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Inside the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, by the numbers
March 30, 2020
Americans’ love of the SUV form has grown quickly over the past several years, and in 2019 more than 2.8 million midsize SUVs went home to new buyers. But with dozens of models to choose from, and many ways to measure the important features and dimensions, getting a sense of the right SUV can be challenging.
To help guide your decision, we’ve created this look at the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport by the measures that matter most when you live with a vehicle every day.1
2nd Row Legroom
The Atlas Cross Sport offers a generous amount of second-row legroom in the midsize SUV class – and puts flying coach to shame.
Typical Airline Legroom: 31-33 inches 2
2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee 38.6 inches
2020 Honda Passport 39.6 inches
2019 Chevy Equinox: 39.9 inches
2020 Atlas Cross Sport: 40.4 inches
The Atlas Cross Sport offers one of the larger cargo areas in the midsize crossover segment, with 40.3 cubic feet of space with the second row up, and 77.8 cu. ft. when folded down.
That sounds like a lot, but “cubic feet” can be a hard measure to visualize. For comparison’s sake, the 40.3 cu. ft. of the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport equals:
The volume of 1,929 medium cups of coffee3
About 8.5 times more cargo space than the original Volkswagen Beetle had behind its second row
Just under double the trunk cargo space of a traditional taxi cab4
9.8 cu. ft. more than the 2019 Chevy Blazer
8.2 cu. ft. more than the 2020 Nissan Murano (without moonroof)
4.0 cu. ft. more than the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1.1 cu. ft. more than the 2020 Ford Edge
With 5,000 lbs. of towing capacity when equipped with a factory-installed tow hitch and 7-pin connector5, the 3.6-liter V6, Atlas Cross Sport can tow or haul what your family needs to enjoy a road vacation, such as:
Larger bicycle carriers that hold up to four bikes
Many camping travel trailers up to 19 feet
Utility trailers for boats, kayaks/canoes and small vehicles
Cupholding like a champ
The Atlas Cross Sport features 11 cupholders so that no passenger ever needs to go without a refreshment. Here’s the math:
2 in the center console
2 bottle holders in each front door
2 in the middle rear armrest
1 additional can/juicebox holder in the armrest
2 cup holders for the rear door panels
2 bottle holders for the rear doors
When you add the available Volkswagen Base Rails6 to the existing roof rails of the Atlas Cross Sport, you get several new options for carrying a variety of your recreational needs or extra stuff. Volkswagen Accessories gear includes:
Three types of roof boxes for road tripping with cargo
A basket for camping/outdoor materials
Winter sports carriers for skis and snowboards
Boat hauling racks for kayaks, canoes, surfboards and stand-up paddleboards
How the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport delivers concert-quality sound
March 27, 2020
You may be among the millions of vehicle owners who have never taken note of how many speakers your car has. But for many, car audio systems matter greatly – after all, if you’re going to commute in your vehicle several hours a day, you should enjoy the environment it creates.
In the digital era, car audio has become less about total volume of sound and more about tuning the sound for the environment. And since 2011, Volkswagen has teamed with Fender and Panasonic to bring a new quality to the sound inside your car.
The first Fender Premium Audio System debuted in the 2011 Beetle, Passat and Jetta GLI, offering 400 watts, nine speakers and the in-person type of sound that has made Fender such a legendary name in music. Volkswagen has continued to partner with Panasonic and Fender to implement systems in other models, including the 2015 Golf, and select Golf, Passat, Tiguan and Atlas models.
With that system, “we’re able to put concert-quality sound inside a vehicle,” said Tom Dunn, Director of Global Audio Solutions at Panasonic. “The emotion of a live performance is something we were all familiar with, but it was not something anyone expected to feel while driving their car.”
Applying that same formula to the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport posed some unique challenges.
“The Atlas has three rows and seven seats, which gives the vehicle a large cabin space,” said David Ernst, Panasonic’s Senior Acoustics Engineer. “The Atlas Cross Sport has two rows and five seats, so we had to rethink the design of the Fender Premium Audio System for the smaller model without taking away any of the quality.”
To adapt the original Atlas audio system for the size of the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst and his team tested the system with focus groups and people at events and concerts. The team even had musical artists sit in the Atlas Cross Sport and listen to their own music on the system to see how well it matched in quality and expectation.
“We did a lot of fine-tuning to make sure the product would be perfect for passengers, wherever they sat inside the vehicle,” Ernst said.
This latest Fender Premium Audio System includes 12 separate Fender speakers around the Atlas Cross Sport cabin. The 80-mm front-center channel speaker brings vocals to life, as if from a concert stage. In the front doors, two 200-mm dual voice coil woofers deliver lower tones with minimal distortion, even when played at high volumes. Four 60-mm soft dome tweeters, located in the first and second rows, convey the richness and clarity of each instrument.
Two 168-mm speakers in the rear doors deliver a smooth low-frequency and midrange response, and two 80-mm wide frequency speakers in the D-pillar mimic the depth and spaciousness of a concert venue. In the back, a 168-mm subwoofer sits in a 12-liter enclosure, completing the audio spectrum with cabin-filling bass that passengers can feel in their chests. All told, the system can pump out 480 watts of power – enough to help recreate that front-row-concert sound.
After spending months optimizing the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst says he’s proud of the “concert feeling” passengers have when listening to the final product.
“This partnership is not just about the hardware of the audio system,” said Dunn. “It’s an opportunity to connect with customers on an emotional level. And Volkswagen has always recognized the importance of this connection.”
Women leaders at Volkswagen talk about the road ahead
March 25, 2020
March is Women’s History Month and offers an opportunity to look at the progress women have made in the automotive industry and the challenges that remain. We asked four leading women from Volkswagen of America to share their insights about breaking into a male-dominated industry, their role models, and where they want to take their careers in the future.
How would you describe your role and responsibilities at Volkswagen?
Shani Jayant, Principal UX designer, Innovation and Engineering Center California: I lead the Inclusive Mobility initiative from the Silicon Valley IECC campus. Our mission is to help design vehicles and services that can improve transportation and the quality of life for everyone, especially people with disabilities. We do this by working closely with disability communities from the start, so we can inform the future design of accessible self-driving electric vehicles that will come out years down the road.
Ellen Collins, Laboratory Evaluation Specialist, Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant: I primarily test, evaluate and release components according to material specs for vehicle parts for production, and field and factory issues. This year will mark my 10th year at Volkswagen.
Megan Closset, Product Manager, Volkswagen HQ: I am the product planner for what is arguably our most impassioned group of vehicles – the Golf family. I have the opportunity to connect with our most enthusiastic customers on a personal level. As a lifelong Volkswagen fan, and employee since 2005, I’ve always gone to enthusiast events as a customer first, employee second. I consider everyone who has a Volkswagen an extended family member or friend, especially on the enthusiast side.
Dawn Dameron, Senior Manager of Customer Care, Auburn Hills Corporate Office: My role is to inspire my team to deliver experiences that leave our customers, dealers and prospective customers feeling great about the brand and our products. I would argue I have the coolest job in the company. I have an immediate opportunity to really impact the way a customer or shopper views the brand. I absolutely love what I do and feel fortunate to work with such a dedicated group of people.
What do you enjoy most about what you do at Volkswagen?
Closset: I love the teamwork and camaraderie at Volkswagen. My workgroup has become my friend group. I love the people I work and interact with, and it’s not just the people on my team—it’s everyone. My favorite car aspect of the job is … the cars! I love the cars! Whether it’s driving, sharing them with customers and advocates, or welcoming someone new into the Volkswagen family, it’s really cool and rewarding.
Collins: I enjoy working with individuals who are from diverse backgrounds. It has been motivating, as well as interesting, working with such awesome associates.
Jayant: I enjoy the people! My teammates have been such great influences on me and my work ethic. Also, working with the disability community has taught me a lot about what it means to be an ally, and what it means to live out diversity and inclusion instead of just saying the words. I hope that diversity truly becomes a bigger part of Volkswagen, especially around hiring practices.
What advice would you give to other women trying to break into the automotive industry?
Dameron: Be genuine, sincere, and take stand for what you believe in – this will gain you the trust and respect needed to be successful. The simple things can go a long way.
Collins: It’s your choices that show who you truly are, not your abilities. Be courageous and brave. Take bold steps, and never forget to enjoy the journey.
Jayant: While it’s great to be a car geek, you can also enter the automotive industry other ways! I knew nothing about cars but joined my group because of my past work with multimodal interactions and working with the disability community for many years.
Closset: If you are confident, study your craft and know you’re an equal, you will succeed. Also, having dealership experience, whether you’re male or female, is very valuable. My experience there gave me the motivation to be a sales trainer and later a product trainer. I would also recommend finding a mentor.
What woman inspires you and why?
Collins: Emily Dickenson. She is one of my favorite poets. There is a verse from her poem, “We never know how high we are,” that has moved me to overcome the fear of failure.
Closset: My first boss, Laura McKelvey, remains one of the most powerful forces in my life – as a boss, as a mentor, as a business inspiration, and as a friend. She’s been with the company for 36 years and has helped me chart my course at Volkswagen. I would also say my mom. She worked full-time, but never missed an important milestone or opportunity to encourage me to do – and be – my best.
Jayant: I’m inspired by disability activist Alice Wong, who founded the Disability Visibility Project. She has done an amazing job helping to bring disability policy issues to the forefront in this year’s presidential primary elections.
Dameron: Human rights activist Malala Yousafzai. For those of you that are not familiar with her story, Yousafzai was shot by a Taliban gunman when she was 15 and went on to win the Noble Peace Prize. I am absolutely in awe of her courage and relentless drive to make the world a better place – even under terrifying circumstances. Her story was tragic, but she used it as an opportunity to make a difference and change the world around her.
Stars & cars: Your ideal Volkswagen match, according to the Zodiac
March 20, 2020
A car is not just a means of transportation – it also offers clues to your personality, lifestyle and character traits. And, with so many great vehicles to choose from, it can be hard to find the perfect match.
To explore these cosmic connections from a different angle, we’ve developed a guide that pairs the attributes associated with your zodiac sign to current and classic Volkswagen models.
Because sometimes the right connections come from the stars.
Aquarius: Lively, sociable and original, you prefer the unconventional to the traditional. The Beetle, the quintessential Age of Aquarius car, is fun, unique and one-of-a-kind – just like you.
Pisces: Intuitive, imaginative, creative and compassionate, you are escapist by nature. An iconic Microbus will give you the freedom to follow your whimsies and hit the road (and knowing your selfless ways, we’re sure you’ll have plenty of passengers). Known for your patience and empathy, you will feel good knowing that the microbus is anticipated to be reincarnated as an electric model – the ID. BUZZ – in 2022. Aries: Adventurous, energetic and a bit of a trendsetter, you were the first of your friends to embrace EVs. The all-electric e-Golf is agile, fun to drive and designed to keep up with your active and energetic personality. Your sympathetic and courageous side will also feel good knowing your car is helping lower greenhouse emissions.
Taurus: Reliable, practical and dependable, you want a car that’s just as solid and steady as you are, and the Tiguan checks all the boxes. The mid-size, sporty SUV offers spaciousness combined with Volkswagen’s hallmark driving dynamics and careful attention to detail (which, as a fellow meticulous planner, you can appreciate). Plus, its ergonomically-designed seats, heated side mirrors and available panoramic sunroof all appeal to your self-indulgent side.
Cancer: Family-oriented and a homebody by nature, you crave a steady and spacious shell to get you from point A to point B. The redesigned 2020 Passat fits the bill. Known for your unwavering attention to detail, you will appreciate the midsize sedan’s intricate balance of high quality, value and modern comforts.
Leo: Vivacious, theatrical and passionate, you are a charismatic, natural-born leader who loves basking in the limelight. Behind the wheel of the sporty, statement-making Jetta GLI, you are bound to make a splash. You have a palpable, high-energy and an ambition that can’t be tamed and this bold, eye-catching sedan is the perfect ride to get you to new heights.
Virgo: Reliable, meticulous and modest, you desire a car that is practical, dependable and yet ever-so-slightly off the beaten track. Look no further than the Jetta. This sassy sedan offers all the features you require – easy handling, plenty of torque and a comprehensive suite of driver assistance technology – plus fun interior styling and a concert-quality stereo system.
Libra: Clever, passionate and talented, Libras are going places and plan to get there in style. The Arteon, outfitted with frameless side windows and a wraparound grille, is the perfect blend of form and function – and a natural fit for the sign that places value on balance, order and equality.
Scorpio: Determined, powerful, passionate and endlessly curious, you need a sleek and sporty SUV to keep up with your bold and ambitious plans. Just like Scorpio, the Atlas Cross Sport emulates confidence and encourages spontaneity with its versatile cargo space that allows for everyday (and not-so-everyday) activities.
Sagittarius: Free-spirited, fun and focused, you seek out adventure and love a good road trip with friends. Enter the Atlas. A perfect complement to your work hard, play hard mentality, the seven-seater offers ample seating for friends and family to join you on your adventures.
Capricorn: Practical, prudent and ambitious, you’re not going to blow your savings on some flashy status symbol. Your business-minded and want something that’s sturdy and reliable but has flair. The beloved Golf GTI is the perfect workhorse, offering great handling, performance and comfort all for a reasonable price.
Gemini: Adaptable, adventurous, and versatile, you are the quintessential, and much beloved, Golf R: quick, fun and never dull. The hot hatchback also shares Gemini’s dual personality – it’s a practical, everyday commuter with a sports-car soul.
A son’s 38-year quest to find and restore his father’s Type 3 fastback
March 17, 2020
Lynn Pfenning spent 38 years chasing down his father’s beloved 1967 Volkswagen Type 3 fastback and four years restoring it to its original glory.
The cousin of the Volkswagen Beetle was a major touchstone of Pfenning’s childhood. His father purchased the Brunswick Blue Type 3 fastback for $2,200 in 1967 after totaling his 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. The car was no match for a cow he hit while traveling home from their grandparents’ house in rural North Dakota.
“Growing up, my job every Saturday was to wash and detail the family car before church,” Pfenning said.
Eight years later, his dad sold it to a local farmer who then gifted the car to his son – a friend of Pfenning’s – to drive to and from school.
Once Pfenning’s friend graduated from high school, the Type 3 fastback was used as a utility vehicle for several years before being barn-bound for approximately two decades.
A lifelong gear head, Pfenning went on to trade school, trained as a construction electrician and went on to work at an automotive plant for 20 years. As the years passed, however, Pfenning grew more and more eager to add the special air-cooled to his collection; he currently has two other collector cars, including a 1963 Beetle.
“Over the years, we may have gone our separate ways, but I always kept track of that car,” said Pfenning. “I would check in every five or some years to see if he was willing to sell me it.” The owner wouldn’t budge.
Thankfully, Pfenning’s luck changed in 2013. After spotting another Type 3 Fastback in St. Paul, Minn., he decided to ring his friend and ask again if the car was available for purchase. To his surprise, it was, and he was invited down to North Dakota to negotiate a price.
With some strategic haggling, his compelling backstory and a small nudge from the owner’s wife, he was able to buy the car at a fraction of the asking price.
“Before he had a chance to change his mind, I handed him the cash and away we went,” Pfenning said.
Contrary to photos, however, the car was in rough shape. The past owner had used the fastback as a farm vehicle to round up cattle, which in turn caused damage to both car doors and crushed the nose of the car. Instead of a proper fix, panels were filled with several inches of putty.
On top of that, the engine was severely damaged due to a hidden mouse nest, which caught fire and impaired the car’s cylinder heads. The windshield gaskets had failed years earlier, deteriorating the floor pan and transmission deck.
“It was like peeling back an onion – once I started pulling back the layers the car told a very different story,” Pfenning said.
The total job, along with custom additions, would eventually run him nearly $40,000. To help pay for the project, he worked late shifts, overtime, during shutdowns and covered coworker’s vacations. He also devoted 10 and 12-hour days on weekends to repairs and bodywork.
“I cut out all the rust and replaced it with new metal. All the nuts and bolts were replaced or refurbished,” said Pfenning.
A car collector at heart, he told the mechanic that he worked with during the restoration process he didn’t want to just write the check, he wanted to do the dirty work and learn about everything being done.
“He was more than happy to let me tear out all the rat-infested parts, grind paint, rip out of all the moldy, stinky interiors and rust,” Pfenning said.
Pfenning rebuilt the engine to 1776 cc from the stock 1600 cc and installed a custom tweed interior. All the brightwork was new or reconditioned. The final step was replacing the car’s original Brunswick Blue paint with a head-turning Candy Brandywine – a popular color found on 1930’s era hot rods.
“I was so far into the project there was no use in cutting corners,” said Pfenning.
Pfenning completed the project in July 2018 and decided to enter it in the North Dakota State Fair, where it received first place for best antique car. To celebrate, he invited his then-83-year-old dad to participate in the parade with him.
“He couldn’t believe it was the same car,” Pfenning said. “He smiled the entire parade – which lasted nearly two hours – yelling, in his distinct German dialect, ‘It’s a Volkswagen, and I bought it brand new!’ He was so excited.”
Since then, he’s entered the car in several competitions and received more awards. “I won first place for Vintage European car in Minneapolis’ Light the Night event: second place went to a fancy Porsche and third went to a BMW,” Pfenning said. “It was pretty fun to see my little Volkswagen beat out over them.”
That said, nothing will compare to his father’s priceless reaction from riding in his original Volkswagen. “Sharing this experience with him … has made every penny worth it,” Pfenning added.
Volkswagen brings augmented reality to life along the factory line
March 10, 2020
In just the past few years, augmented reality has gone from a science-fiction idea to apps that lets you see how clothes fit, where to put your new home appliance or even to test how well you could have piloted the Apollo lunar lander. Now Volkswagen has put augmented reality to work in its U.S. factory.
As the Chattanooga factory ramps up production of the new Atlas Cross Sport, and lays groundwork for assembling the next generation of Volkswagen electric vehicles planned to begin in 2022, engineers have a new tool using augmented reality goggles to design production lines and help spot potential issues.
The software tool was developed over just six weeks by the Volkswagen Virtual Engineering Lab California, based on requests and feedback from technicians in Tennessee. The system helps designers see not just individual parts, but how existing and future equipment could interact in a real environment.
While virtual planning and software design for vehicles and factory machinery has been a standard for years, the AR factory goggles gives engineers the ability to see how the pieces will fit together in the real world.
“This helps us to make decisions quicker, and spot potential issues sooner,” said Steffan Nunn, digital factory specialist at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “As we integrate new models into the existing factory, we need to make sure our virtual design data matches the reality in the plant.”
The original concept for the system was sketched out in two weeks by Volkswagen’s Advanced Technologies group. By building the system in-house, Volkswagen had more room to maneuver and improve quickly while working with sensitive data, says Frantisek Zapletal, who leads the Virtual Engineering Lab for Volkswagen Group of America.
“If we had done this with external partners, it wouldn’t have been as flexible or as fast,” Zapletal said. “It’s really a communications platform, and people can use it to share ideas quickly. Once you see an idea in AR, you really believe it.”
Some early examples have shown that the system was able to identify pinch points between machinery and parts that weren’t previously visible. Zapletal says the tool could have uses from office layouts to vehicle accessories design, across Volkswagen’s North American Region or beyond.
Nunn says the next step in Chattanooga will be using the augmented reality tools to help improve ergonomics and maintenance.
“With so many people generating input into these processes, communication is really important,” he says. “Anything we can do to help speed up decision making means we can get more efficient and focus on assembling high-quality vehicles for our customers.”
The next electric revolution from Volkswagen begins with the ID.4 SUV
March 5, 2020
Electric vehicles for millions, not just millionaires. That’s been a goal for Volkswagen Group since its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change last year, driving its aim to be carbon neutral across its fleet, production and administration globally by 2050. Here’s the first big step toward making that goals a reality in the United States: the near-production version of the ID.4 electric SUV that is anticipated to go on sale in the next 12 months.
Based on the ID.CROZZ concept, the ID.4 is the second vehicle to use the Group’s modular electric drive architecture (MEB), following the compact ID.3, and the first to be sold in America. The “ID” name stands for intelligent design, identity and visionary technologies, and the number 4 identifies the new model as a compact SUV segment. And yes, officially, there’s no extra space in the name when you write it out – it’s simply ID.4
“Climate change is happening, and it’s time to do something about it,” says Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen brand worldwide. “That’s where e-mobility comes in, and Volkswagen is pushing the pace of e-mobility for everyone.”
With its high-energy battery pack in the floor, the ID.4 wraps a highly aerodynamic exterior around an open-space interior, with a cockpit controlled by touch or voice interactions. The ID.4 is anticipated to launch in a sporty rear-wheel-drive configuration, with a powerful, all-wheel-drive two-motor variation to come soon thereafter. Based on preliminary manufacturer estimates under the EPA test cycle, the ID.4 is expected to offer more than 250 miles of range, along with high levels of innovative technologies and connectivity.
When produced at the Zwickau plant, the ID.4 is expected to be carbon-neutral along its value chain. In 2022, the ID.4 will also go into production in America, at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.
And even before the ID.4 goes on sale, Volkswagen Group has raised its worldwide target for electric vehicle production across all its brands, with up to 1.5 million EVs expected to be built as early as 2025.
“We’re going to invest 11 billion euros ($12.3 billion) in electromobility, more than any other automaker, with the aim of getting it out of its niche and making it affordable for all,” said Brandstätter.
Over the next 12 months, Volkswagen will offer more details on the ID.4 and how it plans to make a people’s electric vehicle available to all, from charging to long-term ownership. With the ID.4, driving bigger will mean driving electric.
Revealed: The next-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI, with new style and more power
March 2, 2020
The hot hatch lives on.
For more than four decades, the Volkswagen Golf GTI has been the standard for affordable, European-designed performance hatchbacks. Over seven generations, more than 380,000 Americans have taken home a GTI, enjoying the mix of driving enjoyment and everyday utility that few competitors even approach.
Now, Volkswagen unveiled the eighth-generation GTI, with more power and more technology than its predecessor that’s relevant to drivers worldwide. Don’t worry: there’s still a stick shift, a functional hatch and all the other features that make the GTI so flexible – all demonstrating a commitment by the driving enthusiasts at Volkswagen to keep building cars other drivers can enjoy.
The new Golf GTI arrives with a power boost. In European trim, the GTI makes 241 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque, generated by an upgraded version of the 2-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. That power hits the road through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.
The style of the eighth-generation GTI takes on a sharper, sleeker edge than its predecessor. Built off an updated version of the MQB chassis, the new GTI maintains the comfortable yet compact dimensions of the current GTI. The new look includes a more dramatic light signature with standard LED headlamps featuring a red and while illuminated strip across the grille, and optional fog lights integrated into the air intake in an “X” layout. New standard LED taillights, a more pronounced spoiler and the classic C-pillar shape of the Golf complete the look.
For improved handing, the GTI updates its suspension geometry but maintains the key basics, such as an independent, multilink rear suspension. The brakes and wheels have also been updated, with new designs up to an optional 19-inch wheel.
The most dramatic changes to the GTI come from new technology. Start with the driver, who will control the road with the standard Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, available with an optional heads-up display. The in-dash entertainment and control center now lives behind an updated touchscreen of up to 10 inches diagonally, with fully automatic Climatronic climate control below. The background lighting in the dash and passenger compartment can be customized in up to 30 colors. The updated Car-Net1 with available in-car WiFi2 and compatible wireless cellphone charging also now come standard.
Beyond the interior technology, the GTI now comes with an updated Front Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and pedestrian monitoring as standard, along with a long list of available tech including Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Park Assist.3
And yes, there’s still a golf-ball shifter on the manual and a plaid design for the cloth seats – albeit in a new checked design called Scalepaper.
Expect the new GTI to come to America sometime in the second half of 2021, as a model-year 2022 vehicle.
One Rabbit GTI fan’s years-long build of his ultimate custom car
February 24, 2020
However much you’ve worked on a single vehicle, chances are you haven’t done as much as Derek Spratt did to his 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI.
Over the course of seven years, Spratt estimates he spent more than 12,000 hours modifying his GTI and documenting his labor of love in over 180 videos on social media. The videos range from Spratt’s descriptions of basic electrical wiring to installing a modern digital dashboard in a vintage vehicle. His own estimate of his costs: $140,000.
And today, he doesn’t even own the car.
This Mk1 GTI was the first car Spratt purchased as a 21-year-old college student in Ontario, Canada. He was among Canada’s first buyers of a true GTI, which arrived that year with a 90-hp engine and stiffened suspension of the true European GTI.
“All the automotive magazines had the GTI on their cover, saying that it was the car everyone had to have,” he said.
In the summer of 1984, Spratt and his now-wife, Cheryl, drove down Highway 1 from Vancouver, Canada, to San Francisco and back in the GTI. When Spratt, a former CEO and venture capitalist, turned 50 in 2011, his fond memories of the car prompted him to chase the dream of customizing a GTI in extreme detail.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to go back to the first car I had as a young man and revisit that time in my life?’” he said. “My goal was for the car to feel and drive like an original Mk1 but with modern capabilities. I wanted to show that you can take an old car to the point where it operates like a supercar — without taking away the fun factor.”
Although he sold his original GTI decades earlier, Derek found another that matched his original with the same build date from 1983. He bought it and got to work, spending long hours in the garage at night and on weekends, methodically taking apart and elevating every aspect of his beloved GTI by hand. Over time, Spratt boosted the acceleration, chassis rigidity, corning and braking performance on the GTI — acknowledging that his perfectionism complicated and lengthened the process.
“I wanted the car to be versatile and flawless with its mannerisms and behaviors,” he said.
Spratt also wanted a track-capable engine for his GTI. Working with an engine builder, he designed a custom engine, avoiding the easy route of turbocharging in favor of naturally aspirated power that helped save weight. When mated to a custom cooling system, the engine generated roughly 220 hp.
Spratt also updated the car to include modern creature comforts, such as electric windows, adjustable heated seats, push-button engine starting, an electronically adjustable brake system, two-axis accelerometers and a touch-screen digital dash.
Carefully documenting each step of the process online, he quickly grew a following. Passionate Volkswagen enthusiasts and classic car hobbyists from Sweden to South Africa began following his journey and sent him encouragement, questions and advice. Some followers even offered to send Derek rare parts to the GTI, knowing they can be difficult to come by.
At some of the more difficult moments in the modification process, it was the enthusiast community that kept him motivated to persevere.
“There were times that I felt like this project was eating me alive,” Spratt said. “This was one of the most extreme commitments to a project I have worked on.”
When he finally finished the “Ultimate GTI” in 2018, he knew how he wanted to celebrate.
“The first thing I did was take my 85-year-old dad out for a drive,” he said. “We are a family of engineers, particularly in the automotive space. I owe my love for German cars to my dad.”
He also raced the car on the track and took it to several auto shows where he connected with followers. One fan he met in person at an auto show in Vancouver said he had watched every one of his videos. “I thought, ‘Wow, I haven’t even watched them all!’” he said.
And to complete the circle from 34 years earlier, Derek re-created his trip down Highway 1 with his eldest son.
“You can tear apart every nut and bolt of a car and then go and drive it for 10,000 kilometers and have nothing bad happen to it,” Spratt said. “The car made it all the way there and back without any issues.”
When he felt he had spent enough time with his GTI masterpiece, he turned back to his community of classic car lovers to sell it. He connected with a young couple living in Vancouver who are also Volkswagen enthusiasts and sold them his vehicle at a fraction of the cost of the modifications.
Spratt does not count this as a loss.
“If you get into restoration and modification for the money, you should find a new hobby,” he said. “The purpose of the project was fulfilled for me. I made the car faster and better than before and pursued my passion for seven years.”
He was thrilled to see his project in the hands of fellow Volkswagen enthusiasts who would fully appreciate his labor of love. “It was important to me to sell it to someone who would allow me to stay connected to the car,” Spratt said. “I can take it for a drive or a tune-up. I’m happy they have it and love it. And I’m glad I can see it now and again.”
After seven years of detailed building, most people might take a break. Spratt already has ideas for his next project.
“My long-term goal is to electrify a 1961 Beetle,” he says. “The technology behind converting a vintage vehicle to an electric car really interests me.”1
Volkswagen celebrates world debut of mobility research as contributor to exhibit at Guggenheim Museum
February 21, 2020
In an effort to reframe the global debate about what urbanism means today, Volkswagen experts have teamed up with architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas, and AMO, an internationally acclaimed research and design studio for the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), to collaborate on a project that reveals the radical changes and transformations being made to the world’s countryside. This month marks the public opening of the rotunda exhibition, “Countryside, The Future,” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
This exhibition is the first step of an advanced e-mobility project developed by Volkswagen experts with Koolhaas and headed by Samir Bantal, a creative director for AMO. Led by Peter Wouda, Director of the Volkswagen Group Innovation Center Europe and Holger Lange, Project Manager at Volkswagen Group Innovation, and supported by Volkswagen Group South Africa, the international team created a study for an electric tractor and related infrastructure, designed to help facilitate small-scale agriculture and increase the productivity of subsistence farmers while also improving power-supply and mobility in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This project was about creating a meaningful and holistic system, which if done right, has the potential to bring people together and support a community. The beauty of the design will be in its simplicity and in the joy of using it,” said Wouda.
Through this exhibition, Volkswagen, Koolhaas and OMA hope to highlight various academic and industry leads who are revolutionizing the concept of ‘the countryside.’ Using current global case studies, “Countryside, The Future” portrays how these advanced systems – some of which include artificial intelligence, automation, digitalization and large-scale territorial management – are altering and transforming landscapes around the world. One such case study is Volkswagen’s initiative for a potential electrical tractor-sharing in Africa.
The suggested e-tractor would not be sold to individuals, but leased by communes and shared amongst villagers and smallholder-farmers, helping to enable individuals who can’t afford to buy their own equipment access to the specialized equipment. The design of the electric tractor ecosystem taps into the extremely high solar radiation present: the tractor comes with a network of solar charging stations and designed to be fully electric.
This project is the first of a broader collaboration between Volkswagen and AMO. The joint initiative further deepens Volkswagen’s commitment to social responsibility and cultural engagement. The next step for the e-tractor project will be setting up relationships between Volkswagen Group South Africa and different African collaborators, universities and stakeholders to share knowledge on the technical system and its implication on local communities.
“Countryside, The Future” exhibition will remain open at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, NY through Summer 2020.