The R5 continues the line of Polo-based rally cars from Volkswagen, a line which has seen some serious success in recent seasons. Although there won't be a factory-backed Volkswagen team competing in the World Rally Championship this year, the new Polo ensures the company a presence in the burgeoning FIA R5 class.
Like its production counterpart, the R5 is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Where the road car produces 147kW and 320Nm from its 2.0-litre displacement, however, the racer makes 200kW and 400Nm from just 1.6-litres. It's put to all four wheels through a five-speed sequential gearbox, with close-stacked ratios for lightning-fast acceleration on essentially any surface.
The 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in just 4.1 seconds, for those playing along at home, with an undisclosed top speed. Given these cars are likely to be roaring through close-packed hairpins and sliding along slippery special stages, outright top speed is largely irrelevant anyway.
With a steel chassis, strengthened by an FIA roll-cage, the four-door Polo weighs just 1320kg in full race trim.
Even though it won't be competing in top-flight WRC competition, Volkswagen has used its best motorsport people to develop the car. Technical director, Francois-Xavier Demaison, was responsible for Sebastien Ogier's championship-winning car between 2013 and 2016. Jan de Jongh, project manager, was also involved in developing Ogier's car.
“The Polo GTI R5 came through the initial tests without any problems. The feedback from the test drivers was very positive,” says Demaison.
“It is obviously beneficial to be able to call upon an experienced team of engineers and mechanics, who helped to develop the Polo that won the world championship."
When it passes FIA homologation – likely to happen mid-2018 – the car will be handed over to customers. VW is planning to have it smashing along rally stages in northern-hemisphere autumn, or Australian spring, next year.