One letter that stands for performance: Volkswagen R

The story of VW R begins, as many things do at Volkswagen, with the VW Beetle.

In the early 1970s, European fans of the Beetle prevailed on the company to create a limited-edition version for rallying, with upgraded suspensions and brakes. Volkswagen painted the cars in a special yellow-and-black livery and called them the Beetle GSR, or “Gelb Schwarz Renner” – German for “yellow-black racer.”

Today, the spirit of that GSR and other Volkswagen motorsports efforts lives on in the Volkswagen R division, through the Golf R and sporty R-Line trims of many Volkswagen models. And the new 2020 Atlas Cross Sport debuts a new version of the R logo.

“Volkswagen R is all about excitement and thrill,” says Jost Capito, Managing Director of Volkswagen R. “In the future, we will continue to focus our efforts on integrating these emotions into the Volkswagen brand.”

The modern incarnation of Volkswagen R began in 2002 with the reveal of the first Golf R32. The development of the car’s narrow-angle VR6 made it possible to squeeze six cylinders pumping 238 hp under the hood of the Mk4 Golf. To handle the power, the R32 used all-wheel-drive; it was also the world’s first production car with a race-inspired dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, an innovation in shifting that quickly spread to performance cars around the world.

The fifth-generation Golf brought an upgraded Golf R32, which due to economic conditions was only sold in the United States for the 2008 model year. Power rose to 250 hp, and production was limited to just 5,000 vehicles. This version set the template for R vehicles to come: Ample power and impressive handling in a small car that was still as functional and enjoyable for everyday driving as a conventional Golf.

Two more generations of Golf R would reach America, with the latest 2019 edition rated at 288 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, paired to either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG transmission.

Meanwhile, the performance of the R group’s vehicles has inspired the look of the R-Line appearance packages. From here forward, the R unit will be identified by a new logo, developed at the Volkswagen Design Center.

“The R marks the athletic apex of our model program and the R logo serves as an expression of both aesthetics and sportsmanship,” says Klaus Bischoff, Head of Volkswagen Design.