Saturday 28 July 2007

Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit Spied

It might be the weekend, but Volkswagen’s engineers are hard at work out in the Death Valley sun, likely hoping to get a testing session completed without detection from our spy shooters. Fortunately, the team at KGP Photography recognizes no timetables, and they managed to catch some of the first clear shots of VW’s next-generation Golf/Rabbit hatch. Judging by a certain engineer’s hand signals, we’re guessing that VW was less-than-pleased to see our boys and their cameras.

The new look (or what’s visible below the camouflage, at any rate), is unlikely to jar VW enthusiasts, as it appears to be rather predictable evolution of the current hatch. KGP notes that this prototype does evince “some more involved surface development, with a more chiseled character line running along the car’s waistline.” Given how pivotal this model is for VW (it’s a particularly huge seller in European markets), it isn’t surprising that Wolfsburg isn’t keen to make a daring design statement, but we’re hoping for some interesting front- and rear-end treatments to give this sixth-generation car a more dynamic look.

While no official date has been given for the next iteration of the VW stalwart, the model is expected to see European showrooms in 2008—far sooner than American dealers, who probably won’t see the car until 2009 or 2010. This makes a degree of sense given that the current Mark V model has been on sale abroad since 2003, but only on offer (as the Rabbit) in the U.S. since last summer.

As before, a range of four- and six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines is planned, with both manual and dual-clutch DSG transmissions on offer.

What the spy photographers saw:

We caught VW engineers in the midst of unloading a prototype for the next-generation Golf (renamed the Rabbit in the U.S.) in the middle of the desert–and they were none too pleased about it. Perhaps they thought that by working weekends, they might get a pass from the car spies, but that wasn’t the case. This new model will represent the sixth-generation of the Golf, and the car’s overall shape remains true to the familiar Golf styling. This prototype displays some more involved surface development, with a more chiseled character line running along the car’s waistline. The door handles no longer intersect with that character line, suggesting that is juts out more abruptly creating stronger belt line shelf. The lower side sills also get a newly sculpted flare that adds a little aggression to the stance. It also appears that the C-pillar gets a more prominent dog- legged kink. It’s not quite BMW’s trademark Hoffmeister kink on the 1-series hatch, but it’s heading a bit more in that direction.

The camouflage on the C-pillar and the rear hatch seems to suggest a new arrangement between the pillar and the rear glass, suggesting that the backlight on the next-gen Golf may have a slight wrap-around effect.

Changes to the Golf have always been evolutionary, and this occasion is nothing different. Earlier reports suggested that VW would be updating the current platform to enable more cost-efficient assembly, meaning some combination of lower price and higher profits. The overall look of this car would suggest that those reports might have been accurate. The new design appears to be a thoughtful massaging of the familiar Golf cues, instead of a revolutionary makeover.

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