Driven! Volkswagen GTI W12-650

The acceleration from 0 to 62 mph has been quoted as 3.7 seconds, which signals a dead heat between the super GTI and a Ferrari 599GTB. But zero to nothing matters today. First gear is incomprehensible because the W-12 runs of revs before the words "fuck... me" even come out of your mouth. It is in-gear grunt, second and third-gear thrust, grip and traction, stability (or the lack thereof) that are crucial on this circuit.

Stability is a particularly fickle thing. It's really only there when the car moves in a straight line. Which is almost never. After all, it doesn't take much to dent the trajectory of a mid-engine Golf: A tug at the suede-rimmed steering wheel. A dab on the throttle. A bump followed by a ridge. A mid-corner downshift. Especially a mid-corner downshift.

Rotational movements soon become second nature when you are trying to put this play station to the real test. This GTI is the mother of all gyros. With the polar moment of inertia firmly secured between the axles and with a tail-happy 45:55 weight distribution, it only takes a few beats of Johann Strauss' On the Blue Danube to make the Volkswagen waltz like a pro. Or spin and try to kill you.

Lesser cars rely exclusively on the steering when the question of which direction to go arises. No so the W12-650. Its steering makes only the most basic decisions, like north or south, or east or west. Applying more lock should confirm this intention - but it may be instantly overruled, diluted or emphasized by the throttle. Squeeze it, and the shaved 295/30 ZR19 gumballs will momentarily squirm, so that North can become North-East in the flash of a moment. This is the way thrilling dramas start, and this is when prompt action is required to stop the plot from turning into tragedy.

In most every Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche or Bentley, ASR and ESP will protect you from meeting your maker. The GTI W12 has no such safety net, no stop-and-replay button, at this point not even dedicated suspension geometry. The rear axle was borrowed from the Audi R8, the brakes come out of the S4 parts bin, and the engine was tuned by Bentley. The tranny started life in a Phaeton and the electronics were mapped out in the VW witch kitchen. The front suspension is a MacPherson mix from various donors, the front trunk is filled by a 12-gallon fuel tank made of aluminum, the body was designed in Wolfsburg and completed, like almost all corporate show cars, by Volke Coachbuilding.

Conceived especially for the annual GTI meet in Wrthersee Austria, the W12-650 had the crowd on their knees at its very first outing. Although it was developed from scratch, the DNA of the donor GTI is apparent from every angle. Significantly wider and lower than its front-wheel drive brethren, the ber-GTI sports polished nineteen-inch phone dial wheels, a new front bumper with full-width low-mounted air intake, flared wheel arches and a wide-body rear-end - sans tailgate but with various gills to cool down the twelve-cylinder kraftwerk. Air is channeled to the W-12 via lateral scoops, via ducts behind the sandwich C-pillars, and via a deep, roof-mounted intake.

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