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On its best days, badge engineering is usually a cynical exercise in marketing and recycling of used chassis. On its worst day, it makes for brand-killers like the Cadillac Cimmaron and Catera. But every once in a great while, when the stars align just right and Venus is in the proper stage of ascension, re-badging a used chassis might just get you something beautiful and glorious. A car that feels like what it was always meant to be — a car like the VW Golf TCR.

While we here in the States eagerly await the new 2016 Volkswagen Golf R, Volkswagen has unveiled one pretty sweet re-badging job. The car you’re looking at is, in no uncertain terms, a 2013 Seat Leon Cup Racer with a new Golf body. No more, and certainly no less. Of course, it’s also still a Golf, because the Seat itself is a re-badged Golf. So maybe this is just a case of a car returning to its brand. Still, this is one sick little race-ready ride for those who just can’t wait to represent Wolfsburg on the race track.

Continue reading for the full story Volkswagen Golf TCR.

  • 2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    4.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:


2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR High Resolution Exterior
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The Golf TCR race car starts out as a regular production, all-steel MQB-platform body — the same used by the 2013 Audi A3 Sportback, Seat (Say-YAHT) Leon and 2013 Skoda Octavia. The widened front and rear fenders, front splitter and vents in the hood and rear fender openings are all carbon fiber. The rest of that crazy body kit is fiberglass. All this wide-body craziness makes the TCR about six inches wider than a stock Golf — oddly, almost the exact same dimensions as a 2015 Dodge Viper SRT. Technically a bit bigger, with a longer wheelbase to boot. Weird, but true.

But at 2,469 pounds, at least the TCR is still about 190 pounds lighter than a Viper — credit its stripped out interior for that. But with a 63-37 weight distribution, the Golf TCR is considerably more nose-heavy than the Viper. Not entirely a bad thing for a front-wheel-drive car, but it makes for a pretty heavy beating on the front tires.

Of course, all of this is great news for owners of road-going VW Golfs, since it means that hypothetically you could transform your own car into a near visual replica of the TCR racer using nothing but bolt-on body bits straight from VW. Little to no fabrication required.


2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR High Resolution Exterior
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Well, it’s a Golf with a body kit and a lowering job. Or maybe it’s a Seat Leon Cup Racer with a slightly different body kit — put the two side-by-side and it’s hard to deny the resemblance. Even the 18-by-10-inch wheels are nearly identical. But apart from a passing glance, that’s where the similarity ends.

Compared to the Leon on which it's based, the Golf is much slicker and blockier; it's simple and elegant where the Seat is busy and boy-racer.

VW’s done a very nice job of making this car quite distinctly a Golf. Compared to the Leon on which it’s based, the Golf is much slicker and blockier; it’s simple and elegant where the Seat is busy and boy-racer. It’s got fewer chintzy styling details, and looks just as serious and functional as the regular Golf.

Notably, VW changed the front grille so it spans in a thin bar headlight-to-headlight, simplified the brake duct openings, removed the wire mesh over the lower grille and blacked out the inside (good call), and overall went about the business of making the rest of the car as flat and solid-looking as possible.

As over-the-top race cars go, this one is beautifully restrained. It’s got everything it needs, nothing it doesn’t, and makes a point of saying so. Good job, Volkswagen.


2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR High Resolution Interior
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What interior? It’s a race car. It’s got an FIA homologated and HANS adapted roll cage, lots of buttons on the removable steering wheel that can do lots of things, and a driver drink system that doesn’t include a water pump. However, the car does come with a built-in air-jack system for quick tire changes, and a 14.5 gallon fuel tank from the Audi A3 Quattro. Not because it’s bigger, but because the Quattro fuel tank allows for a straight exhaust exist. That means less heat buildup in the exhaust pipe, which means a cooler fuel tank and cooler fuel going into the engine. German engineering, baby.

Otherwise, the interior is exactly as spartan as you’d expect. Not a place you’d want to spend a couple hours driving from Nuremberg to Silverstone — but good enough to race in when you got there.


Effectively, the drivetrain in this car is a high-boost and race-built version of the 2.0-liter/six-speed DSG combo you’ll find in the road-going 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Or Golf R, if you prefer.

This engine makes the same 285 foot-pounds of torque at 1,800 rpm that it does at 5,800 rpm, and it holds peak torque all the way from 3,500 to 5,000 rpm.

It’s a turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder running a Continental SIMOS electronic control unit. The engine and paddle-shift DSG are mostly mechanically factory spec for a Golf R; which is plenty good enough, since the 2.0-liter in this car only makes about 30 horsepower more than the Golf R. Specifically, 330 horsepower and 302 foot-pounds of torque.

That might not seem awfully impressive, and for sure this engine is capable of making tons more power even with the stock Golf R turbo. But the approach used here is all about linear power delivery. The torque curve on this engine is barely a "curve" at all — it’s almost literally completely flat right off idle. This engine makes the same 285 foot-pounds of torque at 1,800 rpm that it does at 5,800 rpm, and it holds peak torque all the way from 3,500 to 5,000 rpm. A lot of big-block V-8 gas engines wish they had a powerband like that. If anything, the VW engine’s powerband looks like an old 7.3-liter Powerstroke diesel’s, but with twice the rpm range.

That’s no accident, either. Volkswagen doesn’t expect a lot of professional drivers in these races, and this kind of broadsword powerband makes the car much more user-friendly for amateur racers. This is a car that someone with minimal experience could jump into and start setting respectable lap times almost immediately. In short, it’s forgiving of mistakes.

It has to be, considering the fact that the car’s putting all this power down through the front tires alone. Unpredictable torque steer is death for a front-drive racer; and again, the 2.0-liter’s linear, predictable powerband comes into play to help keep the car safe for neophyte drivers. So too does the car’s electronically controlled VAQ limited-slip differential, which comes with three pre-programmed maps that allow drivers to adjust at the push of a button for new tires, worn tires or rain. Honestly, if this thing were any more user-friendly, it’d buy the driver a beer and pick up his dry cleaning.

Drivetrain Specifications

Type 2.0-litre turbo engine
Output 330 HP
Torque 302 LB-FT
Bore and Stroke 82.5 by 92.8 mm
Fuel System Direct Injection
Electronic Aids Launch Control, no ABS

Chassis Specifications

| Length | 172.5 inches |
| Width | 76.7 inches |
| Wheelbase | 105 inches |
| Weight, Un-Ballasted | 2,469 pounds |
| Ground Clearance | 2.7 inches (recommended) |
| Brakes, Front | 6-Piston, 14.2-inch steel disc |
| Brakes, Rear | 10.7 inches |
| Anti-Lock System | Disabled |
| Steering System | Electrical |
| Front Suspension | Strut, Adjustable Height, Toe and Camber |
| Rear Suspension | Multi-Link Axle, Adjustable Height, Toe and Camber |
| Sway Bars | Front and Rear Adjustable |
| Electronics | OBD-II diagnostics, AIM-MXG 28-Channel +8 Analogics Telemetry


The VW Golf TCI was so-named for the TCR International Racing Series that takes place on tracks all over the world. You’ve probably literally never heard of any of the racing teams or drivers, since this isn’t entirely a pro-level event. Part of the idea behind this car (which at the moment is a "production study," but it’s already racing) is that it will go to privateer teams. Most of the drivers are somewhat experienced racers, but there are a few self-funded fun-runners out there, and teams looking to work their way up to the bigger leagues. It’s a somewhat minor-league racing series compared to the DTM, mostly because it’s dominated by a single automaker.

2013 Seat Leon Cup Racer High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 504887

Note: 2013 Seat Leon Cup Racer pictured.

The series rules require under 2.0-liters, front-wheel drive and a minimum ballast weight, determined by the car’s finishing order in each race. Some of the heavier cars run as much as 2,900 pounds, depending on the ballast requirements.

Volkswagen AG pretty much dominates this series. Maybe that’s too subtle a word — more like "owns" the series. The Golf competes primarily against its Seat Leon and front-drive Audi TT siblings. Otherwise, there are currently five Opel Astras (sold as the 2016 Buick Verano here), a couple Honda Civics and even a pair of Ford Focuses. It’s hard to say how the Golf TCR will fare in this field — but next to the gorgeous Audi TT racer, it’s at least the best looking car on the field.

Cost and Conclusion

2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR High Resolution Exterior
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So, how much does all this goodness cost? Probably not as much as you might think, in terms of the buy-in price. Once the Golf TCR comes up for sale, expect a price tag of about $77,000 — which really isn’t all that bad, considering it comes with a 12,000-mile engine and gearbox service from VW itself. But the services in between will cost you. You have to change all of the car’s fluids after no more than 5,000 miles, and you’ll need to do an oil change with fresh Castrol synthetic every 1,000 miles. The brake discs will last about 1,500 miles, spark plugs 2,000 miles, lug nuts 3,000 miles, and the wheel hubs about 10,000 miles.

Hey, nobody ever said those sponsor stickers were just for decoration.

All told, there’s a pretty good chance that the Golf TCR will go on to utterly dominate this series. The Seat Leon certainly has, and it will probably prove the VW’s main competition. They are basically the same car, after all. Hopefully it does do well, if for no other reason than to drum up some enthusiasm for VW’s Germanic brand of form-follows-function styling. If that’s the face of street-car cool to come, then maybe we’d all be a little better off with a little bit of re-branding.

Richard Rowe
Richard Rowe
About the author

Press Release

A new Golf for the racetrack: Volkswagen Motorsport is developing its first racing car based on the seventh-generation Golf. The production-based, 330 PS concept car is assembled in accordance with TCR regulations and is intended to help Volkswagen evaluate a potential customer racing programme from the 2016 season onwards. In order to accelerate the development of the car, the new Golf will be tested under competitive conditions between now and the end of the season: as cooperation partner, the Liqui Moly Team Engstler will run two cars at the eighth round of the Touringcar Racer International Series (TCR) at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR High Resolution Exterior
- image 636630

“The newly created TCR category provides a promising platform for customer racing – on a national and international level. With exciting races, production-based technology and reasonable costs, it offers a new outlook for private racing teams,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “When developing the Golf-based concept car, we are able to fall back on the resources at Volkswagen. This reduces both development time and costs. We will also use the rest of the season to test the car under competitive conditions and evaluate a possible customer racing project from 2016.”

Dynamic appearance: new Golf epitomises racing genes

2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR High Resolution Exterior
- image 636631

Visually, the racing genes are clear to see on the Golf developed by Volkswagen Motorsport: 18-inch racing rims, a chassis roughly 40 centimetres wider than that of the production Golf, and a striking rear wing give the Golf a ‘ready-to-race’ look and first-class handling. An aerodynamically designed front splitter and carbon rear wing are also among the modifications for the racetrack. Among the components designed to protect the driver are a racing seat with head protectors, a racing safety cell, and a safety tank in accordance with FIA regulations.

Under the bonnet: the inner values of the new Golf for the racetrack

A powerful four-cylinder engine, DSG gearbox with shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel, a consistently developed racing chassis – even under the bonnet, the new Golf has been meticulously prepared for its outings at the racetrack. Volkswagen Motorsport is developing the car in cooperation with the sport department at SEAT, meaning it can call on SEAT’s experience with the Leon Cup Racer. As with the Volkswagen Group’s production vehicles, the MQB platform also offers many synergies for racing cars and reduces the cost of assembling and running the touring car. The 2.0-litre turbo engine with direct fuel injection comes from the top sporting model, the Golf R. The racing version of this engine generates 330 PS (243 kW) and 410 Nm of torque.

2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR High Resolution Interior
- image 636632

Testing under race conditions: first start at the Red Bull Ring

In order to accelerate development, the concept car will be tested under competitive conditions at the remaining four race weekends in the international TCR series. The renowned Liqui Moly Team Engstler, which boasts decades of experience of touring car racing, will take responsibility for running the car during the remaining test phase.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release

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