something everyone should have
The most powerful Volkswagen ever to be built is wowing crowds at this week's Tokyo Motor Show. Set to rival supercars such as the Ferrari 550 and forthcoming Mercedes SLR, the revolutionary VW has been developed under complete secrecy.
Likely to cost from a mind-boggling Ł120,000, the mid-engined monster is the road-ready version of the W12 concept first shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1997. Then the car was heralded as a 420bhp 5.6-litre machine capable of 200mph.
But if claims for the W12 concept seemed ambitious at the time, just wait until you hear about the capability of the production model. Engine capacity has been rounded up to six litres, and power output lifted to an astounding 600bhp. Top speed is now 220mph and the 0-60mph dash takes less than 3.5 seconds.
The car has also lost its VW Syncro gearbox, giving up four-wheel-drive for a weight-saving rear engine and transmission design that offers the driver six closely stacked ratios.
Already the car has been tested at the high-speed Nardo track in Italy, where it smashed endurance and performance records as it spent 24 hours lapping the circuit at an average speed of 183.5mph.
During that time it covered 4,034 miles, stopping only for refuelling and minor repairs. Scheduled for production in just over a year, and sketched and built with the help of Italdesign, the carbon fibre monocoque body has changed little over the four years VW has spent perfecting its machine. New aerodynamic aids have been added to the rear, while the front has received fresh air intakes to help feed air to the normally aspirated engine.
The 2,630mm wheelbase exceeds the original design by nearly 100mm. That means the body has also been lengthened to 4,550mm, giving greater stability at high speeds.
But as well as stunning performance, the car also offers daring and eye-catching design. A glass roof stretches from the bonnet to the rear spoiler, making the cabin as light and airy as a cabriolet and displaying the car's aluminium and carbon fibre components. Inside, functionality dominates form. Tube frames below the clear top create a protective cage for the two passengers. Spherical instruments and pressure switches are both decorative and practical.
Race-style pedals seem to be lifted from Le Mans cars of old, while huge bucket seats hold you firmly in place. But although this may seem like the ultimate VW, there is rumour of an even more extreme edition. Using a tuned twin-turbo edition of the W12 unit developed for the forthcoming Audi S8, engineers have built a 720bhp powerplant. They are keen to point out this unit would be available to other members of the VW Group, and could even be fitted to a future Bentley sports car.
But that's the future. Engineers are currently readying this stunning VW-badged coupé for production. A run of 50 cars is expected in the first year, and buyers will be able to personalise their cars in terms of the colours and materials used. Volkswagen has dramatically joined the supercar club – now all that remains is to see how the established members react.