The Volkswagen Golf GTI W12 Was The Ultimate Parts Bin Special

What happens when you mash together parts from a Lamborghini and Bentley into a Golf? The best hot hatch never to happen
The Volkswagen Golf GTI W12 Was The Ultimate Parts Bin Special

When manufacturers go raiding their (and a few others) parts bins to craft ballistic creations, the results can be pretty special. It only takes a look at the Dodge Viper and BMW M1 to see just how remarkable they can turn out, however, perhaps the greatest is a car that never made production.

As far as parts bins go, few are as rich as the VW Group's. In 2007, Volkswagen decided to dig deep into it ahead of the annual GTI gathering at Worthersee, Austria to create this - the Golf GTI W12.

Starting with the body of a Mk5 Golf GTI, VW's engineers threw pretty much everything away barring the doors, bonnet and headlights. That meant the usual 2.0-litre TSI engine of the base GTI was nowhere to be found, with the car instead calling upon Bentley and a 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 engine normally housed in the Continental GT, and producing 641bhp and 553lb ft of torque.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI W12 Was The Ultimate Parts Bin Special

Of course, it wasn't a direct swap for the original four-pot - there simply wasn't the space in the engine bay of a Mk5 Golf to cram such a powerplant in. Instead, taking a bit of inspiration from Renault with the 5 Turbo and Clio V6, the Bentley unit would sit firmly in the middle of the car within a bespoke aluminium subframe.

A new engine meant a new gearbox was needed, with VW looking to its own Phaeton for the Tiptronic unit - no, not even a DSG, with no such unit able to handle the W12's torque at the time. Gone too was the original rear axle, replaced with one from the Lamborghini Gallardo. The Italian's rear brakes would be deployed here - probably for the best, with the Golf W12 being rear-driven - with those from an Audi RS4 up front.

Though the wheelbase remained the same, the car grew 152mm wider with an audacious body kit fitted to accommodate thicker tyres and an extended rear track. The car also rode 70mm lower than a regular GTI, and even came with a carbon fibre roof.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI W12 Was The Ultimate Parts Bin Special

The dashboard from the Golf remained, albeit with a set of jet fighter-like toggle switches placed centrally and bits of Alcantara laced throughout.

Even though it was a concept, the car functioned - except for those interior switches according to Jeremy Clarkson's review of the W12 on Top Gear.

Evo magazine had a chance to drive the car in 2007, and said that “Off the line it’s quick, but not extraordinary”, largely down to performance being artificially reined in the first two gears - and that the Tiptronic “hasn’t been programmed for ‘spirited’ driving; it’s never in the right ratio through a sequence of corners and it often pops in a shift midway through a bend.”

Yet, once in third gear, “the gale becomes a tornado, this hatchback-shaped projectile assuming supercar pace”

The Volkswagen Golf GTI W12 Was The Ultimate Parts Bin Special

There was clear enthusiasm from within Volkswagen to put it into production too. Speaking with Evo, Marc Lichte, the man responsible for the Golf W12’s design and now head of Audi’s styling, said: “It would be comparatively easy to do because all the parts are off-the-shelf items from the Volkswagen group.”  

He even put out a rallying cry, adding: “It’s up to you guys to spread the word, help drum up demand, help persuade our management to make the W12”.

As history tells us, management was never persuaded, and the Volkswagen Golf W12 never made production. Nothing quite so extreme has even made the concept stage since and, with the Mk8.5 VW Golf GTI signalling the last with an internal combustion engine, the W12 is quite unlikely to ever be beaten.


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