Luckily, these VWs were equipped with 4MOTION drivelines, a system built specifically for this kind of environment. Although I was prepared for an Audi-like experience, these cars have a more visceral feel, more raw if you will. And unlike a standard R32, the propensity to oversteer seem greatly reduced. No, I did not throw these bad boys slideways at 100 mph but I've driven enough cars to quickly shakedown their character. Ultimately, these Volkswagens offered a singular driving experience, a mixture of both the best front-hookers and the vaunted Sport Quattro of yore.
HPA's association with KW Suspension yielded underpinnings some 35%-40% firmer than the factory rates. Cornering on the Passat and Jetta is flat and precise and allows you to carry intense speeds. My approach was "fast in, apply brakes, slide a bit and power out." Not exactly the ideal method but given the huge power on tap, I looked like a star.
The Touareg required a different take as its weight came into play. Forty-two hundred pounds approaching a 90-degree corner at 80 mph caused some concern. I pretty much hit the binders full-tilt, made a complete stop, turned and gunned it. The brakes are impressive as the engine-both offer huge returns and are above mere mortals. Walter Rohrl needs to drive this car. He would know what to do. I'd bring four friends and take notes while they played the PSPs and scrolled through the integrated iPods.
Although each car made more than 400 bhp, the designers paid attention to unsprung weight.
"We contracted AVUS to build these forged wheels," said Abeng Halim, a senior VW designer. "They went from blanks to what you see now in less than three weeks. I'd like to put a set on my Eurovan."
As it turns out, Halim is a fellow Eurovan owner, and like me he fitted his car with larger wheels and performance rubber. Abeng went with 20s... what a wildman. Apparently, Eurovan owners are a fairly tight-knit group. During a recent VW-sponsored consumer clinic, 20 people were thrown into a room, all of them unaware of who the others were. The term "Eurovan" came up and bonds were instantly forged.
"These folks had no idea who the other people were and yet they had this unusual but strong bond. We find that interesting," Halim said.
As stated above, Volkswagen is something like family to us. Apparently we're not the only ones who feel this way. Let us hope the family album grows more exciting in the coming years.
VW Jetta R GTThis 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.