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Volkswagen Golf GTI

The GTI W12 is a fabulous showcase for VW's design and engineering expertise

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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The GTI W12 is the most incredible Golf ever made. It's a fabulous showcase for Volkswagen's design and engineering expertise, featuring the kind of detailing reserved for million-pound supercars. Not to mention the brilliant performance, too. While it is unlikely that the super hatch will make it to full production in its current form - although the firm refuses to rule this out - styling elements could well feature on future Golfs.

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It's the most extreme Golf GTI ever - a fearsome mid-engined hatchback with even greater performance than Lamborghini's Gallardo.

Called the GTI W12-650, this VW is a spectacular display of radical thinking and engineering expertise powered by a 6.0-litre twin-turbo engine. Its incredible top speed is in excess of 200mph.

We first brought you news of the stunning machine in Issue 962, and since then, it has wowed visitors to shows across Europe. It was the undisputed star at recent huge GTI festivals over here in Leicester and on the Continent in Austria.

So, with the car making a rare UK appearance, we grabbed the chance to get exclusive on-the-road access. One thing is for sure - nothing can prepare you for the shock when you first lay eyes on the GTI W12.

It looks menacing and aggressive from every angle. Produced from scratch in only six weeks, it shares precious little with the basic Golf GTI. The bonnet is the only body part to be carried over - every other panel is new.

Made of lightweight reinforced plastic, the bodywork takes the Golf's compact shape and turns it into something rather monstrous. It's all about form following function, though, as the gaping vents and floating C-pillars have been designed to channel as much air as possible into the engine bay.

Underneath is a lift-reducing aerodynamic tray, while the carbon fibre roof, red-edged radiator grille, chrome exhaust tips, W12 badging and GTI-style 19-inch alloys finish off the look.

Inside, it's a similar visual feast. The basic donor GTI cabin gets racing bucket seats which, like most of the cabin, are trimmed in Alcantara suede with white and red leather.

The centre console comprises an extra three dials - with two showing turbo boost pressure and one for the temperature of the car's exhaust system. Beneath them lies a row of stylish toggle switches. Overall attention to detail is amazing, with the handbrake lever's spring left exposed, thanks to machined openings in its casing.

Without doubt, though, the most striking feature of the interior is the engine. Behind the driver and passenger lies a twin-turbocharged version of the 6.0-litre W12 found in VW's Phaeton and Bentley's Continental range.

The W12 is made out of aluminium to reduce weight, helping the chunky machine tip the scales at 1,700kg. It's hooked up to a modified version of VW's six-speed Tiptronic gearbox, which is mounted behind the engine, with drive going to the rear wheels. As you can imagine, all this requires some rather ingenious engineering, and under the skin, the huge powerplant is mounted on aluminium subframes from Audi's R8 supercar.

Suspension and brakes borrowed from the Gallardo complete the dynamic changes, while two massive fans help keep the engine cool.

With the car producing 641bhp - that's three times as much power as the stock GTI - Volkswagen claims the W12-650 can dispatch the sprint from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and accelerate on to a top speed of 201.8mph.

From start-up, it certainly sounds full of potential. Twist the key, and the big engine erupts, a stab of the throttle bringing a thunderous rasp from the quad exhaust pipes. At idle, you can even feel huge gulps of air being sucked into the unit from the side vents and over your shoulder.

Alas, we weren't able to test the GTI W12 to its limits. This hatchback is virtually priceless and, therefore, cannot be driven at high speed.

Engineers will now embark on a programme which will see the chassis stiffened and the aerodynamics and suspension tweaked. "We aim to crack the 200mph barrier, and verify all the performance claims we have made," said a VW spokesman. Next month, Auto Express will do exactly that...

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