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February 5, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Hi-Perf Golf Nixed Down Under

I’m a gearhead. Motorcycles mostly, but cars, too. So the headline "Fastest Golf Slowed by Aussie Heat" from the Brisbane Times grabbed the gearhead lobe of my brain as well as the (just a bit smaller) meteorological lobe of my brain. Turns out Europe’s largest automaker has decided to not send the new high-performance Golf "R" to Australia because of heat concerns. Instead, a detuned version will be shipped Down Under. The less powerful Aussie-bound AWD V-6 Volkswagen Golf will put 252hp to the pavement as compared to the Europe version with 266hp. In America the 4-cylinder turbo "GTI"  packs just 200hp. You’ll recall I blogged about the heat in Australia a couple of weeks ago, and here’s yet another example of how the infamous Australian heat is causing more problems – this time for the country’s performance drivers and gearheads plus Volkswagen Australia who would doubtlessly love to sell the fastest Volkswagen on the market to eager drivers.

Heat concerns? As far as the engine is concerned the cooler the ambient air temperature, the higher the oxygen content per cubic centimeter (cc); more oxygen stuffed into an engine’s cylinders equates to more horsepower. On the other hand, more heat equates to less oxygen per given cc, less performance and more difficulty managing ideal operating temperatures. Today’s small high-performance engines are miracles of modern engineering, but they rely on sophisticated and sensitive systems to keep operating temperatures within just a few degrees of optimum. Volkswagen engineers determined that the Australian heat would overwhelm the new Golf and performance would suffer, perhaps even leading to damaged engines (and unhappy customers).



The car’s hot; the weather’s hotter. Photo: Volkswagen Golf "R". Brisbane Times and Volkswagen

How hot is too hot? In the case of the Golf, that’s a decision for the Golf’s German designers as they consider the meteorological data. Australia’s annual mean temperatures (mathematical average of daily highs and lows) range from the mid-teens in degrees Celsius (59-62F) in southeastern Australia to the mid-to-upper 20s (81-83F) in areas of northern Australia. Again, these are daily averages spread across the entire year. Conversely, Germany – home of Volkswagen – is more temperate with summer temperatures only briefly reaching into the mid-20s (85-87F). Melbourne, in the peak of the summer south of the Equator today is expected to reach 90F; 95F in Adelaide; 91F in Darwin, while for the past month heat extremes have been plaguing much of Australia.

Why only the "lower" horsepower hi-perf VW "GTI" here in the States? Yes, there are areas of the United States with extreme temperatures, but even southern cities like Phoenix (annual avg. mean 74.2F) and Houston (annual avg. mean 68.8F) can’t match the ongoing heat of Australia, especially the northern 1/3 of Australia. The real reason I believe, is not the weather. With the exception of the small-ish "tuner car" crowd (remember "The Fast and the Furious"?), American drivers just haven’t embraced the high-performance small car market like Europe and other parts of the world, preferring bigger cars and bigger engines.

It doesn’t take a meteorologist to know Volkswagen’s decision will now leave Australian drivers out in the cold (ba DUM dum!)

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One Comment

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  1. Bob / Mar 31 2010 6:49 PM

    VW obviously spends some time on their engines. I drive an ’06 Passat. I wish they had spent just a tad more time in cabin. The metal plate around the gearshift in the center console is still making me angry 4 years later. The noon day summer sun comes thru the windshild, reflects off this metal plate, and up into the driver’s eyes. Tho it doesn’t look all that nice, I’ve found that some hockey tape does a nice job solving the problem. Duct would do thre trick, too… of course it would!

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