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Car and Driver: Herr Doktor Hexagon: VW Unveils Wörthersee GTI, Golf R Variant Show Cars

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2016 Golf GTI Heartbeat


Three decades ago, a fierce rivalry stalked the Straßen and Autobahnen of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the East, if you were very lucky, you had a Trabant. If Erich Honecker’s third cousin happened to be married to your wife’s sister, you might’ve snagged a coveted Wartburg. But on the other side of the wall, young men picked a side: GTI or Manta. GTI dudes were the more moneyed cohort, while Manta Männer were akin to American Camaro guys. Or, even more stereotypically, Camero guys. But Opel’s Shetland ponycar faded away not long before the wall came down, leaving the GTI the victor in this war. For this year’s Wörthersee gathering, VW seems to be paying a roundabout tribute to the foe it vanquished in the market in the form of the Golf GTI Heartbeat.


For Yanks of a certain age, Chevy’s 1980s “Heartbeat of America” campaign, with its neon-pink EKG readout graphic—emblazoned on too many satin jackets—brings to mind the era of the 454 SS pickup, the great-looking but sad-sack Beretta coupe, TPI Corvettes, and of course, the mighty IROC-Z Camaro, the American analogue of Opel’s Manta GSi and GT/E. It is very likely that the young crew from Volkswagen’s Vocational Training program had no idea about any this. Aged 20-26, the men and women who built the 395-hp GTI have never known a Germany divided, and to them, the Manta is merely a car that weird Uncle Karlheinz keeps in his Freiburg garage, waiting for him to make good on his vow of its restoration.


Young people are often smitten with the machines that roll out of Sant’Agata Bolognese, and this crew seems to be no exception. The Heartbeat is festooned with Lambo-esque hexagons, from the paint to the seats. The chairs, it’s worth noting, are lightweight models pulled from a GTI Clubsport S. And they’re all the seating the car has, as the rear seat was chucked in favor of lots of stereo equipment—1360 watts worth, in fact. Wheels are not from Lamborghini, but rather are 20-inch BBS units.


We only wish they would’ve added T-tops.


2016 Golf R Variant Performance 35


Another group of apprentices went to work on a VW model whose lack of U.S. availability causes much gnashing of teeth in our offices: the Golf R Variant. Sold here as the Golf Sportwagen in much more vanilla flavors, the R Variant features all the goodies that make the regular R such a demon, with the added bonus of wagonoid practicality.


The Zwickau-based apprentice group boosted the R’s power to 345 horses, added a vented hood, and gave it an even bigger stereo than the Heartbeat’s. The result, the called the Golf R Variant Performance 35, features an electrically retractable cargo floor and a matching child’s bicycle. Hoon the children young, and even across brand loyalties, let the valiant memory of the fallen Manta linger in their little minds.


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