The upcoming hot GTI version of the all-new Volkswagen Polo already has a more potent engine to match the car’s overall larger size. Whatever gap that separated it from the Golf is fading, which might also mean that both could offer (and handle) similar amounts of performance demands.
It’s got VW thinking about a potential Polo R, according to an Autocar report, that would come close to the kinds of speed, acceleration, and overall ability that a Golf R would be capable of. To avoid too much overlap, however, Volkswagen might be omitting certain features we’ve come to associate with any R-badged car to come out of Wolfsburg.
For one thing, it will likely remain front-drive despite the Polo technically being able to accommodate the same 4Motion all-wheel drive system on account of them now sharing the same vehicle platform. And as for how much power it can be allowed wield, that largely boils down to engine tune.
The 2018 Polo GTI is confirmed to use an older version of the EA888 2.0-litre TSI turbo-petrol four-pot used in the Golf GTI and Golf R, meaning there’s definitely more potential overhead beyond the 147kW and 280Nm its ‘allowed’. Breaching the 224kW barrier in factory tune, however, might be letting the Polo wander too far into Golf territory.
A lot of this is still up for debate, and Volkswagen themselves are wrestling with these questions of what should be done. Technically, mostly due to its increased size (to permit more aggressive cooling and higher power outputs), there no longer exists glaring technical hurdles between the Polo and big power.
Currently, as indicated in the aforesaid report, Volkswagen is running trials on a several Polo R prototypes before they can be confident enough to draw a definitive line between the new Polo range and that of the Golf, especially as an all-new 8th-generation version is being prepared.
Historically, the fastest road cars that Volkswagen dare produce are typically given called the R, and so far the one that came packaged the smallest was the Golf, offering a performance variant higher than the GTI during its MK4 days as the VR6-powered R32.
The name and engine - a 3.2-litre naturally aspirated narrow-angle V6 (or VR6) would carry over into the next-gen Golf MK5 but no further as VW transitioned completely away from any engine that without forced induction.
It has also been previously confirmed that Volkswagen intends to capitalise on the reputation that their R variants have been receiving, and are looking at ways to expand this portfolio. Whether the Polo will be included as an official inductee remains to be seen, but VW is also looking at a potential Tiguan R and T-Roc R.