REVIEW DATE: 12 Nov 2009
Volkswagen has set out to show just what its Scirocco coupe can do with the R version. Steve Walker takes a look.
R-badged Volkswagens usually have four-wheel-drive but the Scirocco R doesn't. What it does have is 261 braked horses from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, revised suspension and a noticeably more aggressive outlook than the standard cars. The extras come at a price but it gives VW's stylish coupe the capability to live with some top line performance cars.
A car manufacturer on top of its game will always give its customers somewhere to go next. Volkswagen has shown itself to be a master of structuring and developing its model range to gently tease motorists up the hierarchy into increasingly desirable products that also happen to be more beneficial for its own coffers. For example, if the Volkswagen Golf is a little too discreet, there's always the GTI and if the GTI isn't pretty enough, the Scirocco coupe is on hand. If the Scirocco's low-slung lines appeal but its teeth seem insufficiently sharp, this R version is the answer. Admittedly, there isn't really anywhere to go from the R but would you want to?
Volkswagen has offered R-badged versions of its models for a while, most notably, the R32 derivatives of the fourth and fifth generation Golf. Back then, for people who found a Golf GTI insufficiently sharp of tooth, VW would drop in the 3.2-litre V6 engine and all-wheel-drive mechanicals from the Audi S3. It was undoubtedly effective but just a shade crude and certainly not cheap. Today, VW R cars are reborn with a more subtle approach.
The links to the Audi S3 remain but the modern donor car supplies its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an upgrade of the one that has provided sterling service in the Golf GTI and Scirocco GT. In addition, while the Golf R gets a 4x4 drivetrain, the Scirocco R retains a front wheel drive layout in the interests of controlling costs.
"The real quality of the 2.0 TSI engine comes in the way it delivers its power."
The Volkswagen 2.0 TSI petrol engine is one of the great installations that you can order to fill the nose of your new car. It's available in numerous models across the various VW Group brands and all are better for its presence. In the Scirocco R, the four-cylinder unit has been tuned to develop some 261bhp. As a point of reference, the Golf GTI only musters 209bhp but in this Scirocco, there's a revised cylinder head, an upgraded intercooler and more turbo boost. The result is a very fast little coupe. The Scirocco R can step off the line and be at 60mph in 6.0s, the top speed of 155mph arriving not too long after that.
The real quality of the 2.0 TSI engine comes in the way it delivers its power. There's a little more turbo lag than in less highly strung versions of this engine but it's barely noticeable as the acceleration pours on in a smooth flow and response to throttle inputs remains brisk. Torque of 260Nm between 1,700rpm and 5,000rpm tells the story of the Scirocco R's eager mid-range.
Employing the 4x4 mechanicals we've come to expect from R-badged Volkswagens on the Scirocco R would have meant redesigning the car's rear suspension to make room. So, in the interests of keeping costs out of the stratosphere for a compact VW-badged coupe, the R is front-wheel-drive like every other Scirocco. There is the XDS electronic traction control system, though, to help the front tyres cope with all that grunt and the optional DSG paddle shift gearbox which lowers the 0-60mph sprint time to 5.8s. Compared to standard Sciroccos, the R also has revised settings for its springs, dampers and anti roll bars. Not to mention a reduced ride height. It's much more than a more power and bigger spoiler job.
The ride quality is particularly impressive with the car flowing over the road surface. The Sport setting on the adaptive dampers might be too firm for some tastes and we found that the standard mode is fine for most driving conditions. The Scirocco has plentiful grip and little problem deploying its power with the XDS and traction control systems intervening gently when required.
The Scirocco looks great in its standard guises, poised, shapely, neat and suitably far removed from the three-door Golf it shares its platform with. The powerful rear haunches and the dramatic roofline that drops to meet them still stand out but Volkswagen has moved to bring more aggression to the R model through its detailing. As well as riding lower to the ground on its suspension, the R features a revised front bumper sporting a trio of large air-vents with gloss black slats and LED running lights built in.
There are sill extensions too and more gloss black on the wing mirrors and the brake callipers that peep from the spokes of the 18" alloy wheels. At the rear, twin exhaust pipes emerge from a gloss black diffuser and a roof spoiler tops things off.
The Scirocco cabin cocoons its occupants in Volkswagen design cues and build quality. The cocoon will be on the tight side for adults in the rear seats but the two front berths provide comfort, space and a well judged driving position for the person behind the three-spoke sports steering wheel. The dials illuminate in white with blue needles on this R model and there's piano black trim with silver detailing. It's still classy but with the right sprinkling of sport.
Priced in the £27,000 to £30,000 bracket, depending on the options that customers ladle into their vehicles, the Scirocco R is looking to transcend the hot hatchback and affordable coupe markets. That means it will have to lure buyers away from some pretty serious machinery. On the coupe front, the Nissan 370z looks tempting for similar money, as does a mid-range Audi TT. Its Golf roots and four-seat practicality will also see this fired-up Scirocco evaluated against top line performance hatchbacks like the Focus RS, Megane Renaultsport 250 and the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. It's a tough field to beat but the R's mix of class, pace and practicality gives it a fighting chance.
The old Volkswagen recipe of giving its R cars four-wheel-drive and V6 power to maximise performance brought a commensurate rise in what it cost to run them. The Scirocco R should prove a usefully more cost effective ownership proposition with four cylinders and two driven wheels. In manual form, it will return nearly 35mpg on the combined cycle with the DSG gearbox improving economy by 0.4mpg. CO2 emissions are measured at 189g/km or 187g/km with the DSG 'box installed.
R badging is reserved for the quickest and most capable performance Volkswagens but even at its rawest, the pretty Volkswagen Scirocco coupe retains its quality sheen. The Scirocco R may not have four-driven-wheels as is the tradition in this exclusive stable but with a power output on the naughty side of 260bhp, sharpened dynamics and extra visual aggression, it's still a compelling prospect.
At a price point not a million miles away from the £30,000 barrier, once the options list has been raided, the Scirocco R counts some exotic machinery amongst its rivals. It's also quite a step up from the less powerful Scirocco GT. Volkswagen, however, will assert that it's also quite a step up in terms of its driving experience and buyers who set that as their main priority will appreciate what the R can do.
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