Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0TSI 2008 Road Test

Wed, 20 Aug 2008

The VW Scirocco represents a reversal of thinking. Not long ago it seemed that every manufacturer was giving up on coupes. GM killed the Calibra. It was curtains for Ford’s Cougar and Puma. Toyota terminated the Celica. VW gave its Corrado the coupe de grace.

Only Peugeot persevered with its astonishingly refined 407 coupe. Hyundai hit the hot spot with its Corrado inspired Coupe. And Alfa stayed in there with its GT and Brera.

But times change. Where before a niche was the way to lose money, now it’s one of the few means to make money. Profits don’t come from cheap, mass-market eco cars. They come from what the public perceives as exclusive autos. So if a manufacturer can create a bit of wow factor status and charge more money for it at no greater manufacturing cost, his eyes light up like a cash register.

So the Scirocco (named after a north African wind) is like a breath of fresh air. The last two were both based on the Mk 1 Golf. This one’s underpinnings come from next year’s Golf Mk VI. And it certainly brings back the excitement of the wonderful 190PS Corrado VR6.

Unfortunately, like some people, it does not photograph well. You’ve got to see it in 3D to appreciate its squat, toad-like presence. It’s wider at the hips than at the front. Yet 6’ 2” stylist Klaus Bischoff made sure it’s bigger inside than you would think it could be from outside.

He designed the car so he can comfortably sit behind himself, which is why the hatchback hinges protrude, Mazda3-like, under bulges at the back of the roof so they don’t take up any headroom. Well done. Klaus.

He’s also created a bottomless pit for four people’s baggage, all of 292 litres. But don’t expect your dog to be able to jump over the sill.

Visibility out of the back window is rather terrible, hampered by the two huge head restraints for the back seat passenger. But I guess if you were driving solo you could fold the rear seatbacks down. And that gives you all of 755 litres f luggage space.

The first wave of cars are all 2.0TSI 200PS with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG. The engine is actually a heavily revised version of the 2.0TSI 200 in the Golf GTI, built to be kinder to its oil and need less maintenance. Yet VW is now careful to state that its LongLife service regime is recommended only “for vehicles with a daily mileage of more than 25 miles, where the vehicle is driven regularly and on mainly longer distance journeys. The vehicle should be mainly driven at constant speed with minimum vehicle and engine loading, minimal towing and driven in an economical manner.” Otherwise it’s change the oil and filter every year or 10k miles. So back to common sense, then.

All GT spec Sciroccos come on very pretty ‘Interlagos’ 18” wheels with 235/40 section tyres and adaptable damping with standard, ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’ settings. These are fairly close ratio because even on ‘Sport’ the ride is reasonable, while in ‘Comfort’ the handling doesn’t go all wallowy.

The DSG naturally comes with a sport setting and paddleshifters behind the steering wheel: right for upchanges, left for down. But my car had a couple of problems.

The footbrake is very high, forcing your knee into an unnatural angle under the steering column if you’re a left foot braker and making you to push the seat further back than you really want it to be. It felt odd to start with, but I managed to get on with it. I don’t think you could drive the DSG one footed because the accelerator pedal is too far below the brake pedal. You’d need to pull your leg right back up to get your foot on the brake, which you might not be able to do in an emergency.

It has a worse than usual DSG delay on take off. I found it bogging down. I couldn’t just press the accelerator and take off and this was terrifying at the first roundabout I tried to pull onto. So, naturally, I had to work out how to make it work.

But whatever I did, if I tried to accelerate from standstill, I either got horrible wheelspin or the whole thing bogged down. Even revving against the brakes, initially it would bog down, so I’d press a bit harder, then the wheels would spin. I found it really difficult to pull away smoothly and reasonably quickly in this car.

So I tried a manual. Like the DSG, and like the old Corrado VR6, this is a decently quick car, hauling itself to 60 in 6.9 seconds. But the box has a slight dogleg from 3rd to 4th. It’s a bit weird. You can miss 4th, like in the old Peugeot 306 GTI-6. Trying it again over and over, and reflecting on the problem I think it must be torque reaction and the engine twisting on its mountings or something and that’s what makes it difficult to change from 3rd to 4th. When accelerating hard. When you’re changing normally it’s okay.

But generally the performance and handling combination are fine and will please anyone whose Corrado VR6 is now on its last legs. It’s only a little bit ‘loose’ on broken surfaces, not quite as perfect as a Focus, but very good and VW Corrado and GTI fans alike (to whom a Focus just doesn’t exist) are going to love it.

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