Since Cain and Abel made the Holy Bible exciting with its first murder, stories of oppositional twin brothers have always proved popular. While that story was one of the first, one of the latest comes from Volkswagen where the iconic Golf now shares its platform with the coupe-bodied Scirocco. When the Golf R was built the Scirocco received similar treatment albeit with marginally less power and handling ability. Now as second in line to the Volkswagen throne the new Scirocco R has been given all the benefits of R-division development with none of the responsibilities of being the number one son. Car and SUV put the pedal to the metal on the Scirocco R to find out just how far it could go to step out from behind the Golf’s shadow.
While there is much going on under the sheet metal it’s the Scirocco’s styling that truly sets it apart. Aesthetically, the Golf has moved forward conservatively into its Mk VI shape, not wanting to disrupt a winning formula. The Scirocco however, has been splashed with movie star good looks and genuine ‘right now’ appeal. It’s a two-door coupe with a ‘shooting brake’ styled roofline and plenty of width at the rear. In R form it sits lower and appears wider than the standard Scirocco, thanks to a muscular body kit that extends the side skirting. A chunky bumper at the front leads the charge and incorporates three gaping air intakes and LED daytime running lights. At the rear a pumped out rear bumper sits above a black aero diffuser and twin chrome exhaust tips that hint at leery intent. Gloss black wing mirrors, subtle ‘R’ badging and standard 18-inch ‘Talladega’ wheels finish the purposeful look nicely. The Scirocco styling may be a touch ostentatious for some tastes, but it’s daring, eye-catching and unlike the Golf R has the visual bark to match its bite.
Within the cabin there’s the same high quality materials and precise fit-out that’s shared with all of VW’s current range but with some special touches mixed in. Gloss black inserts feature on the centre control stack, flat-bottomed steering wheel and distinctive door pulls. R-Logos appear on the dash and the headrest of the deep and heavily bolstered sports seats. All controls are easily reached and the main multi-function touch screen is large and quickly mastered. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a delight, it’s thick in-hand and has various buttons for thumb use. When fitted with the DSG automatic transmission the steering wheel mounted paddles are positioned quite deep in behind the wheel, this may not suit smaller hands. Other standard equipment on the Scirocco R includes cruise control, dual zone climate air-con, Bi-xenon headlamps, heated front seats, eight-speaker stereo, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, vehicle immobiliser and remote central locking.
Space for driver and shotgun is very good with a reclined seating position giving plenty of head and legroom. In the 2+2 layout, back seat passengers can get sufficient legroom with the front seats suitably adjusted but tall folk will find headroom and side visibility restricted. Driver visibility is good through the sharply raked windscreen and side windows, but it can be difficult to see out the rear with its narrow rear windscreen and thick C-pillars. That said, the Scirocco R is well suited to touring duties with its 312-litre loading capacity, a split folding rear seat back and plenty of small storage in the cabin. All up, it’s a stylish and high quality interior that promotes a true sense of occasion from the driver’s seat.
Turn the key and let the engine breathe into life, it’s a heavily tuned 2.0-litre turbocharged unit that pumps out a stonking 195kW of power and 350Nm of torque. This engine is shared with the Scirocco’s Golf R sibling but is a notch down on power, (Golf R gets 199kW) however it feels every bit as rapid. Interestingly, the motor isn’t a boosted up version of the current Mk VI GTI’s mill but is based on the older Mk V GTI motor. Tuning work has included reinforcing the engine block, replacing the cylinder head, dropping in new pistons, conrods, injectors and bolting on a new larger turbo. The result is an excitement machine that will go from stationary to 100 kph in a mere 5.8 seconds and will reach a top speed of 250kph.
What all the facts and figures mean is that the Scirocco R goes hard, it’s acceleration is super strong especially through second and third gear. It also sounds great on full throttle and the exhaust pops with gearshifts. There’s a lot to like about the Scirocco R’s performance, it’s powerful off the line, there’s plenty of mid-range pull but it can also tone it all down and be a refined cruiser. Allowing the Scirocco R this ability for differing personalities is VW’s class-leading 6-speed DSG automatic transmission. It’s a smooth operator that changes the gears quickly and effortlessly, there is still a little turbo-lag present but the DSG box hides it well and makes near-perfect use of all available power. It also helps the Scirocco return fuel economy of 8.0l/100km combined, an impressive figure for any performance-focused vehicle. If manual changes are required, steering wheel paddles and a sequential change on the gearstick are available. There’s also a sports setting which keeps the Scirocco R on point, by holding it in a lower gear and waiting longer before upshifting.
Dynamically, the Scirocco R is a very different machine to its Golf R brother. Where the Golf receives VW’s 4Motion system that can move all four wheels, the Scirocco makes use of a conventional front-wheel-drive set up. This means a lot of power to the front tyres and while there is some torque steer, especially in wet conditions, an electronic front differential fights it admirably. Without a heavy 4WD system the Scirocco is a lithe 1,364 kg making it 100kg lighter than the Golf R, it also sits lower and has a wider track. The result is a well balanced machine that can’t offer quite the same level of grip as the Golf R but is more agile and still very tenacious in its road holding. Carrying speed in and out of corners is easy and safe with smooth throttle inputs, push a little harder and it will give way to predictable understeer.
The ride quality is understandably firm but it still has a road smoothing compliance that makes it easily livable. The springs are stiff but won’t bottom out and during motorway cruising it’s as comfortable as any sports sedan. Overall the Scirocco R makes for an engaging and exciting drive that feels very well suited to NZ roads.
To keep it all safe the Scirocco R is fitted with large ventilated disc brakes at the front and solid discs at the rear which pull it up sharply. There’s an electronic stability programme with counter steering assistance, ABS brakes and traction control. The cabin has a full compliment of airbags and hill hold assist is a handy feature.
So can the Scirocco R kill its Golf R brother when it comes to sales?
No, probably not, but for those who love its flashy good looks and exciting dynamics the Scirocco R is definitely a worthy alternative to the Golf. It doesn’t suffer greatly from being a front wheel driver and the powertrain is hard to fault. It’s an uncompromising sports coupe with good practicality and the ability to be a comfortable daily driver. Unlike the Golf which is partially burdened by history and expectation the Scirocco R is a machine that VW can fully unload all its performance capability, technology and sex appeal styling. That’s what makes the Scirocco R shine bright enough to never be shadowed.
What we like:
- Powerhouse engine
- High handling abilities
- Great looking machine
- Capable daily driver
What we don’t like:
- Headroom in the backseat
- Rear visibility
- Steering wheel paddle placement
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Volkswagen Scirocco R (2010) – Specifications
Engine, gearbox, electrical system
Engine Type 195kW TSI
Cubic capacity, litres/cm 3 1984cc
Max. output, kW(bhp) at rpm 195kW @ 6000 rpm
Max. torque, Nm at rpm 350Nm @ 2500 – 5000 rpm
Gearbox, standard 6-speed DSG
Top speed, kph 250
Acceleration, in seconds from 0-100 kph 5.8
Fuel consumption, litres/100 km
CO 2 emission, g/km 187g/km – Euro 5
To find out more about the Scirocco R, click here to visit the VW NZ wesbite.