Many automakers have a high performance and/or racing program in house. For Volvo, it’s Polestar. For BMW, it’s the M division. For Mercedes, it’s AMG. At Volkswagen, the special tuning takes places inside its R division and the cars breathed on by it proudly carry a bright red R badge on their flanks.
The Golf R is unknown to most Americans, but is the hottest of hot hatches on European roadways. The company recently unveiled an R variant of the Taureg SUV, which comes with a hybrid powertrain featuring a 336 horsepower, 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 gasoline engine coupled with a 130 horsepower electric motor. It also has a 14.1 kWh battery on board to keep the pot boiling when hoonage is the order of the day.
(Toyota is thumping its chest about its new RAV 4 Hybrid, which boasts 219 total horsepower — less than half that of the Taureg R. Kyle Field was supposed to write a report about it but he fell asleep at his keyboard in the middle of the story.)
Volkswagen’s R division is also responsible for the ID. R — the fastest car ever to climb Pikes Peak. Jürgen Stackmann, a member of the Volkswagen board of directors, told Top Gear recently, “The future of R needs to be, and will be, electric. We’re still working on what we started two and half years ago — which was obviously not electric, though exciting — but the work going forward is and will be electrified. Clearly, I’m excited to carry the news of R into the next generation, stronger than ever I would say.”
Don’t look for hotted up versions of the ID.3 and ID.4 any time soon. Volkswagen will want to get them into production and selling well before turning its attention to performance versions. But there is always a market for cars that are more athletic than standard models. They are so-called “halo cars,” whose luster trickles down to give the entire brand a more dynamic appeal. It’s not that the typical commuter car is the perfect choice for attacking the Nurburgring. It’s that it could be, if it just had a lowered suspension, wider tires, a more powerful motor, and better brakes. Illusions sell cars, which is why the R badge will appear on Volkswagen’s ID. branded cars — eventually.