Volkswagen Golf R400

A new horsepower war is under way between car manufacturers, and it's being played out in the most unlikely of theatres: the hot hatch market.

Volkswagen is aiming to take the crown for the most powerful hatchback with its recently unveiled R400 model, which company insiders are keen to put into production, reports Autocar.

The R400 first broke cover as a concept vehicle at last month's Beijing Motor Show. Boasting an astonishing 395bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, it is capable of covering the 0-62mph sprint in under four seconds – enough to give Porsche owners a fright.

The car is seen as a riposte to the mega-hatchbacks from the premium German manufacturers, particularly Mercedes, which produces the A45 AMG with 355bhp.

However, the R400 will only go into series production if the costs of the engineering revisions required can be covered.

The main sticking point is VW's desire to offer the R400 with its twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox, which would increase the car's appeal globally. However, the brand's current six-speed item cannot cope with the torque of the heavily-tuned motor, hence the reason the concept was fitted with a standard manual gearbox.

Volkswagen recently announced that it was developing a ten-speed version of the DSG 'box which would be suitable for use in more powerful models. It is on the successful introduction of this gearbox that the commercial viability of the R400 model largely hinges.

Like the regular Golf R model on which it is based, the R400 is fitted with VW's 4Motion four-wheel-drive system to channel its immense power to the Tarmac. It also features a number of styling enhancements, including aggressively-flared wheel arches, to combat criticism that the regular R model was too understated for a performance flagship.