tips.

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