turbocharger & intercooler
hp per liter
(from Volkswagen Press Release)
THUNDER BUNNY: A NEW PERFORMANCE VARIATION ON AN OLD-SCHOOL THEME
LAS VEGAS — Volkswagen introduces a concept vehicle that reflects
its roots in the sport compact tuning community.
The story began back in the early ‘80s, with a man named Bill
Neumann. Bill founded the California based tuning firm Automotive
Performance Systems (APS). He was frustrated with the fact that
Volkswagen’s hot hatchback GTI had been sold in Germany since 1976,
but hadn’t yet come to America. Bill had driven the GTI in Europe on
several of his parts-searching trips, and he was convinced it would
be a big hit in America. So he sent letters to the factory. He wrote
to enthusiast magazines and lobbied Volkswagen dealers for support.
Then, he put together the proof that a Rabbit-based performance car
was capable of generating both stunning performance numbers and lots
of attention from the American automotive press corp.
Thus was born the original Thunder Bunny.
The APS-modified Rabbit was delivered to Motor Trend magazine late
in 1981. Even though its staff was use to driving the best cars in
the world, they were blown away by the little Volkswagen hatchback.
As it was written in the March 1982 issue: “The little white wonder
packs its own kind of lightning-quick rabbit punch — one that’s
guaranteed to kayo unsuspecting boulevard bullies.” And when Road &
Track magazine got its hands on the car, it reported a zero to
60-mph run in the low seven-second range and slalom times that at
the time had been bettered only by the Ferrari 512 Boxer,
Lamborghini Countach and Renault R5 Turbo. Exalted company, indeed.
Bill’s frustration ceased in the fall of 1982 when the GTI finally
came to America, but by then Thunder Bunny had done its job. It put
Neuspeed, the APS-trademarked line of parts and accessories, on the
map. It also helped launch a vital North American community of
specialists in watercooled Volkswagen performance. Modifying
Volkswagens, of course, was not new in America — the Beetle had
spawned a huge following of enthusiasts — but the new generation of
Volkswagen cars hadn’t sparked much interest in the go-fast crowd
before the early ‘80s.
Neuspeed continues to be a leading force among the world’s
Volkswagen tuners, and it has never stopped building special
projects. The latest is also called Thunder Bunny, and it was built
in commemoration of Neuspeed’s quantum leap forward all those years
ago with the original rabid Rabbit. Designed in collaboration with
Derek Jenkins, Chief Designer at the Volkswagen Design Center
California located in Santa Monica, the new Thunder Bunny is an
updated, thoroughly modern version of the original, and it debuts
alongside the Concept R GTI on the Volkswagen stand at the 2006 SEMA
Today’s Thunder Bunny is a blend of subtle design massaging and
tuning technology, built to show how a comfortable daily driver can
also provide an exciting motoring experience. Creating the
thunderous noise from under the hood is a newly developed
turbocharger system, designed by Neuspeed especially for
Volkswagen’s 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. The high quality
installation includes a modified intake manifold, Garrett
ball-bearing turbocharger and air-to-air intercooler. A stainless
exhaust and specially baffled aluminum oil pan were also sourced
from APS for optimum flow and cooling. Boost is restricted to a
maximum of seven lbs. in this Stage 1 kit, but it still produces 225
horsepower, 75 more than the stock 2.5 L, and a hefty dose of
low-end torque. A performance clutch and Quaife differential were
added to the powertrain for durability and a more efficient delivery
of power to the front wheels.
Thunder Bunny’s gleaming candy white exterior is made distinctive by
several design studio touches. The concept’s body kit includes a
larger central grille and a more muscular rear valance framing a
twin R32-style exhaust from Neuspeed. Like the R GTI, Thunder
Bunny’s paint was overlaid with graphics Jenkins calls
“topographical” in pearl silver. They were meant to evoke the
contours of the car’s geography or waves of air that flow over the
surfaces. However they are interpreted, the pearl silver graphics
make a unique visual statement as they appear to blink on and off in
the changing angles of the sun.
Like the original Thunder Bunny, the forged alloy “street” wheels
are painted gold. In 19x8-inch sizing, they’re wrapped with Michelin
Pilot Sport Cup 235/35-19 tires. Similar sized multi-spoked forged
alloys were sourced from Neuspeed’s RS line of wheels for track use.
Both sets are lightweight, in keeping with the core GTI quality of
nimble handling. The front brakes are 328mm two-piece floating
cross-drilled discs from Brembo, gripped by bunny-bedecked Brembo
four-piston brake calipers. That’s right, bunnies. A veritable
warren of Thunder Bunny logos dash to and fro across the surface of
the white-painted caliper. At the rear, 310mm disc brakes are
Handling prowess comes from a suspension fitted with a Bilstein
coil-over shock system and APS/Neuspeed sways bars, measuring 25mm
front and rear. The suspension system is adjustable for both ride
height and for shock stiffness, giving the new Thunder Bunny a dual
character, suitable for the street or the track. A Neuspeed
short-shift kit and custom spherical aluminum shift knob, created in
the design studio, put the driver in closer touch with the manual
transmission. A stock GTI steering wheel was recovered in alcantara
to go along with the upgraded upholstery and trim.
Stock GTI seats were recovered in black and white checkered tweed
that echoes styling trends from the early ‘80s, and the striking
fabric is elegantly framed by surrounding black leather with white
stitching. The color scheme is perfectly complemented by the white
carbon-fiber interior trim provided by OSIR, experts in hand-laid
composites and also major contributors to the design studio’s
Concept R GTI.
All those years ago, Bill Neumann asked a simple question.
Volkswagen responded with the GTI, while Neuspeed became a leader in
Volkswagen tuner circles…why a new Thunder Bunny? Think of it as a
beautifully crafted response to another question, “What happens when
you give a modern Rabbit to one of the original water-cooled
Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in
Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG,
headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the
world’s largest producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest
automaker. Volkswagen sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle
convertible, GTI, Jetta, GLI, Passat, Passat wagon, Eos, Touareg and
Phaeton through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers.