A little challenge never hurts – in fact, a challenge can be pretty productive when it takes the form of charging a team of young apprentices to turn a refined cruiser into a serious track weapon. For the second year running, that’s the gauntlet Volkswagen Australia have laid down to their apprentices. This year, the Apprentice Build Challenge – as the contest has been named – took the form of turning the Volkswagen Arteon sedan into a time attack weapon, dubbed the ‘ART3on’ Art Car.
Flipping an Arteon from luxurious liftback to a time-smashing, 360kW-rated track car represents the second iteration of the Apprentice Build Challenge, following hot on the heels of 2017’s task, which saw a Volkswagen team prep an Amarok V6 dual-cab into a serious entrant for the World Time Attack Challenge. The Amarok lapped Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek – in a quick 1min 57.01sec time.
Last year’s apprentice build, based on the Amarok V6.
Like the Amarok V6 did last year, the apprentice-fettled Arteon will be driven by Renato Loberto in the World Time Attack Challenge at Eastern Creek this weekend. Hopes are high for a snappy time with shakedown and testing runs completed by Sydney’s new Luddenham Raceway.
Speaking with Chasing Cars, Volkswagen Australia public relations and brand experience manager Kurt McGuiness said the 2017 Amarok apprentice build had been a success story for the brand. “From its first appearance at World Time Attack Challenge, the apprentice Amarok has gone on to appear at a number of motorsport fixtures around the country…it certainly continues to be a hit with motorsport fans, many of which are buying the Amarok V6 to tow their track cars.”
The Amarok V6 build “performed extremely well across social media,” Mr McGuiness said. “In fact it was the most successful content series ever for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Australia.
UK-based outfit and MQB-platform tuning specialist RacingLine heard about the Amarok build and Time Attack entry and were keen to be involved in a future project. No surprises then that RacingLine parts make up a substantial component of the 2018 Arteon build.
So, what have the apprentices managed to pull out of their hat this time?
The 2018 Apprentice Build Challenge team with the ART3on, before its KADE art applique.
The ART3on keeps the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the standard Arteon, with outputs rising hugely over the standard 206kW/350Nm to 360kW/600Nm running on 98-octane petrol.
The ‘improvement’ in power and torque are delivered by way of a RacingLine stage three turbocharger and intake set, R600 airbox, and a beefed-up intercooler, fuel pump, and oil management system.
The seven-speed wet clutch DSG is freed up by way of a TVS / Harding Performance software flash that incorporates two-step launch control and a manual override.
The apprentices have incorporated and modified a Bilstein Clubsport suspension and thrown on an APR ‘Big Brake’ package for additional stopping power – and the Art Car rolls on Pirelli P Zero Trofeo semi-slicks.
Outside, artist Simon Murray – aka KADE – has designed a unique applique wrapped by Pivot Creative. Inside, the Arteon’s normally lush interior is substituted in the name of weight (and safety) for a far simpler setup around a roll cage, harness-fitted racing seats, a fire extinguisher and a fuel cut-off.
Volkswagen Australia national customer experience and capability manager Luka Popovac says the Apprentice Build Challenge “is unique to the Australian automotive sector, in that we are collaborating with a part of the industry that we typically wouldn’t as a subsidiary importer.”
Given the significant attention earned by last year’s apprentice team for their Amarok, the Arteon’s profile may well receive something of a boost. The Arteon, which is priced at $66,290 in civilian guise, has generated 535 sales this year, compared with 1,422 for Volkswagen’s better-known and more affordable Passat midsizer.
While building the Arteon’s profile is “certainly a consideration”, Mr McGuiness said that the Arteon was selected as a donor car “because of its standard performance credentials, which is shares with the Golf R.”
But simply building off the Golf R base would have been too obvious, Mr Guiness says. “It’s nice to challenge the status quo every once in a while, and I think the ART3on does that.”
While the Apprentice Build Challenge is an initiative of Volkswagen’s Australian operation, home base in Germany does take note. “Wolfsburg and Hannover both have their fair share of die-hard performance car fans,” Mr McGuiness told Chasing Cars, referring to the headquarters of the passenger cars and commercial vehicles divisions, respectively. “I’m sure our ART3on will make a few folks in HQ smile.”
The focus on hardcore performance in the Build Challenge is a natural fit given Australia’s disproportionate interest in go-fast models, and Mr McGuiness says buyer interest in Volkswagen’s performance cars does create real change.
“The great thing about Volkswagen, and the Australian market particularly, is that we have a long heritage and a deep passion for performance cars. This will surely continue into the future – case in point, the heavily upgraded MY19 Golf GTI came about due to local customer demand.”
As for whether the Apprentice Build Challenge is becoming an annual fixture, and will be seen again next year, Mr McGuiness was coy but enthusiastic. “I’d love it to,” he says. “This project has been very close to my heart for two years now and I continue to believe in its ability to inspire.”
“We’ve already built cars from the Volkswagen Commercial and Passenger Vehicles range – maybe Skoda next?”