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Volkswagen Secretly Made a VR-6 Golf with 463 HP

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Throughout eight generations, the Volkswagen Golf has spawned a multitude of special versions. The most desirable ones had six-cylinder engines in an unassuming package. Although the VR6 lineage ended after the fifth-gen model, the team from Wolfsburg did build a prototype of a Golf Mk6 with the VR-6 powertrain. Had it gone into production, it still would’ve been the most potent Golf ever.

Motor1 chatted with VW to learn more about the secret six-cylinder hot hatch that never came to be. According to Enrico Beltz, Head of Content, Classic Communication & Media Relations, the Golf Mk6 with a VR-6 was a one-off built back in 2009. It was a forerunner of the Golf R (Mk6) and had a 3.2-liter engine from the Rothe Motorsport racing team. The six-cylinder mill was based on the same engine that powered the Golf R32 (Mk5).

While the original naturally aspirated engine made 247 horsepower, its evolution was massaged to develop a massive 463 hp. Torque was considerably boosted as well, from 236 lb-ft to 384 lb-ft. As you can imagine, the VR-6 codenamed “BUB” underwent many changes to extract the additional oomph. Notable upgrades included a Garret GT35 turbocharger, custom pistons, a new intake manifold, different injectors, and aluminum hand-welded pressure pipes. Here’s the full list of mods:

  • Fuselage engine R32 code letter BUB
  • Rothe Motorsport pistons with compression reduction
  • Compression ratio 8.5:1
  • Crankshaft finely balanced with weight optimization
  • Camshafts Schrick
  • Cylinder head machining
  • Rothe Motorsport exhaust valves
  • Exhaust manifold Rothe Motorsport cast iron
  • Intake manifold Rothe Motorsport
  • Garret GT35 turbocharger
  • Suction 80mm aluminum hand-welded
  • Pressure pipes 60mm aluminum hand-welded
  • Intercooler Rothe Motorsport hand-welded
  • Trouser pipe with exhaust system Rothe Motorsport 89mm stainless steel
  • Rear silencer with flap control
  • Injectors Rothe Motorsport
  • Rothe Motorsport air duct made of GRP

There was more to this elusive Golf Mk6 than its six-cylinder engine. VW gave it the front brakes of an Audi RS6 and 19-inch wheels from a Lamborghini. In addition, the punchy compact hatchback received a Bilstein B16 suspension kit and a slightly modified interior. The cabin was covered in Alcantara and had a leather-wrapped dashboard with contrasting decorative stitching.

Performance numbers aren’t disclosed but the car must be a pocket rocket given the high power and a relatively low curb weight of 3,000 pounds. Add into the mix an all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Golf VR6 (Mk6) would’ve been a proper sleeper. The fifth-gen model with the DSG did 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds when tested by magazines back in the day. VW told us this unknown prototype can top out at more than 155 mph.

Volkswagen Golf Mk6 with VR-6 engine

As to what happened to the car, it was used internally for a while before becoming a permanent member of the Volkswagen Classic fleet. The German brand has decided to unearth the Golf VR6 (Mk6) as part of the model’s 50th anniversary celebrations. It’ll be publicly displayed at the GTI Fanfest in Wolfsburg between July 26 and 28.

Meanwhile, the one-of-a-kind Golf was recently featured in a video from Halle77 starring VW boss Thomas Schäfer. The VR-6 prototype was strapped onto the dyno where it pumped out 457 hp and 392 lb-ft, so slightly less horsepower but a bit more torque compared to the factory rating.

It’s worth noting this wasn’t the last Golf built by VW with a VR-6 engine. When we did a retrospective of the 10 most interesting concepts based on the Golf, we mentioned the 2013 Golf Design Vision GTI concept with a VR-6 packing two turbochargers for more than 500 hp. A couple of years later, the 2015 Golf GTI Supersport Vision Gran Turismo was envisaged with a VR-6 dialed to 503 hp.

Although the Golf downsized to four- and three-cylinder engines after the Mk6, rumor has it that VW wanted to cram in an inline-five in the Mk8. However, Audi allegedly refused, deciding that the 2.5-liter unit would only power its compact RS cars. That said, the five-cylinder engine did eventually go into a non-Audi product as the Cupra Formentor VZ5 uses Ingolstadt’s punchy powertrain. It’s also found in the lesser-known KTM X-Bow.

The VR6 production models and prototypes didn’t have the biggest engine ever put by VW in a Golf. That title goes to the bonkers GTI W12-650, a ludicrous mid-engine concept with 641 hp, based on the Mk5 generation. It was unveiled in 2007 with a 6.0-liter unit from a Bentley Continental GT, complete with a pair of turbos and Audi RS4-sourced front brakes. The rear axle and brakes were taken from a Lamborghini Gallardo.

As it stands, the Mk8 is the last of the Golf breed with combustion engines. VW has already announced the Mk9 will be completely electric when it arrives in 2028 on the Scalable Systems Platform (SSP).

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