Unknown Concept Cars #5: The 2001 Volkswagen W12 Nardò
Wow, it’s the fifth episode of this series now, and for the first time ever it’s not about a BMW! Let’s stick with the German theme though - the concept I’ll be presenting to you today comes from Volkswagen. But don’t worry, it’s not a humble Golf or 3L-Lupo, it’s… a hypercar. Yeah, from Volkswagen. This is gonna be interesting… Also, big shoutout to OliTheCarGuy101 who suggested this car in the last post!
Volkswagen is famous for their rather dull, but top-selling everyday cars, like the Golf, Jetta, Passat, and so on - so why on earth would they build a hypercar concept? The main reason was that Volkswagen wanted to proof to the world that they could build a reliable W12 engine for luxury and sports cars. With this in mind, former Volkswagen CEO Ferdinand Piëch turned to Giorgetto Giugiaro and his Italdesign company. The guidelines for the project were tough: It had to be a mid-engine sportscar with enough space to accomodate a W12 engine layout and Volkswagen’s “syncro” four-wheel-drive system. But Italdesign delivered, and on the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, Volkswagen unveiled the first iteration of the concept car: The W12 Syncro - painted bright yellow, measuring only 1.10 meters in height and being powered by a 5.6 liter W12 engine producing 420 hp. Other features included a roof made entirely from glass, stretching from the windscreen all the way over the engine to the rear of the car, and forward-opening gullwing doors.
The mind-blowing concept car attracted a lot of attention, and so in early 1998, Volkswagen gave it another go: On the Geneva Motor Show they unveiled a roadster concept of the W12 Nardò, identical to the coupé apart from the lack of the four wheel drive system and the roof. The rear wheel drive roadster was painted bright red for a change, and people seemed to love it just as much as the coupé - but then, the two concepts sank into obscurity.
At least until 2001. In that year, again on the Tokyo Motor Show, Volkswagen unveiled the final version of the concept car - the W12 Nardò. It may look very similar to the previous concepts apart from the bright orange color, but under the glass cover above the engine bay, things have changed significantly. The car is obviously still powered by a W12 engine, but instead of 420 hp like its predecessors, the Nardò now made 600. Volkswagen claimed that the 1.2 ton car would accelerate from 0 - 100 km/h in just 3.5 seconds, and would reach a top speed of a whapping 357 km/h. “But why is it called Nardò”, I hear you asking? Well, Volkswagen named it after the 12.6 km long circular Italian race track, where a modified Nardò was used to break a bunch of world records - like driving for 24 hours with an average speed of 323 km/h, resulting in a distance of 7,741 km in total.
But with the successful world record runs at Nardò, the short career of the Volkswagen hypercar came to an end. Even Piëch agreed that putting it into production just wouldn’t make any sense - Lamborghini launched their Murciélago, also powered by a 12 cylinder engine, in 2001; and after all, the Volkswagen emblem just doesn’t really fit a Ferrari-battling supercar. The W12 engine however lived on, and in 2001 it found its way into both the Volkswagen Phaeton and the Audi A8, as well as the Volkswagen Touareg and the Bentley Continental GT. Piëch however didn’t stop there. After unveiling several W18-powered Bugatti concept cars in the late 1990s, the Veyron 16.4 entered production in 2005, powered by a W16 engine with over 1,000 hp which was - you guessed it - derived from the W12 engine.
I hope you enjoyed this article, I’m very glad that I finally found the time to finish is - 11th grade is very stressful after all. Feel free to suggest cars for further episodes down below, and check out my profile for the previous ones!
Tobi aka The Stig’s German Cousin