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Models and Technology

The Little Powerball That Loves Corners

The up! GTI¹ has found its way into the GTI family. Wolfgang Bartusch helped him make that jump.

The up! GTI is the little brother of the Golf GTI² and Polo GTI³. It is the first up! to be converted into a GTI. Wolfgang Bartusch was instrumental in making the jump into the GTI family, which will make a big appearance at the legendary GTI meeting at Wörthersee in Austria (May 9 to 12, 2018) . As team leader, he converted the up! chassis into an up! GTI chassis.

Left, right, left, right, corner, hairpin, uphill, downhill – these are the country roads in the rugged hills around Nice on the Côte d’Azur in the South of France. The up! GTI, the smallest car in the GTI family, feels right at home there. "That’s what it was built for. It eats up the corners and is maneuverable like a go-kart," says the chassis developer, Wolfgang Bartusch, and brakes. The next corner. During the test drive, he explains how you make the up! into an up! GTI; that is, into a powerful sprinter – at 3.60 meters long with 85 kW/115 bhp and a top speed of 196 km/h. "For a developer, a GTI is not only a very special assignment – it’s the crowning glory of their career!" explains Bartusch with a deep smile.

In two years, Wolfgang Bartusch has twisted many a screw into the chassis of the up! GTI. He says,

"It's only because of the fantastic team that made it possible to inject the GTI gene into our smallest Volkswagen."

Our up! GTI – A Real GTI

33 years at Volkswagen, the past 22 of which spent in Technical Development in Wolfsburg: Wolfgang Bartusch (58) has four generations of the Polo under his belt – including three Polo GTIs – and was responsible for overseeing the new up! GTI project, which has recently been made available in dealerships. We had three questions for the person who developed the chassis for the up! GTI, who went into retirement just a few days ago.

What was the greatest challenge you faced when developing the chassis for the up! GTI?
A GTI is always a special assignment for any developer. With the up!, we had to incorporate a big, powerful engine into a series that was originally only designed for small engines. After all, we increased the output of the up! GTI to 85 kW, which is almost twice as high as the basic model that runs at 44 kW/60 bhp. This meant we had to adapt the entire chassis to accommodate this higher output, which involved developing a whole host of new parts.

How does our smallest GTI drive?

The up! GTI loves the mountains and loves corners. These are what it was designed for. A drive in this nippy little sprinter always promises plenty of fun – it’s basically like a go-kart but with way more acceleration. Our third GTI handles like a dream as it zips around corners both uphill and downhill. When you drive one of these, you know exactly what GTI means.

How did the development go?
It was a good two years ago that we were first asked to make the up! into an up! GTI to add to the series. This involved us pulling out all the stops to accommodate changes such as making the chassis lower and sportier, the track width wider, and the brake larger. Everything went hand in hand. After all, development is always a team effort. Without our fantastic team, it would never have been possible to inject the GTI gene into our smallest Volkswagen and get a real GTI on the road.

The up! GTI is not the first GTI whose chassis Bartusch has developed. He has worked in Technical Development at Wolfsburg for more than 22 years, and has four generations of Polo under his belt. This includes three Polo GTIs. He was also on the development team for the most powerful Polo of all time, the street version of the Polo R WRC, which can reach a top speed of 243 km/h with its 162 kW/220 bhp engine. Bartusch knows how to make a sporty chassis for a GTI. Around two years ago, he became the team leader for the up! chassis, first for the major product upgrade, and then for the up! GTI – the most powerful up! 
of all time. 

The 1,070 kg up! GTI storms uphill to the Col de Vence. From sea level to an altitude of 1,000 meters, it packs quite a punch. The engine is on top form. This engine was the biggest challenge 
for the chassis developers. "We had to put 
a big, powerful engine 
in a car that was originally designed for small engines," explains Bartusch. With the GTI, the performance range of the up! series increased significantly. From the 44 kW/60 bhp basic model to the 85 kW/115 bhp GTI, 
it has almost doubled.

For this reason, the developers had to adapt everything for the new higher performance and develop new parts. Bartusch, now in the passenger seat, lists the changes: The front brake is one inch larger than before and now comes from the Golf component kit. The chassis is 15 millimeters lower. The front strut bearing has been reinforced. At the front and back there are stronger springs, for a sportier suspension in the smallest GTI. The front and rear track have been widened by four millimeters on each side. The larger track width 
enables faster cornering. The 
developers have also changed the damping characteristics and adjusted the steering. Bartusch remarks, "The steering is now optimally tuned to the vehicle –
 everything is as it should be in a GTI."

"Our third GTI handles like a dream as it zips around corners both uphill and downhill. When you drive one of these, you know exactly what GTI means."

A GTI needs a sports chassis and sports steering. The up! GTI has proved without a scrap of doubt that it has both. Development and testing took around two years. The car has more than one million test kilometers behind it. The high point was the final adjustment of the vehicle on the unforgiving Nordschleife of the Nürburgring in the Eifel. This test is only performed by GTI models before they are given final approval for serial production. "This hurdle too was cleared easily and with flying colors," reports 58-year-old Bartusch with pride.

We are on the last part of our test drive: The Autobahn. The up! GTI purrs like a little race car. Not moments ago, it was still an agile little sprinter on our hill drive. Now it is powering ahead at 
a steady 110 km/h on the road. Stable, secure and ready to pass or merge at any moment. Lane changes are made easy by the powerful drive and maneuverable steering. Bartusch remarks, "Well, the handling of the up! GTI is supposed to be sporty. But even your average Joe Schmo has to be able to control the car just as safely as they would a Golf or a Polo." There is no doubt: When you develop an up! GTI, you don’t just have race car drivers and GTI fan sin mind. You have to cater for normal drivers, too. Because the up! GTI is first and foremost a GTI. Only then is it a Volkswagen.

"Oh yeah," says Bartusch, climbing out of the car and kneeling down to the front wheel. "Just one more thing." He points to the brake caliper. "They’re red, of course. If we’re going to infuse the up! with the GTI gene, it should be down to the smallest detail." The up! GTI is the last GTI that Bartusch will put on the road. He retired a few days ago.

Our up! GTI – The Most Powerful up! of All Time