Unveiled as a concept at the Geneva Motor Show in 2000, Volkswagen’s wild RSi model Beetle is at last in production and now in Australia. Volkswagen Group Australia has imported two of the Limited Edition $125,000, V6 four-wheel-drive beasts - the ultimate high performance New Beetle.
Only 250 Beetle RSi models have been built. All are left-hand-drive and they were snapped-up by eager customers in Germany and Japan.
Sitting pretty on stunning 18-inch wheels, the lightweight magnesium alloys are pulled from the Beetle Cup racing versions. As for the interior, the radically revised canopy features luxury high-tech materials such as aluminium, carbon fibre and leather.
Despite the luxury inside, the sporting intent is obvious with tight-fitting Recaro sports seats trimmed in tropical orange-coloured leather. There are aluminium surrounds for the extra instruments in the centre console for oil pressure, oil temperature and amps.
And, like all true sports cars, bringing the New Beetle RSi to life is a starter button located in the centre console near the handbrake - tres chic.
Aluminium also features heavily elsewhere inside, from the race and rally inspired grab handles, window lift handles and dashboard styling, to the heating and ventilation controls and carbon fibre door trims and dashboard panels.
The control panel for the radio is positioned in the anthracite coloured Alcantara headliner and the radio itself is mounted in the rear. The luxury Alcantara material is also featured in the boot lining.
Based on the vehicles used in Germany’s New Beetle Cup racing series, the RSi is powered by a special version of Volkswagen’s 3.2-litre, 24-valve V6 engine. It delivers 165kW to all four wheels @ 6200rpm and creates a hefty 317Nm of torque @ 3200rpm — almost half the revolutions where peak power occurs. Each 3.2-litre V6 engine is individually assembled and tested by Volkswagen Racing to ensure the highest levels of build quality.
Drive to all four wheels is provided by a six-speed close-ratio gearbox and Volkswagen’s 4MOTION system with Haldex coupling. Hauling the bulbous car in from high speeds are massive ventilated disc brakes, supported by ABS and an electronic brake pressure distribution system.
As far as the styling goes, the RSi is not easily mistaken for a stock-standard New Beetle. The body is now 80mm wider, improving balance, and with an all-new front air dam, which ensures copious amount of air are fed into the engine bay, the RSi is the more aggressive sibling in the Beetle family.
With lowered side skirts and a massive rear wing, accompanied by a smaller roof spoiler, aerodynamics are much improved as well. This aerodynamic kit comes straight from the New Beetle Cup racing cars. A carbon fibre cross-strut behind the rear seat provides much-increased torsional rigidity, too.
Likewise, the two rear exhaust pipes protrude from the rear apron alongside ventilation grilles (the road version does not have the rear diffuser fitted to the race cars). The tailpipes and Remus sports mufflers ensure the New Beetle RSi sounds purposeful and gritty as soon as the six-cylinder engine springs to life.
The sum total of all this technology is a Volkswagen Beetle with staggering performance: zero to 100 km/h takes fractionally over six seconds and the top speed is over 230 km/h. Only built in left-hand drive, there are no plans for the New Beetle RSi to be sold in Australia. Nevertheless, Volkswagen Group Australia Managing Director, Mr Peter Nochar, is such an RSi enthusiast he ordered two for local media evaluation and motorshow displays.
"The New Beetle is undoubtedly another classic design and with the RSi, Volkswagen’s designers have shown the diversity which is possible while maintaining the original design integrity," Mr Nochar said.