By on August 31, 2017

2016 Volkswagen Golf R - Image: VW

Unlike Mercedes-AMG, Volkswagen’s R performance division isn’t much of a sub-brand. While the VW Golf R remains the industry’s quintessential hot hatch, there’s no shortage of rivals ready and willing to usurp its position as a segment leader. Also, one model does not a sub-brand make.

Down the road from VW’s Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters, the executives in Stuttgart can’t AMG-ify Mercedes-Benz products fast enough. SUVs, “coupe” variants of SUVs, sedans, and legit coupes are all going under the knife, emerging with taut suspension, improved driving dynamics, and an all-important shot of horsepower — traditionally in “strong” and “extra strong” doses. Not only does it improve an automaker’s image, it also helps sell high-profit utility vehicles.

Volkswagen requires some of Mercedes-AMG’s medicine. Now, according to a recent report, it may have the cure it’s looking for.

According to Car and Driver, the automaker best known for making wildly illegal diesel cars is planning to add new residents to the R stable. No, this isn’t another tepid attempt to draw on the R division’s heritage and reputation without adding real teeth to an existing model — let the brand’s R-Line trim handle that. Word is that VW wants real power backing up its nameplates.

The unannounced product push reportedly concerns the recently unveiled T-Roc small crossover (unavailable in North America), the next-generation Golf R, and potentially the Tiguan, Touareg, and upcoming Arteon premium sedan. There’s already rumours of a much hotter Gold R on the way. German newspaper Bild reported last month on an eighth-generation Golf R sporting 350 horsepower — a major boost from the current model’s 292 hp. A beefed-up GTI is also in the works.

The Arteon, a higher-end replacement for the Passat-derived CC, is expected to appear on U.S. shores next year. In Europe, engine choice offered to premium buyers tops out at a 270-horsepower 2.0-liter, though there’s good reason to believe that the American public won’t look kindly on that pony count. The 2018 Toyota Camry V6 delivers 301 hp, after all.

While VW might choose to drop a V6 into its U.S.-bound Arteon, the 280-horsepower Touareg remains something of a blank slate for VW. Due for a 2019 redesign, the Touareg’s lofty entry price and single powerplant currently doesn’t enamour it to many buyers. That could change with new skin and a lower MSRP. Having an R model sitting atop the model lineup (which certainly treads in Mercedes-Benz territory now) could spark added interest, just as a hotter Tiguan, redesigned for 2018, could do the same for VW’s smaller utility vehicle.

VW’s U.S. comeback strategy rests on SUVs, and affixing an R label to a couple of utility vehicles certainly wouldn’t harm the company’s intentions. What hardcore Golf R fans think of it is another matter.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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22 Comments on “Cranking It Up to ‘R’: Volkswagen Planning Product Assault on Mercedes-AMG, Report Claims...”

  • avatar

    Because what Volkswagen really needs now is more expensive fast-ish cars, right?

    Volkswagen does not require AMG medicine; Volkswagen isn’t Mercedes and can’t coast on brand value like Mercedes can.

    Volkswagen has two choices, as I see it:

    Rebuild the “old Volkswagen” of affordable (or at least “value providing”) cars for Everyman, and get a reputation for acceptable quality [keeping realistic, here], and sell a ton of Golfs, Jettas, and (cheaper, competitive) Tiguans.

    Or, try and be a Performance Semi-Liuxury Brand, and make everything fast and premium.

    Problem is, nobody thinks of VW as a premium brand, and most people don’t think of them as even related to performance, GTI and R aside.

    Other problem being *they already have Audi for that*.

    Let VW be VW; let Audi and the RS series play AMG-killer.

    • 0 avatar

      Rebuild the “old Volkswagen” of affordable (or at least “value providing”) cars for Everyman, and get a reputation for acceptable quality [keeping realistic, here], and sell a ton of Golfs, Jettas, and (cheaper, competitive) Tiguans.

      How about being “undeniably German” in character? Right now (especially the Passat and Atlas) seem to be bent on being as generically American as possible.

      • 0 avatar
        John R

        “How about being ‘undeniably German’ in character? Right now (especially the Passat and Atlas) seem to be bent on being as generically American as possible.”

        They tried that already. German car notes and German maintenance sans the German badge you can rub in your neighbors’ faces doesn’t make for Toyota beating volumes.

    • 0 avatar

      Whats the problem with VW adding some performance to some of there other models? This very often creates a halo effect and helps move the lower trims out the door as well.

      VW is in many ways a cheaper alternative to Audi, and they seem to be looking to embrace this idea even further. Many people would rather buy a top of the range VW as opposed to an entry Level Audi as well. As long as they can stay reasonable with the pricing, i don’t see how this could be a bad thing.

      Also, the Amg’s and M’s of the world have become ridiculous/ over the top 5000 LB track monsters. When most people just want a fun street car. Vw can fill that niche thats been vacated by the 500-600 HP $80,000 M3’s and amg’s. Affordable german performance, closer to what M and AMG used to represent.

  • avatar

    I actually support this — VW is not going to be a major US player, despite what the last management team promised. They’re much better suited to playing to the enthusiast crowd here for the “halo effect” and then riding the coattails of those products by selling their usual de-tuned versions in mainstream packages like the Atlas and Tiguan.

    Between the strategy for world domination and this one, I’ll take this one 90% of the time. Widespread turbocharging should continue to allow them to spread out their offerings with minimal drivetrain difference (ie, mostly software. And you know VW is pretty good about engine management software, right? Right?)

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think the segments they play in will be profitable to support this niche strategy. And then there is the issue of Audi. If these things get expensive enough it won’t take much to make the leap to the next brand tier, especially with the down market moves of the A3 and Q3.

      IMO VW should stay the mainstream course with peppered in offerings like the GTI and Arteon. Nobody wants a Touareg R.

      • 0 avatar

        A3 and Q3 shouldn’t exist in the US, IMO, but you’re exactly right there. The only saving grace is that Audi and VW dealers mostly split themselves up about 15-20 years ago. I remember shopping for them all in one showroom, which could get awkward.

  • avatar

    The only vehicle that could possibly be compelling would be a W12 powered VW microbus.

    For once, the smoke pouring from the vehicle would be coming from the outside as I’m sure it’d do some sick burnouts.

  • avatar
    John R

    …why? In the minds of Americans at least that’s Audi’s job.

    How many times must that brand fly too close to the sun before they learn to stay in their lane?

  • avatar

    Building on the rousing success of the Phaeton.

  • avatar

    Methinks a Golf R Wagon with AWD and maybe a stick would do well in the USA. Not much competition in that segment.

  • avatar

    So let’s see here. An Arteon R (awkward to say) which has a Passat interior and Golf switch gear, or an Audi S5 Sportback. Hmmmmmm….

  • avatar

    For now, VW should really concentrate on not making POS’s. A sport division can wait until they get the basics correct.

    • 0 avatar

      Their reliability stats have been middle of the pack for about a decade, and generally follow a normal distribution. My own experience mechanically has been pretty positive, though I wish everything weren’t so over-engineered. The interior is basically an Audi with a VW badge, and impressive.

      What fundamentals are you talking about?

  • avatar

    Can I get a Passat Wagon R please?

    Although even the normal Passat Wagon will do.

  • avatar

    I guess they didn’t learn anything from the Phaeton debacle.

  • avatar

    R variant 6m 43k. Take me!!

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