Volkswagen has signalled its clear intent to take on the most powerful of today’smega-hatches with a spectacular new 395bh pGolf called the R400. Unveiled in what is officially a concept car format the Beijing motor show, the new über-Golf has been developed by Volkswagen’s R division in a programme aimed at both showcasing its engineering prowess and highlighting its range of customisation possibilities. The rapid new three-door hatchback is the latest in a long line of Golf concepts. It is based around the mechanical package of the recently introduced Golf R in a move that aims the R400 squarely at the likes of the Mercedes- Benz A45 AMG, BMWM 235i and the upcoming second generation Audi RS3. The Golf R400 runs a higher-powered version of the latest Golf R’s turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, which is known internallyas the EA888. Its engineering has been overseen by Volkswagen’s head of petrol engine development, Fritz Eichler — the man who was behind the similarly configured unit used in the most powerful of the existing crop of megahatches, the A45 AMG. With 395bhpat 7200rpm and 332lb ft of torque between 2000 rpm and 6000 rpm, the heavily tuned four-pot packs a significant 99bhp and 52lb ft more than the already potent Golf R. By comparison, the A45 produces 355bhpat 6000 rpm and an identical 332lb ft on a slightly narrower band of revs between 2250 rpm and 5000 rpm. The EA888 was also showcased in Audi’s TT Quattro Sport concept at the Geneva motor show in March with an output of 414bhp and 332lb ft.
To maximise the sledgehammer performance potential of its engine, Volkswagen’s latest concept employs a six-speed manual gearbox and the latest version of Volkswagen’s multi plate-clutch 4Motion four-wheel drive system. This combination, too, has been taken fromthe Golf R, which also offers the option of a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The electro mechanical 4Motion system continuously alters the amount of drive sent to the front and rear axles.Up to 100 per cent of the formidable reserves can be channelled to either end, depending on prevailing levels of traction. It operates in combination with Volkswagen’s EDS and XDS+ electronic differential locks. These form part of the Golf R400’smulti-function ESP system,which also features a Sport function to dial back the intervention of the electronics when driving conditions permit. The R400’s body is based on that of the three door Golf R, with which it shares its hot-formed steel floorpan and elements of its bodyshell. Despite early rumours suggesting that it might receive a wider range of weight-saving measures than those featured on the concept in Beijing, it is not exceptionally light. But at 1420kg, the R400 manages to undercut the Golf R (in six-speed manual form) by 56 kg and the A45 by 135kg. This endows it with a power to- weight ratio of 278bhp per tonne — 77bhp per tonne more than the Golf R and 50bhp per tonne more than the Mercedes. Volkswagen says the R400 reaches 62mph from standstill in 3.9sec, 1.0sec faster than it quotes for the Golf R and 0.7sec faster than Mercedes claims for the A45. Top speed is limited to 174mph — 19mph up on the governed 155mph maximumof the Golf R and the A45. Officials say the gearing allows the R400 to crack 190mph if the electronic limiter is removed.
The powerful three-door hatchback’s styling is a lot less restrained than that of recent concepts based on Volkswagen’s perennial bestseller. That’s in line with plans to create a car that could be considered for low-volume production. There is a deeper front bumper,which sports integral carbonfibre elements, including a prominent splitter. The cooling ducts have also been heavily modified to ram a greater amount of air into the engine bayand to the front brakes. In a move that provides it with an even more aggressive stance than the Golf R, the R400 receives unique wings that have been widened by 20mm, giving it an added 40mm of width at both the front and rear. Further back, there are carbonfibre exterior mirror housings and subtle sill extensions. The rear is distinguished by a carbonfibre spoiler atop the tailgate and a deeper bumper with carbonfibre elements, vertical ducts used to extract hot air from thewheel housings and a carbonfibre diffuser housing two large, round tailpipes. Yellow accents are used within the headlamp assemblies,which feature the latest LED graphics, aswell as on the grille and brake calipers to visually set the new car apart from the Golf R, which uses chrome highlights.
The concept also sports yellow and chrome R400 badges within the grille, along the flanks and
on the tailgate. As with its powertrain, the suspension is borrowed largely from the Golf R. The two share the same MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension, which is set 20mm lower than regular Golf models. Both also feature Dynamic Chassis Control, which adapts the dampers to one of three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport. Further common features are the 19-inch wheels and 235/35 R19 tyres. Inside, the Golf R400 also builds on the Golf R, with revised instruments (including a speedo incremented to 320km/h, or 199mph) and carbonfibre-backed bucket seats up front in combination with carbonfibre trim elements and yellow stitching. At the car’s unveiling in China, Volkswagen officials were coy about the chances of the Golf R400 reaching showrooms. However, sources at its R division, which was responsible for its conception, development and engineering, suggest that its close links to the Golf R could be an important factor in ensuring that it reaches production on a limited basis as a figurehead for VW’s increasingly active performance car division.