For three decades, European fans of Volkswagen and Audi have gathered near the Wörthersee, an Austrian lake, every spring to celebrate their cars, and for many years VW engineers have created custom cars just for the fans. But this year's effort looks more serious than most: a 503-hp, race-themed upgrade of the VW GTI that's capable of hitting 60 mph in less than four seconds and looks like the Audi R8's little brother.
Called the Design Vision GTI, the Wörthersee ride contains an impressive amount of finished detail for a one-off show car; VW designers say it drops a few hints at where they could take future versions of the hot hatch. Lower and wider than a stock model, the Design Vision gets its grunt from a 3-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 instead of the GTI's typical four-pot, patched into an all-wheel-drive system that can handle its peak torque of 413 lb.-ft. Top estimated speed: 186 mph, which requires 15-inch ceramic brake discs behind the 20-inch wheels to slow down.
But it's inside where the wee GTI gets some new and interesting ideas. To prove its race mettle, VW threw out the back seats in favor of a stylish cross brace, and replaced the door handles with red fabric pull straps, just like the Porsche Cup cars. Most of the dash has been reworked for operation at speed, but it's kept part of the info-disco that would not only show track position and lap times, but help share the race fun on social networks — along with video from the camera embedded in the driver-side windshield pillar. Nothing in the modern era would get weekend racers quite as excited as the idea that they would have their heroic exploits saved for posterity with a built-in GoPro.