Designed to quicken the pulse of enthusiasts

In June of 1976, Volkswagen introduced a sportier variant of the Golf, dubbing it the GTI. In the four decades that followed, this speed box helped define the very essence of the term “hot hatch,” offering tire-roasting output, corner-carving suspension tuning, and even a place in back for cargo. Now, in celebration of that history, VW is introducing a custom one-off called the Heartbeat, and it’s bringing all the stock GTI goodness, plus showstopper styling, a monster stereo, and a considerable power boost under the hood.

The Heartbeat is actually part of a duo of one-off show concepts VW is debuting at the 35th annual Worthersee car meet this year. Held on the banks of Lake Worthersee in southern Austria, the event regularly attracts tens of thousands of enthusiasts from around the world, who arrive to rejoice in all things within the VAG spectrum. 

Since 2008, VW has brought along a new GTI project car to help fan the flames. The custom rides are produced as part of the Volkswagen Vocational Training program, which offers VW apprentices the chance to create their vision of the ultimate GTI. This year, 12 fresh-faced trainees designed and built the Heartbeat in less than nine months, honing their skills in five different areas of expertise. The team consisted of five women and seven men, aged 20 to 26, and included interior fitters, vehicle paint technicians, automotive mechatronics technicians, a technical product designer, and a process technician specializing in plastics and rubber engineering.

So what do you get when you leave 12 young and talented VW devotees alone with a GTI? Read on for the details.

Continue reading to learn more about the Volkswagen Golf GTI Heartbeat.

Exterior

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Heartbeat High Resolution Exterior
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Let’s start with the paint, which emphasizes the bodylines of the three-door hatch with a two-tone color scheme. The nose, roof, and half of the doors get a matte dark grey coloring, while the rest of it is silver metallic. Making the transition between the two colors is a hexagonal honeycomb pattern, which is echoed on the hood and roof, and includes the number 40 on the doors. In back is a trailing edge spoiler, plus there are subtle aero enhancements along the lower edges in front and back.

Setting the stance are huge 20-inch aluminum wheels from BBS, which are set in an open, quintuple split-spoke design and come wrapped in barely-there low-profile tires.

In addition to the grey and silver coloring, there is a variety of red accents, including a line in the grille that runs through the headlights, slats in the lower bumper intakes, GTI badges in the front fenders, a rear lower bumper insert, and hexagons in the paint, not to mention the large brake calipers. Setting the stance are huge 20-inch aluminum wheels from BBS, which are set in an open, quintuple split-spoke design and come wrapped in barely-there low-profile tires.

Once again, it looks like the VW Vocational team hit a homerun. The two-tone colors look fantastic on the GTI, while the red accents add a dash of flavor in just the right places. Meanwhile, the hexagons add volumes to the car’s inherently simplistic bodylines, enhancing its “hatchbackness” and sportiness without overly complicating it. And while I’m not personally a huge fan of the whole stance movement, the moderately tucked rollers should be right at home at Worthersee.

Interior

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Heartbeat High Resolution Interior
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Open the door to the Heartbeat, and you’ll find an equally impressive cabin. First up, the seats were swapped with reclining buckets from the ‘Ring-storming Golf GTI Clubsport S. These lightweight units were customized with crystal grey headrests (which include an embroidered “40”), tan side bolsters, and a black middle section with red honeycomb perforations. The seat backs also get a glossy red finish. Additional upholstery upgrades include more red honeycomb on the door inserts. Red contrast stitching was used throughout.

Backing the heartbeat theme are copious EKG signatures scattered throughout the interior, including strips above the door trims and below the glove box.

Backing the heartbeat theme are copious EKG signatures scattered throughout the interior, including strips above the door trims and below the glove box. Another neat touch is the inclusion of a red honeycomb insert for the air vents.

In back, the rear bench was tossed in favor of a silver roll cage, while the cargo area was upgraded with a little light and enough sound to wake the dead. The audio system now pumps out 1,360 watts through seven speakers, including a huge sub covered by a honeycomb mesh and lit by red LEDs. More LEDs can be found illuminating the amp, which sits under an engraved, hexagonal glass cover. There are also exposed twin tweeters just behind the seats, which are mounted inside a custom box embellished with yet another red EKG signature.

While the roll cage is a bit much for my taste, the rest of it is super clean and well executed. Many show cars tend to go way over the top when it comes to shiny materials and LED lighting, but the Heartbeat is tasteful rather than garish, with just the right amount of bling.

Drivetrain

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Heartbeat High Resolution Drivetrain
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Unfortunately, VW didn’t give us the full rundown on what makes the Heartbeat tick, but the automaker did say that the engine now makes a whopping 395 horsepower (and it comes with a cool new red plastic cover). Considering the standard GTI makes just 220 horsepower, that’s a massive jump in output.

For now, we can assume the car gets the same turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder as before, with an aluminum head and iron block. To make the extra ponies, I’m guessing the team added stuff like a bigger turbo, larger intercooler, and high-flow fuel components, plus the requisite ECU tuning. Hopefully VW will dish the details sooner or later.

Info on the suspension upgrades is even murkier, but considering this is a show car, it’s more than likely the Heartbeat just got coilovers to help kill the fender gap on those massive 20-inch wheels, plus some spiffy drilled rotors for added visual appeal. In order to actually make use of nearly 400 horsepower at the front axle, the Heartbeat would need extensive modification and track time to get it dialed, which means running the risk of an off-road excursion. And like they say, never put a clear coat on a race car.

Conclusion

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Heartbeat High Resolution Exterior
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The Heartbeat is the ninth VW apprentice program vehicle to debut at Worthersee, and overall, it’s quite impressive. The 12 trainees obviously took their time in implementing their ideas, as there are a ton of nice details everywhere that work in unison to create an absolutely unique automobile. Hopefully VW will recognize the worth of this program as more than publicity, as the concepts it puts forward are exactly what the brand needs to stay fresh. For example – what about a GTI performance interior package with Clubsport seats, hexagonal upholstery, red air vent inserts, and LED lighting?

Either way, here’s to another 40 years of GTI performance.

  • Leave it
    • No details on the drivetrain or suspension upgrades
    • Show queen with no hope of seeing a track

Press Release

40 years of the Golf GTI. World premiere on the Wörthersee. Hearts beating faster with anticipation: today, 12 trainees from Volkswagen and Sitech Sitztechnik are presenting their 400 PS (295 kW) Golf GTI Heartbeat in Austria at the international meeting of GTI fans. Fantastic sound, a contrasting color scheme, a honeycomb design and heartbeat symbols as well as a sound system with 1,360 watts from seven speakers make it quite clear: the interior and exterior design of the Golf GTI Heartbeat presented by the budding carmakers is inspired by the emotion of the GTI and the 40th anniversary of the Golf GTI. The unique GTI based on a standard Golf GTI Performance1 was created in slightly less than nine months on the basis of ideas developed by apprentices aged between 20 and 26 training in five different vocations.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Heartbeat High Resolution Exterior
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Exterior highlights: the two-door sports Golf is painted in reflex silver metallic with the roof and front end covered in a contrasting dark grey foil. GTI honeycombs in bright tornado red with contrasting dark and light grey provide further design accents on the bonnet, the closed roof and on the wings, marking the transition from dark to light. In addition, an individual high-gloss body kit and 20-inch wheels featuring wide tires on BBS aluminum rims with exclusive paintwork accentuate the car’s sporting presentation.

Interior highlights: The front of the passenger compartment is dominated by two folding bucket seats from the Golf GTI Clubsport S – decorated by a crystal grey embroidered "40" emblem on the headrest and honeycomb perforations with a red background on the back rests. These are repeated on the door insets. Heartbeat symbols on continuous lines decorate the strips above the door trims and the trim strip below the glove compartment. Instead of rear seats and luggage space, the rear end of the car features a high-end sound system with 1,360 watts from seven speakers and a special HIFI system with LED lighting and engraved glass covers.

The Golf GTI Heartbeat bears witness to the high-quality practically oriented training provided by Volkswagen. From the initial idea to today’s world premiere before tens of thousands of GTI enthusiasts at Maria Wörth, the five women and seven men planned almost every step themselves. After discussing many ideas and techniques, they opted for the emotional Heartbeat concept. Finally, they assembled their Golf GTI Heartbeat on its wide wheels.

They are training to be vehicle interior fitters, vehicle paint technicians, automotive mechatronics technicians, a technical product designer and a process technician specializing in plastics and rubber engineering. By working on the Volkswagen Vocational Training project, the young talents gained considerable specialist expertise and skill and grew into a strong team together with project manager Holger Schülke.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Heartbeat High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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"During the creation of their dream GTI, our apprentices learn about the complexity of automobile production," says Peter Christ, Head of Automotive Technology Training in Wolfsburg. "We select especially talented young people and give them an opportunity at an early stage to learn from experienced colleagues from the entire company – for example from the design departments, the MultiMedia Center, the pilot hall and the paint shop."

The Golf GTI Heartbeat is the ninth GTI project vehicle of Volkswagen Vocational Training to be presented by apprentices and to make its world debut at the Wörthersee meeting since 2008.

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