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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Golf R

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When it comes to hot hatchbacks, there is a line that floats around in my head from one of the earlier episodes of Top Gear.

“I love hot hatchbacks as they offer drawback free motoring. You can put a chest of drawers in the back and then take it home at a million miles per hour.”

The only hot hatch that has come close to this is the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Not only is a hoot to drive, but you can carry your friends and stuff with no real issue. But what about the Volkswagen Golf R? It offers the space as the GTI, but with a more powerful turbo engine and all-wheel drive. But the Golf R also comes with a price tag that is nearly $10,000 more than Golf GTI. Is it worth the extra cost?

  • The Golf R uses the same turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder found in the Golf GTI, but the wick has been turned up. The R’s 2.0L pumps out 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired with either a six-speed manual (what my tester featured) or six-speed DSG. No matter the transmission, Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system comes standard.
  • Acceleration in the Golf R is an exciting experience. It only takes a brief moment for the turbo to spool up and then hold on. Power comes on a fast and steady rate.
  • The six-speed manual is a bit notchy when changing gears. Like other Volkswagens equipped with the manual, the take-up point for the clutch is very narrow and you’ll have to have your foot almost off the floor to find it.
  • It should be noted that the manual is over a half-second slower than the DSG - 5.1 vs. 4.5. But the manual does give you a bit more control with controlling the engine’s performance and making you feel that you’re playing a role.
  • The 4Motion AWD system helps put the power down and keep the Golf R glued to the road when it’s dry. But the system really comes into its own when it is snowy. A few days into my loan and Mother Nature decided to drop a bit on snow in the Metro Detroit area. Driving through unplowed roads, the 4Motion system was able to keep the vehicle moving through some deep snow.
  • One issue that arose was a too-eager stability control system that would come on every few seconds to combat wheelspin when driving through the deep snow - something you don’t want. At least Volkswagen was smart to equip the Golf R with a sports mode for the stability control to allow some wheelspin. This made all of the difference to keep the Golf R moving.
  • Handling-wise? It is like a Golf GTI. Entering a corner, the Golf R feels composed and doesn’t show any sign of body roll. Steering is a bit disappointment as the R doesn’t have the weight or feel you would expect in a performance car.
  • The ride is slightly firmer than what you find on the GTI as some bumps and road imperfections will make their way inside. There are adaptive dampers, but you’ll need to spend an extra $3,000 to get it (along with some other features). Personally, I find the standard suspension setup is ok for most people.
  • Volkswagen has made some slight exterior changes for the Golf R such as a new slim grille, 19-inch wheels, a set of quad exhaust tips. On one hand, I wished Volkswagen could have done some more work to make the Golf R a bit more exciting to look at. On the other hand, the downplayed nature of the Golf R’s changes gives it the ability to hide its true nature.
  • The interior of the Golf R is mostly the same as the standard Golf, which isn’t a bad thing. A lot of the traits that we like in the standard Golf such as high-quality interior, loads of space for passengers, and one of the easiest infotainment systems to use.
  • The only changes Volkswagen did make are a set of sport seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, and carbon fiber trim.
  • If there is one problem for the Golf R, it is the price. As I mentioned in the introduction, the base Golf R is about $10,000 more than the base GTI. For some folks, this is tall order as the GTI can you 85 to 90 percent of the Golf R’s performance at a reasonable price. But for others, that extra 10 to 15 percent the R offers is very much worth the extra cash.

Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf R, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2017
Make: Volkswagen
Model: Golf R
Trim: N/A
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L TSI DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 292 @ 5,400
Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 1,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/31/25
Curb Weight: 3,305 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Wolfsburg, Germany
Base Price: $35,655
As Tested Price: $36,475 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
N/A


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Love the Hatch design, space and while not a fan of DOHC engines with high HP and low Torque, at least it has AWD.

Body Style and Dash are my hang ups with this. Traditional Bland VW style. Does nothing for me, ignites no passion or excitement. I look at the Dash and see an IRS audit. BLAH, ARGhhhhhhh. Body Style is like dating a nune. :puke: 

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There's a lot of misinfo here that needs to be adressed-

1) The Golf R and GTI engine differ in many ways. In addition to having a larger turbocharger, the R has some upgraded internal components, as well.

2) It's a subjective matter I suppose, but in the plushest setting, the R rides better than the GTI. Also, the DCC is standard and NOT a $3,000 option. Nav and DCC both are standard for MY 17, which is part of the reason the price increased. That, and DAP became a forced option.

3) There are no changes to either the grille or the exhaust on the R for 17. Only the wheels were changed.

4) There are no difference to the seats or the steering wheel in comparison to the GTI. They both share the same design of each feature. 

5) The price gap between an R and a base GTI is MORE than 10 grand. But it's only a 4 grand gap between a GTI with similar equipment. 

 

You can't make the case for the car being worth the extra money on paper stats alone. You're paying extra for the greater exclusivity, unique touches, greater potential, and better resale. 

There's no right or wrong answer, they're both great cars. I will say however, that the DSG really makes the R. It's another animal altogether. I've had a lot of diehard manual lovers be swayed by the DSG after experiencing it. 

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1 hour ago, Frisky Dingo said:

 You're paying extra for the greater exclusivity, unique touches, greater potential, and better resale. 

OK, Your gonna have to help out with a side by side photo comparison as I question the exclusivity other than lower production numbers of the auto. Unique touches? Where, as all I see in the existing photo's is the same bland VW formula used in all their other auto's. Greater Potential? Very subjective. Better Resale, maybe. Again very subjective.

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22 minutes ago, dfelt said:

OK, Your gonna have to help out with a side by side photo comparison as I question the exclusivity other than lower production numbers of the auto. Unique touches? Where, as all I see in the existing photo's is the same bland VW formula used in all their other auto's. Greater Potential? Very subjective. Better Resale, maybe. Again very subjective.

The lower production numbers are exactly what I'm referring to by mentioning the exclusivity. That's the very definition of the word.

The R has totally different facsias, lights, trim, and other pieces from the GTI. It's intended to look low-key. It's not supposed to be boisterous and draw attention.

The tuning potential and resale are not subjective at all. They're both very easily measured. The R has a much higher power ceiling due it's upgraded engine and larger turbo. It also enjoys easily a 5-7% advantage in residual value. 

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29 minutes ago, dfelt said:

Better Resale, maybe. Again very subjective.

That's not a subjective metric. It can be measured by looking at the used market and book values.

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40 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

That's not a subjective metric. It can be measured by looking at the used market and book values.

Not totally, I can look at resale values here in Washington state and VW has piss poor resale and trade in value. Elsewhere it might be higher or even lower. Yes there is the range on the auto, but specific areas especially in a High Tech city like Seattle, VW is considered bottom dwelling auto's and as such, there is very little demand or desire for them. This shows up in how cheap they are to purchase here. 

Like all auto's even MB, BMW, Cadillac, all resale is subjective to the market forces and the specific areas of where demand might or might not be. Market forces and desires will affect this no matter what KBB or the auto association might say resale prices are.

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4 minutes ago, dfelt said:

Not totally, I can look at resale values here in Washington state and VW has piss poor resale and trade in value. Elsewhere it might be higher or even lower. Yes there is the range on the auto, but specific areas especially in a High Tech city like Seattle, VW is considered bottom dwelling auto's and as such, there is very little demand or desire for them. This shows up in how cheap they are to purchase here. 

Like all auto's even MB, BMW, Cadillac, all resale is subjective to the market forces and the specific areas of where demand might or might not be. Market forces and desires will affect this no matter what KBB or the auto association might say resale prices are.

But there can always be a number assigned to the vehicle even though that number will vary by zip code. Even if it does have a piss poor resale for an area a number can still be put to that.

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42 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

But there can always be a number assigned to the vehicle even though that number will vary by zip code. Even if it does have a piss poor resale for an area a number can still be put to that.

Yes, a number can always be assigned, but that does not mean is is a factual in the sand number. Like everything, life is very subjective be it a number on an auto, a expert chef's view on seafood or even polling info on presidents. Someone will always find the info to be subjective and will interpret the results in their own mind. 

After all the biggest crowds for inauguration happened for the POTUS, they had millions there to see him brought into office.

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What? We're not talking about life or a chef's opinion(which are both subjective) we're talking about a price of a vehicle.  So, to you, vehicle prices across the board are completely subjective 100% of the time?

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1 hour ago, ccap41 said:

What? We're not talking about life or a chef's opinion(which are both subjective) we're talking about a price of a vehicle.  So, to you, vehicle prices across the board are completely subjective 100% of the time?

Yup, So far, have you ever really paid the price stated? I have never paid the price stated on any auto. The price on KBB gives you a range / ball park price that you can get or pay for something but it does not mean you only pay that price as does everyone else.

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On 2/28/2017 at 0:57 PM, Frisky Dingo said:

There's a lot of misinfo here that needs to be adressed-

1) The Golf R and GTI engine differ in many ways. In addition to having a larger turbocharger, the R has some upgraded internal components, as well.

2) It's a subjective matter I suppose, but in the plushest setting, the R rides better than the GTI. Also, the DCC is standard and NOT a $3,000 option. Nav and DCC both are standard for MY 17, which is part of the reason the price increased. That, and DAP became a forced option.

3) There are no changes to either the grille or the exhaust on the R for 17. Only the wheels were changed.

4) There are no difference to the seats or the steering wheel in comparison to the GTI. They both share the same design of each feature. 

5) The price gap between an R and a base GTI is MORE than 10 grand. But it's only a 4 grand gap between a GTI with similar equipment. 

 

You can't make the case for the car being worth the extra money on paper stats alone. You're paying extra for the greater exclusivity, unique touches, greater potential, and better resale. 

There's no right or wrong answer, they're both great cars. I will say however, that the DSG really makes the R. It's another animal altogether. I've had a lot of diehard manual lovers be swayed by the DSG after experiencing it. 

6

Allow me to take on these points aside from 1 (since I talked about some, not all of the changes) and 5 (talking comparable base prices, not a similarly equipped Golf GTI, for which I agree)

2: On Volkswagen's consumer's site, it may show the Golf R DCC as the only model. But I had the base Golf R (no DCC, navigation, etc).They built a small number of these models. You can find this in Volkswagen's PR materials and the window sticker.
3 and 4: I should have made it clearer, but I was comparing the Golf R with the standard Golf.

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1 hour ago, William Maley said:

 

Allow me to take on these points aside from 1 (since I talked about some, not all of the changes) and 5 (talking comparable base prices, not a similarly equipped Golf GTI, for which I agree)

2: On Volkswagen's consumer's site, it may show the Golf R DCC as the only model. But I had the base Golf R (no DCC, navigation, etc).They built a small number of these models. You can find this in Volkswagen's PR materials and the window sticker.
3 and 4: I should have made it clearer, but I was comparing the Golf R with the standard Golf.

Makes more sense.

 

As for non-Nav and DCC cars, those must be press/demo cars only. No such cars were available for sale to the public afaik. At least we were never able to order any.

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    • By William Maley
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      The Atlas’ interior very much follows the ideals of the exterior, which are uncomplicated and utilitarian. While it does fall flat when compared to the CX-9’s luxury design, Volkswagen nails the ergonomics. Most of the controls are within easy reach of driver and passenger. One touch that I really like is the climate control slightly angled upward. Not only does this make it easier to reach, but you can quickly glance down to see the current settings. There is only a small amount of soft-touch material used throughout the Atlas’ interior, the rest being made up of hard plastics. While that is slightly disappointing as other crossovers are adding more soft-touch materials, Volkswagen knows that kids are quite rough to vehicles.
      If there is one benefit to Volkswagen’s plain styling on the outside, it is the massive interior. I haven’t been in such a spacious three-row crossover since the last GM Lambda I drove. Beginning with the third-row, I found that my 5’9” frame actually fit with only my knees just touching the rear of the second-row. Moving the second row slightly forward allows for a little more legroom. Getting in and out of the third-row is very easy as the second-row tilts and moves forward, providing a wide space. This particular tester came with a second-row bench seat. A set of captain chairs are available as an option on SE and above. Sitting back here felt like I was in a limousine with abundant head and legroom. The seats slide and recline which allows passengers to find that right position. The only downside to both rear rows is there isn’t enough padding for long trips. For the front seat, the driver gets a ten-way power seat while the passenger makes do with only a power recline and manual adjustments. No complaints about comfort as the Atlas’ front seats had the right amount of padding and firmness for any trip length.
      The cargo area is quite huge. With all seats up, the Atlas offers 20.6 cubic feet of space. This increases to 55.5 cubic feet when the third-row is folded and 96.8 cubic feet with both rows folded. Only the new Chevrolet Traverse beats the Atlas with measurements of 23, 58.1, and 98.2 cubic feet.
      As a way to differentiate itself from other automakers, Mazda is trying to become more premium. This is clearly evident in the CX-9’s interior. The dash is beautiful with contouring used throughout, and a mixture of brushed aluminum and soft-touch plastics with a grain texture. If I were to cover up the Mazda badge on the steering wheel and ask you to identify the brand, you might think it was from a German automaker. Ergonomics aren’t quite as good as the Atlas as you have to reach for certain controls like those for the climate system.
      The CX-9’s front seats don’t feel quite as spacious when compared to the Atlas with a narrow cockpit and the rakish exterior are to blame. Still, most drivers should be able to find a position that works. The seats themselves have a sporting edge with increased side bolstering and firm cushions. I found the seats to be quite comfortable and didn’t have issues of not having enough support. Moving to the second row, Mazda only offers a bench seat configuration. This is disappointing considering all of the CX-9’s competitors offer captain chairs as an option. There is more than enough legroom for most passengers, but those six-feet and above will find headroom to be a bit tight. Getting into the third-row is slightly tough. Like the Atlas, the CX-9’s second row slides and tilts to allow access. But space is noticeably smaller and does require some gymnastics to pass through. Once seated, I found it to be quite cramped with little head and legroom. This is best reserved for small kids.
      Cargo area is another weak point to the CX-9. With both back seats up, there is only 14.4 cubic feet. This puts it behind most of the competition aside from the GMC Acadia which has 12.8. It doesn’t get any better when the seats are folded. With the third-row down, the CX-9 has 38.2 cubic feet. Fold down the second-row and it expands to 71.2 cubic feet. To use the GMC Acadia again, it offers 41.7 cubic feet when the third-row is folded and rises to 79 with both rows. Keep in mind, the Acadia is about six inches shorter than the CX-9.
      Infotainment
      All CX-9’s come equipped with the Mazda Connect infotainment system. The base Sport comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, while the Touring and above use a larger 8-inch screen. A rotary knob and set of redundant buttons on the center console control the system. Using Mazda Connect is a bit of a mixed bag. The interface is beginning to look a bit dated with the use of dark colors and a dull screen. Trying to use the touchscreen is an exercise in frustration as it is not easy to tell which parts are touch-enabled and not. On the upside, moving around Mazda Connect is a breeze when using the knob and buttons. Currently, Mazda doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. Thankfully, this is being remedied with the 2019 model as Touring models and above will come with both.
      For the Atlas, Volkswagen offers three different systems. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard on the S. Moving up to either the SE, SE w/Technology, or SEL nets you an 8-inch screen. The top line SEL Premium adds navigation to the 8-inch system. All of the systems feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The current Volkswagen system is one of the easiest to use thanks in part to intuitive menu structure and quick responses. Moving through menus or presets is easy as the system reacts to the swiping gesture like you would do on your smartphone. There are a couple of downsides to the Volkswagen system. One is there is no haptic feedback when pressing the shortcut buttons on either side of the screen. Also, the glass surface becomes littered with fingerprints very quickly. 
      I did have an issue with the system when trying to use Apple CarPlay. At times, applications such as Spotify would freeze up. I could exit out to the CarPlay interface, but was unable to get the apps unfrozen until I shut the vehicle off. After resetting my iPhone, this problem went away. This leaves me wondering how much of this problem was with my phone and not the infotainment system.
      Powertrain
      Both of these crossovers are equipped with turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The CX-9 has a 2.5L producing either 227 or 250 (on premium fuel) horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The Atlas has a 2.0L producing 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. An optional 3.6L V6 with 276 horsepower is available for the Atlas. For the Mazda, power is routed to a six-speed automatic and the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The Volkswagen makes do with an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive only. If you want AWD, you need the V6.
      Thanks to its higher torque figure, the CX-9 leaves the Atlas in the dust. There is barely any lag coming from the turbo-four. Instead, it delivers a linear throttle response and a steady stream of power.  NVH levels are noticeably quieter than the Atlas’ turbo-four. The six-speed automatic delivers seamless shifts and is quick to downshift when you need extra power such as merging.
      The turbo-four in the Atlas seems slightly overwhelmed at first. When leaving a stop, I found that there was a fair amount of turbo-lag. This is only exacerbated if the stop-start system is turned on. Once the turbo was spooling, the four-cylinder did a surprising job of moving the 4,222 pound Atlas with no issue. Stab the throttle and the engine comes into life, delivering a smooth and constant stream of power. The eight-speed automatic provided quick and smooth shifts, although it was sometimes hesitant to downshift when more power was called for.
      Fuel Economy
      Both of these models are close in fuel economy. EPA says the CX-9 AWD should return 20 City/26 Highway/23 Combined, while the Atlas 2.0T will get 22/26/24. During the week, the CX-9 returned 22.5 mpg in mostly city driving and the Atlas got 27.3 mpg with a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving. The eight-speed transmission in the Atlas makes a huge difference.
      Ride & Handling
      The CX-9 is clearly the driver’s choice. On a winding road, the crossover feels quite nimble thanks to a well-tuned suspension. There is a slight amount of body roll due to the tall ride height, but nothing that will sway your confidence. Steering has some heft when turning and feels quite responsive. Despite the firm suspension, the CX-9’s ride is supple enough to iron out most bumps. Only large imperfections and bumps would make their way inside. Barely any wind and road noise made it inside the cabin.
      The Atlas isn’t far behind in handling. Volkswagen’s suspension turning helps keep body roll in check and makes the crossover feel smaller than it actually is. The only weak point is the steering which feels somewhat light when turning. Ride quality is slightly better than the CX-9 as Atlas feels like riding on a magic carpet when driving on bumpy roads. Some of this can be attributed to smaller wheels. There is slightly more wind noise coming inside the cabin.
      Value
      It would be unfair to directly compare these two crossovers due to the large gap in price. Instead, I will be comparing them with the other’s similar trim.
      The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology begins at $35,690 for the 2.0T FWD. With destination, my test car came to $36,615, The Technology adds a lot of desirable features such as three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, and lane departure alert. The Mazda CX-9 Touring is slightly less expensive at $35,995 with destination and matches the Atlas on standard features, including all of the safety kit. But we’re giving the Atlas the slight edge as you do get more space for not that much more money.
      Over at the CX-9, the Grand Touring AWD begins at $42,270. With a couple of options including the Soul Red paint, the as-tested price came to $43,905. The comparable Atlas V6 SEL with 4Motion is only $30 more expensive when you factor in destination. Both come closely matched in terms of equipment with the only differences being the Grand Touring has navigation, while the SEL comes with a panoramic sunroof. This one is a draw as it will come down whether space or luxury is more important to you.
      Verdict
      Coming in second is the Mazda CX-9. It may have the sharpest exterior in the class, a premium interior that could embarrass some luxury cars, and pleasing driving characteristics. But ultimately, the CX-9 falls down on the key thing buyers want; space. It trails most everyone in passenger and cargo space. That is ultimately the price you pay for all of the positives listed. 
      For a first attempt, Volkswagen knocked it out of the park with the Atlas. It is a bit sluggish when leaving a stop and doesn’t have as luxurious of an interior as the CX-9. But Volkswagen gave the Atlas one of the largest interiors of the class, a chassis that balances a smooth ride with excellent body control, impressive fuel economy, and a price that won’t break the bank.
      Both of these crossovers are impressive and worthy of being at the top of the consideration list. But at the end of the day, the Atlas does the three-row crossover better than the CX-9.
      Disclaimer: Mazda and Volkswagen Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: CX-9
      Trim: Grand Touring AWD
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 227 @ 5,000 (Regular), 250 @ 5,000 (Premium)
      Torque @ RPM: 310 @ 2,000 rpm
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/23
      Curb Weight: 4,361 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $42,470
      As Tested Price: $43,905 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Soul Red Metallic - $595.00
      Cargo Mat - $100.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Atlas
      Trim: 2.0T SE w/Technology
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve TSI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 235 @ 4,500
      Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/26/24
      Curb Weight: 4,222 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Chattanooga, TN
      Base Price: $35,690
      As Tested Price: $36,615 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: N/A
    • By William Maley
      In a month's time, Europe will be switching from much maligned New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) to the Worldwide Harmonized Light Duty Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). Automakers are scrambling to get models certified under this new procedure. This presents a big problem for Volkswagen as they don't have enough engineers to make sure their vehicles to meet the new standards.
      According to Reuters, Volkswagen lost a number of engineers that specialized in engine calibration ever since the company revealed they were using illegal software on their diesel vehicles to cheat emission tests.
      “Engine development expertise has been lost,” said Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess.
      It is so bad, that Volkswagen believes it will affect their financial results for the second half of this year as they might not be able to get a number of vehicles out on the road. The company said there would a bottleneck of certain model variants between now and October.
      Volkswagen is working hard to try and overcome this problem. They have plucked BMW engine development expert Markus Duesmann last week to try and get through this mess.
      Source: Reuters

      View full article
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