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Volkswagen Press Release - eurotuner Magazine

Oct 1, 2006

THUNDER BUNNY: A NEW PERFORMANCE VARIATION ON AN OLD-SCHOOL THEME

LAS VEGAS -- Volkswagen introduces a concept vehicle that reflects its roots in the sport compact tuning community.

The story began back in the early `80s, with a man named Bill Neumann. Bill founded the California based tuning firm Automotive Performance Systems (APS). He was frustrated with the fact that Volkswagen's hot hatchback GTI had been sold in Germany since 1976, but hadn't yet come to America. Bill had driven the GTI in Europe on several of his parts-searching trips, and he was convinced it would be a big hit in America. So he sent letters to the factory. He wrote to enthusiast magazines and lobbied Volkswagen dealers for support. Then, he put together the proof that a Rabbit-based performance car was capable of generating both stunning performance numbers and lots of attention from the American automotive press corp.

Thus was born the original Thunder Bunny.

The APS-modified Rabbit was delivered to Motor Trend magazine late in 1981. Even though its staff was use to driving the best cars in the world, they were blown away by the little Volkswagen hatchback. As it was written in the March 1982 issue: "The little white wonder packs its own kind of lightning-quick rabbit punch -- one that's guaranteed to kayo unsuspecting boulevard bullies." And when Road & Track magazine got its hands on the car, it reported a zero to 60-mph run in the low seven-second range and slalom times that at the time had been bettered only by the Ferrari 512 Boxer, Lamborghini Countach and Renault R5 Turbo. Exalted company, indeed.

Bill's frustration ceased in the fall of 1982 when the GTI finally came to America, but by then Thunder Bunny had done its job. It put Neuspeed, the APS-trademarked line of parts and accessories, on the map. It also helped launch a vital North American community of specialists in watercooled Volkswagen performance. Modifying Volkswagens, of course, was not new in America -- the Beetle had spawned a huge following of enthusiasts -- but the new generation of Volkswagen cars hadn't sparked much interest in the go-fast crowd before the early `80s.

Neuspeed continues to be a leading force among the world's Volkswagen tuners, and it has never stopped building special projects. The latest is also called Thunder Bunny, and it was built in commemoration of Neuspeed's quantum leap forward all those years ago with the original rabid Rabbit. Designed in collaboration with Derek Jenkins, Chief Designer at the Volkswagen Design Center California located in Santa Monica, the new Thunder Bunny is an updated, thoroughly modern version of the original, and it debuts alongside the Concept R GTI on the Volkswagen stand at the 2006 SEMA Show.

Today's Thunder Bunny is a blend of subtle design massaging and tuning technology, built to show how a comfortable daily driver can also provide an exciting motoring experience. Creating the thunderous noise from under the hood is a newly developed turbocharger system, designed by Neuspeed especially for Volkswagen's 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. The high quality installation includes a modified intake manifold, Garrett ball-bearing turbocharger and air-to-air intercooler. A stainless exhaust and specially baffled aluminum oil pan were also sourced from APS for optimum flow and cooling. Boost is restricted to a maximum of seven lbs. in this Stage 1 kit, but it still produces 225 horsepower, 75 more than the stock 2.5 L, and a hefty dose of low-end torque. A performance clutch and Quaife differential were added to the powertrain for durability and a more efficient delivery of power to the front wheels.

Thunder Bunny's gleaming candy white exterior is made distinctive by several design studio touches. The concept's body kit includes a larger central grille and a more muscular rear valance framing a twin R32-style exhaust from Neuspeed. Like the R GTI, Thunder Bunny's paint was overlaid with graphics Jenkins calls "topographical" in pearl silver. They were meant to evoke the contours of the car's geography or waves of air that flow over the surfaces. However they are interpreted, the pearl silver graphics make a unique visual statement as they appear to blink on and off in the changing angles of the sun.

Like the original Thunder Bunny, the forged alloy "street" wheels are painted gold. In 19x8-inch sizing, they're wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 235/35-19 tires. Similar sized multi-spoked forged alloys were sourced from Neuspeed's RS line of wheels for track use. Both sets are lightweight, in keeping with the core GTI quality of nimble handling. The front brakes are 328mm two-piece floating cross-drilled discs from Brembo, gripped by bunny-bedecked Brembo four-piston brake calipers. That's right, bunnies. A veritable warren of Thunder Bunny logos dash to and fro across the surface of the white-painted caliper. At the rear, 310mm disc brakes are fitted.

Handling prowess comes from a suspension fitted with a Bilstein coil-over shock system and APS/Neuspeed sways bars, measuring 25mm front and rear. The suspension system is adjustable for both ride height and for shock stiffness, giving the new Thunder Bunny a dual character, suitable for the street or the track. A Neuspeed short-shift kit and custom spherical aluminum shift knob, created in the design studio, put the driver in closer touch with the manual transmission. A stock GTI steering wheel was recovered in alcantara to go along with the upgraded upholstery and trim.

Stock GTI seats were recovered in black and white checkered tweed that echoes styling trends from the early `80s, and the striking fabric is elegantly framed by surrounding black leather with white stitching. The color scheme is perfectly complemented by the white carbon-fiber interior trim provided by OSIR, experts in hand-laid composites and also major contributors to the design studio's Concept R GTI.

All those years ago, Bill Neumann asked a simple question. Volkswagen responded with the GTI, while Neuspeed became a leader in Volkswagen tuner circles...why a new Thunder Bunny? Think of it as a beautifully crafted response to another question, "What happens when you give a modern Rabbit to one of the original water-cooled Volkswagen tuners?"

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, GTI, Jetta, GLI, Passat, Passat wagon, Eos, Touareg and Phaeton through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers.


VOLKSWAGEN R GTI: TRANSFORMING A RICH PAST INTO A PROMISING FUTURE

LAS VEGAS -- Thirty years ago Volkswagen launched the GTI, the "hot hatch" that would revolutionize the concept of affordable and accessible high-performance motoring. Now comes the R GTI, a look forward into the future of compact car performance, making its debut at the 2006 SEMA Show in Las Vegas on October 31.

Over its four generations, the GTI has grown larger, its technology more sophisticated and powerplants more muscular, but Volkswagen has never abandoned the formula that made the GTI badge an instant icon of affordable, exhilarating performance -- a big-hearted engine beating in a compact, usefully shaped and lightweight platform.

Few cars have enjoyed such an enduring run of success, and to honor the GTI's rich past, Volkswagen has cast an eye on the GTI of tomorrow with the R GTI, a low-flying stealth machine developed by Volkswagen Chief Designer Derek Jenkins and his talented crew at the Volkswagen Design Center California, located in Santa Monica. With its striking carbon-fiber body panels, four-passenger sports car interior, powerful turbocharged engine and competition-bred suspension, the R GTI is a stimulating fusion of style and dynamic excellence, fully modern in content and achievement yet staying true to such longstanding Volkswagen values as drivability, durability and utility.

The R GTI evolved from the stunning R Concept cars that stole the show at SEMA in 2005, and the R badge connects to the fabulous R32, one of the most sophisticated and thrilling Volkswagens ever to come from the factory. However, unlike those R concept vehicles from last year, which showcased the extremes of performance-tuned Volkswagens, the R GTI represents a more streetable concept. Although the R GTI is a one-off and Volkswagen currently has no plan to put it into production, the dedicated enthusiast could gather many of the R GTI's elements for a personal project, sourced from Volkswagen or from the thriving automotive aftermarket that has helped keep the GTI's red badge blazing in the hearts of the world's driving enthusiasts.

Jenkins approached the R GTI with the motorsport-inspired goal of "speed through lightness." That is, reducing the car's weight is as critical to improved performance as amplifying the engine's output. In collaboration with the firm OSIR Design, hand-laid carbon fiber component experts, Jenkins replaced the stock GTI's front fenders, hood, side rockers, and hatch door with carbon-fiber panels developed by both OSIR and Jenkins' in-house team. In addition to providing a weight advantage, the carbon fiber's black weave creates a dazzling visual complement to the lustrous black paint scheme, which itself was adorned with hexagonal "stealth" graphics that echo the grille of the original GTI.

Additional carbon-fiber components are the lower front spoiler, front grille surround, rear rooftop spoiler and Jenkins-restyled rearview mirror housings, all in carbon fiber. Other distinctive exterior design touches include blacked-out front headlamp housings, R32 tail lamps with smoked lenses, R32-type central twin exhaust pipes with motorcycle-theme tips, a la Jenkins' GX3 three-wheeler concept from 2005.

Reference to the GTI's trademark hexagonal grille pattern is also seen in the R GTI's specially constructed 19x9-inch aluminum alloy wheels, with lightness as a crucial contributor to reduced unsprung weight, and improved ride quality and cornering. Tucked within fenders designed for additional clearance, the beefier running gear includes Michelin Pilot Sport Cup ultra-high-performance radials, sized 265/30-19. In track tests, the larger tire footprint proved to be a valuable ally in transferring the engine's prodigious 340 ft-lb of torque to the ground. Despite being rolled straight out of the design studio on to the track, the R GTI pulled off an impressive zero to 60-mph time of 4.8 seconds.

The chief contributor to the R GTI's impressive performance is the turbocharged engine developed in conjunction with APR, one of the country's leading aftermarket Volkswagen tuners. APR develops and sells high performance, and high performance only, leaving others to peddle air fresheners and floor mats. APR's engineers and product developers are passionate about Volkswagen technology, and it shows in the quality and results of their contribution to the powertrain.

It all starts with Volkswagen's 2.0-liter FSI turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant, an award-winner for its unique combination of direct injection and turbocharging. APR also replaced the turbocharger with a larger Garrett ball-bearing unit with twice the flow capacity and pumped up the boost to 21 pounds per square inch. All of the pressure-side plumbing was strengthened with silicon hose. A large-diameter cast-aluminum, black powder-coated intake pipe feeds the big turbo the cool air it needs from the larger, front-mounted intercooler, delivering twice the stock air flow. An Inconel exhaust manifold and an APR stainless steel exhaust system ensure efficient flow-through. It's a tidy, factory-like transformation, and the result is a whopping 375 horsepower, on 93 octane pump gas. If 100-octane race fuel is used, output rises to some 400 horsepower.

Harnessing that kind of power is as important as unleashing it, of course, and Jenkins was determined to retain the stock GTI's driver-friendly demeanor. The clutch was upgraded to handle the increased torque, and a Quaife limited slip differential was installed to make the engine's power flow more efficiently through the tires. For the suspension Jenkins called on longtime experts H&R Tuning to supply a system that would be reasonably comfortable when the R GTI was used as daily transportation but would also deliver crisp, precise handling when the road gets twisty or for weekend track days. Replacing the stock suspension is H&R's RSS Club Sport system of coil-over shocks and springs, augmented by a pair of adjustable sway bars. Ride height is reduced from 1.5 to 2.5 inches, but despite the ground-hugging stance and the Club Sport's stiffer-than-stock settings, the suspension is compliant enough to comfortably dampen the rough spots in the road.

To bring deceleration into line with the improved acceleration, Jenkins selected Brembo brake components. Fitted at the front corners are Brembo's four-piston aluminum alloy calipers, which squeeze Brembo two-piece floating cross-drilled discs with billet aluminum hats. The radial-mount design features a lightweight two-piece aluminum alloy body, quick-release pad system and sequentially sized pistons. The front calipers have even been painted with the colors of the German flag. Inside the rear wheels are disc brakes fitted with drilled rotors.

The exciting visual impact of the R GTI exterior is reflected in the interior, which is swathed in black leather complemented by red stitching. This theme runs throughout the cockpit, from the upholstery that covers the front Recaro Pole Position sports seats and rear custom-designed racing buckets, to the door panels and steering wheel, which also sports an R GTI logo. The effect is a blend of understated luxury and purposeful technology, underscored by the use of OSIR black carbon-fiber interior trim on the dash panel and in the doors.

Just aft of the front bucket seats is a clever safety belt system that was developed in the design studio. A remarkable example of the innovations that spring from Jenkins' creative team, it's comprised of a bar that anchors the front racing harnesses, which can swing up and out of the way to allow passengers easier access to the two rear seats. As part of the R GTI's weight-reduction program, the stock rear seats were removed and replaced by an exceptional piece of carbon-fiber craftsmanship. The single piece of composite was fashioned into two racing buckets, each fitted with padded leather inserts. They're a snug fit but are comfortable enough to take the in-laws on a fast lap or two. Another trick interior element is the custom aluminum billet shift knob, which Jenkins fit with a red "wheel" that can be revolved by the driver's thumb. Look closely, and you can see that the wheel has been inscribed with the R GTI logo.

The R GTI is an uncommon and visionary blend of design talent, factory technology and aftermarket innovation, and an enticing demonstration of why Volkswagen has been a favorite of automotive enthusiasts since the GTI first hit the scene 30 years ago. It also shows that the future of the hot hatch, as demonstrated by the R GTI, is already here.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, GTI, Jetta, GLI, Passat, Passat wagon, Eos, Touareg and Phaeton through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers.


VOLKSWAGEN RACE TOUAREG 2 SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETES TEST RUNS

WOLFSBURG, Germany - The countdown for the 2007 Dakar Rally is running: ten weeks before the start of the cross-country classic in Lisbon, Volkswagen's factory team has completed the development programme for the Race Touareg 2 with an intensive test in Tunisia.

Coming up next as a warm-up will be a competition run of two Race Touareg 2 cars for Carlos Sainz/Michel Prin and Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons in the UAE Desert Challenge (5 to 10 November).

"The test runs in Tunisia went very well. We were able to complete our entire programme," said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "The test took place in two different regions: in the high sand dunes near El Borma close to the Algerian border and on the camel grass stretches near Ksar Ghilane in the north of Tunisia. In the UAE Desert Challenge one Race Touareg 2 representing the latest technical evolution for the Dakar Rally will be entered while the second factory car will compete with the 2006 World Cup specification and a few new components. As the next item on our agenda in the weeks ahead, we're going to concentrate on the logistical preparation for the Dakar Rally and the preparation of the competition vehicles. This means we're right on schedule."

All four Volkswagen factory pairings actively participated in the seven-day test runs in Tunisia: Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA), Carlos Sainz/Michel Prin (E/F), Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons (FIN/I) and Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D) shared the work of checking - among other things - new suspension components fitted to a Race Touareg 2. "Unfortunately, the weather wasn't all that favourable because due to rain before the test the sand dunes were relatively hard. Soft sand would have been better suited for our purposes," Kris Nissen explained. "A second Race Touareg was running as a practice vehicle morning, noon and night. This gave our drivers and co-drivers the opportunity to specifically practice driving on sand, to simulate various situations in a cross-country rally and to enhance the navigation skills in unknown terrain together with the co-driver."

While the factory drivers were testing in Tunisia the race team in Germany was busy performing the final preparations for the UAE UAE Desert Challenge starting on 5 November. In the past few days the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 cars for Carlos Sainz and Ari Vatanen were flown to the United Arab Emirates. Driver and team will follow starting on 1 November. In addition to the Volkswagen works team, the Portugese Team Lagos with Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (Portugal/Germany) entered by Phoenix Sport will compete in the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup season's finale event in another Race Touareg 2.

Source: http://media.vw.com/

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