Wolfsburg, 01 November 2017
Close encounter in the studio
The new VW Polo GTI*
A hot date in the studio for automotive blogger Benjamin Brodbeck (27): the man behind AUTOmativ.de came from Vienna to Wolfsburg just to sit in the new Polo GTI. His report follows:
Knock three times – and wait. Only then is the steel door of the Volkswagen photo studio opened. As the white room ahead of me is veiled in dazzling light, I remember my own time in the studio. Not only the high light intensity but also the sound-absorbing acoustics always give these places a special atmosphere. Today, the spotlight is on a car with three magic letters. This was enough to persuade me to make the long trip from Vienna to Wolfsburg in one day. The new VW Polo GTI is waiting for me – now!
Sweltering heat under the studio spotlights
I had expected to see the new GTI in Flash Red. But it does not always have to be the typical color. So it is intensive "Reef Blue" that reflects the photons. Depending on the angle of view and light intensity, the outer skin of the Polo is transformed from the deepest dark blue to bright Azzurro, which does justice to the name of this color.
The contrast between the body and the typical red GTI elements continually changes. Together with the honeycomb grille, the front end, which is designed to give a wider appearance, boasts red bars continuing into the full LED headlights and distinctive air intakes.
My first close encounter already convinces me that this will be a hot car. It is not only the two-liter powerplant from the Polo's larger Golf sibling with 200 PS that gives me a tingling sensation in my fingertips and makes my palms moist as I approach the bonnet. The professional spotlights behind me have also boosted my body temperature. After five minutes under the studio lighting, I feel as hot as if I was lapping Hockenheim in a Golf GTI TCR.
A taut chassis
Of course everyone thinks of sportiness in connection with a GTI. And that is what the chassis of this car expresses. Its predecessor already had a lowered suspension which firmly planted it on the road and provided the Vosges with one of the best sports shows ever seen during one of my trips there.
Its success continues this tradition with a body which is 15 millimeters lower – not least for an adaptive chassis. There are also modest sill extensions, the red GTI logo on the sides and wheels up to 18 inches in diameter. Behind the wheels, red brake calipers mark their territory and wait to break out of the boring studio.
Keeping the rear end down
Thanks to the lowered suspension and the large wheels, the Polo GTI sits purposefully on the studio floor. To keep the car firmly anchored to the road even at maximum speed of 237 km/h, a large roof-edge spoiler accentuates the top edge of the rear.
This reduces unwanted turbulence and forces the air to stabilize the rear end. With the dark rear lights, the twin tailpipes and the suggestion of a diffusor, the rear end of this powerful small car seems to be glued to the ground.
"Clark" is always there in a GTI!
Enough about the exterior. After all I have not put on my driving shoes just to walk across the studio floor.
Although I know that starting the engine is not an option today, I at least want to have a feeling that is as authentic as possible.
My hands grasp the leather multifunction steering wheel with its decorative red stitching. Behind the wheel, the three middle fingers of each hand can touch the shift paddles – so this car is equipped with DSG. With the dual clutch gearbox, the Polo GTI accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds – that's faster than I'd expected. For fans of manual gearboxes, Volkswagen will have the right solution next year.
The red stitching on the steering wheel is continued through the interior just like the "Clark" tartan fabric covering each of the full-size seats with a large number of crosses. The side bolsters not only hold me firmly in place on the front seats but are also designed to provide support in the rear. Cornering with four people? It would seem to be possible.
In general, the five-door GTI version gives me a comfortable sporting feeling thanks to the deep seating position. Repeatedly, my fingers move across the start button beside the selector lever, giving me a clear signal. But I keep myself under control and think about what people have told me. The day before, another Benjamin, racing driver Benjamin Leuchter, reported enthusiastically about the balanced handling of the car on the North Loop of the Nürburgring: with XDS electronic differential lock, wider track and the power of the two-liter engine. Just great, Benjamin, I want to do it as well. Right now! But reason and the surroundings of the secure photo studio prevail.
Nevertheless, not only because of Benjamin's report, I am convinced that this sporting everyday hero will guarantee driving pleasure.
Unfortunately, I can only be certain in December. That's when journalists will be able to drive the new Polo GTI on the road. In the meantime, the tension is as high as the temperature in the studio.
*The near-production concept car has not yet gone on sale and therefore Directive 1999/94 does not apply.