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.