Volkswagen ended its WRC program on a high note after capturing its fourth consecutive title in 2016. Even then, that didn't make it easier for anyone to cope with parting w parting way ays with the team's world-beating Polo racer. In efforts to rekindle that success of old, VW will build a limited run of the 270 horsepower, AWD, rally-spec R5 GTI which was unmasked on Monday.
Prior to its reveal, the hopped-up Polo was spied testing on asphalt and gravel in the south of France, foreshadowing its imminent unveiling. In preparation for its WRC 2 debut next season, Volkswagen and team driver Dieter Depping have undergone a host of tweaks to the car's mechanicals, resulting in a series of rewarding runs throughout Europe.
“A successful first test is a good sign and great motivation,” Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets said. “After many hours and weeks spent working on our latest customer racing project on the computer, in the design process and in the workshop, the Polo GTI R5 can now finally show what it is capable of out on the road, and we can gain valuable data for the further development of the car.”
For its production-spec reveal, Volkswagen dressed the R5 GTI in full race livery to complement its flared bodywork and dedicated rally kit. Permanent four-wheel drive works in tandem with the car's close-stepped five-speed sequential gearbox, enabling a 0-60 MPH time of 4.1 seconds. Power is sent to the drivetrain via a transversely mounted TSI four-cylinder engine that produces 200 kW (272 hp) and nearly 300 lb. ft. of torque, plenty for this lightweight on back country roads.
VW claims a close resemblance to the Polo GTI road car sold across the pond. The two do share a 1.8L powerplant, though it produces 83 more horsepower in R5 trim. The rally car's steel-frame construction does shave some weight as well, but styling cues between the two are clear.
“Presenting the new Polo GTI R5 to the public was a magnificent moment,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “The close relationship to the road-going Polo GTI is unmistakable. In the rally Polo, the GTI family has another spectacular ambassador." He continued, "Over the coming months, the Polo GTI R5 must prove itself in a series of tough scenarios, in order to ensure that it can build on the success of its predecessor in the customers’ hands.”
It's all part of Volkswagen's initiative to return to official rally competition, albeit indirectly through privateer entrants. Teams will still be provided with support from the German manufacturer, and by incorporating its know-how from years past, expect an especially strong comeback in 2018.