Jost Capito: PH Meets

Jost Capito's CV has something for almost every fan of fast cars and motorsport. There are his early days in Porsche's racing department, the Dakar truck success, the Ford WRC titles (plus Focus Mk1 road car), his time as McLaren Racing CEO and VW's incredible recent dominance of world rallying that he helped mastermind.

Today his role is as the boss of Volkswagen R, bringing cars like the T-Roc R to market. And while that might sound like a more prosaic task than managing the Sauber F1 team (yep, another one to file under 'work experience'), Capito isn't short of an opinion or two. As we discovered in an interview from the passenger seat of a T-Roc R.

Given a certain circuit in Germany is mentioned as key to the T-Roc's development, it makes some sense to start the discussion with the Nurburgring. There'll always be something to say, right? Interestingly, Capito describes it as "important for all cars", but even more so for fast stuff: "For me, a car that is behaving well on the Nordschleife is behaving well everywhere", he says, highlighting the compressions, altitude changes and variety of corners that characterise the track as of imperative value to dynamic work. He even mentions the humble British B-road, clearly playing to a receptive audience of two English journalists; while the circuit doesn't entirely replicate that, he reckons the roads close to the track play a good imitation game.

Moreover, while "definitely not a track car", it's made clear that the T-Roc R must perform; in fact, the brakes "should be capable for lap after lap", which sounds like an excellent feature idea if ever there was one. That said, the understandable T-Roc focus has been on making it enjoyable on country roads, because that's where it's going to be driven for the majority of the time. And, well, given it's meant to be better than a Golf R to drive...

Yep, really. Perhaps not the greatest revelation to find a product boss says the new car is better than an old one, but interesting given the T-Roc's less favourable starting point. It's here though, thanks to increased stiffness, new gearbox and engine mounts, steering tweaks and more: "I believe this car drives better than the Golf R." You heard it here first.

So where does VW R go from a T-Roc? Well, we can expect the range to diversify, albeit into larger vehicles rather than smaller ones - hopes for a fiery Polo R or equivalent Up will have to remain that. Why? Because all-wheel drive isn't in the platform of either, and VW R means all-wheel drive. Furthermore, as is the often way with the viability of performance cars now, the returns are not there when investing in smaller fast cars - shame.

How about a hybrid VW R, then? Four driven wheels, all sorts of exciting torque vectoring possibilities, the environmental benefit... It's not for Jost at the moment, unless city driving legislation dictates the move. Though it is a good question, apparently. "I really do not believe in hybrids for sports cars, because you have the worst of both worlds." Capito's issue is in adding the weight of batteries and motors, which can then only provide maximum power for a limited period.

"You maybe go half a lap and the power is gone. And when the power is gone, you have just the combustion and you still carry the two hundred kilos, which I don't understand on a performance car. So that's why I see the step going to electric; either full ICE, or it's full electric." On which, he believes a fully electrified VW R might not be far off, but it rather depends on a Porsche.

Capito views the upcoming Taycan as the first electric vehicle that car enthusiasts will buy ("all the Tesla drivers I know, they are no car enthusiasts") and, as such, as a product that will inform VW on what people who like driving want from their electric car. "At the moment they [manufacturers] just tell you 0-60 - because that is impressive in electric cars - range, and how long it takes to charge. But none of these three is really what performance cars matter about. They don't tell you about how it drives, they don't tell you about braking distance, the way it handles. So we will see how the people who are car enthusiasts cope with this."

He also mentions the Autobahn; not relevant to the UK, perhaps, but a consideration in Germany where prolonged periods at high speed are more frequent. Electric range then becomes an issue, as does battery temperature and charge time. Sketches and designs are ready, Capito says, but are being sat on for a year or so to see what reaction to the Taycan is like.

Handily, it could tie in with increased VW involvement in World Rallycross, the view shared with us that it's "the ideal motorsport for electric cars." That's because the EV cars will be able to match the current ones for power-to-weight, while also allowing genuinely exciting motorsport in city environments. And wouldn't it be a nice tie-in to have a new EV VW R product enjoy success in World Rallycross? Certainly it seems more likely than VW Formula E involvement, Capito's current issues with the series centring around powertrain freedom - more scope for independent development would increase competition and further the advances made in production vehicles, he believes.

Finally, anyone hoping for the Golf R400 to at last become a production reality should, rather sadly, let it go; not only was that on a Golf 7 platform (with the Golf 8 imminent), extensive research suggested that buyers simply didn't want it. Buyers of fast VWs, the interviews tell them, want around 300hp and less than €50k - so that's what they make. More than 20,000 Golf Rs a year are sold across Europe delivering what those buyers want; Capito suggests only around half of those would want a 400. Oh well. Still, if this T-Roc really is a secret 'ring weapon, then maybe nobody will mind the R400's demise...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (19) Join the discussion on the forum

  • ogrodz 06 Mar 2019


    I purchased a Golf R 310PS last year - manual - before the demise of the manual and a reduction in power output.

    I do want an R400 manual - so looks like a Revo stage 1 remap is the way to go.

    10,000 remaps a year at £500 a throw - £5Mpa extra revenue - something that VW dealers could be offering to their customers with warranty (as we all know the Golf R engine is good for 400hp as is)??

    Edited by ogrodz on Wednesday 6th March 11:14

  • The Crack Fox 06 Mar 2019

    Roads near the 'ring like British B road? rofl

    Has he ever been to Britain? Public roads around Adenau and the area are all lovely.

    'ring developed cars make for crap real-world cars.

    What happened with him at McLaren, BTW?

    ETA - "'ring weapon". PH, how can you even type that without cringing?

  • wab172uk 06 Mar 2019

    So ..... no one wants a 400bhp AWD Golf, but they do want a 300BHP T-Roc? Hmmm rolleyes

    Some marketing BS going on there. Audi must struggle to sell it's 400bhp RS3, as no one want a 400bhp AWD hatch.

    I would suspect the MK8 Golf R will have at least 350bhp. But it all depends on the Audi S3. As they both produce the same power. Maybe a Golf R+ with near 400bhp to go after the RS3 and next Focus RS.

    At least the Focus should have a manual gearbox, so that's where my money will go.

    Edited by wab172uk on Wednesday 6th March 12:01

  • cookington 06 Mar 2019

    ogrodz said:

    I purchased a Golf R 310PS last year - manual - before the demise of the manual and a reduction in power output.

    I do want an R400 manual - so looks like a Revo stage 1 remap is the way to go.

    10,000 remaps a year at £500 a throw - £5Mpa extra revenue - something that VW dealers could be offering to their customers with warranty (as we all know the Golf R engine is good for 400hp as is)??

    Edited by ogrodz on Wednesday 6th March 11:14
    If the manual R's clutch is the same as the manual S3 I would also budget for an uprated clutch.

    Something the dealer would have to include in the package if they were to offer any warranty.

  • pacdes 06 Mar 2019

    Would not have bought a Golf R, too bland. Would have bought the R400 in an instant. So 10,000 R400 units a year in Europe not enough eh!
    VW obviously not about giving the customers what they want then?

    Edited by pacdes on Wednesday 6th March 13:03

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