Car reviews - Volkswagen - Scirocco - R
Impeccable front-drive manners, lip-quivering looks, adorable new retro gauge trio
Room for improvement
Dishonest piped-in engine note, no seat-tilt adjustment
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12 Nov 2014
IF YOU owned a Volkswagen Scirocco in Europe after it was launched in the 1970s, you were telling the world you cared about both style and driving pleasure, and 40 years on, nothing has changed.
The Scirocco R offers the same commendable underpinning as the related Golf GTI, but by sacrificing two doors and some interior space, the Scirocco buyer gains a coupe-hatch with head-turning good looks.
A low elegant roof-line, wide bullish stance and a face full of grilles are the hallmarks of Scirocco, which is about to receive a mild facelift to invigorate sales.
Reshaped head and tail-lights, re-sculpted front and rear bumpers and grille tweaks give an overall refreshed look without obvious differences.
Jumping in to a six-speed manual version (seven-speed DSG is also available) revealed the cosy interior updates with beautiful half-alcantara sports seats gracing the purposeful cabin.
The rearward view is obscured by a small rear window and large rear seat headrests, but the updated version now has a reversing camera tucked away in the boot badge like its Golf brother.
But our favourite new feature is the cluster of three auxiliary gauges above the 6.5-inch touchscreen.
In today's modern cars, gauges – including even something as previously fundamental as coolant temperature – are largely superfluous, and the same could be said about the Scirocco's oil temperature, chronograph and boost pressure clocks.
But have you forgotten already? If you are after the embodiment of performance and practicality then you should be reading our Golf GTI review.
The Scirocco welcomes a little frivolity in the name of style and occasion, and the new retro gauge pod is just such a folly. We love them.
Those three readouts dance into life when the 188kW/330Nm turbocharged four-cylinder fires up with a satisfying note.
Clutch feel is smooth but aggressive, and a high ratio first gear requires a good rev to pull away smoothly reminding the driver of the Scirocco's sporty credentials.
Acceleration from a standing start is strong with a pleasing turbo whistle, but the initial natural engine note is sadly drowned out by a dishonest synthetic sound piped through the cabin's speakers.
With a low ride-height, the Scirocco communicates a good sense of speed when cruising on faster roads and the long doors push the B-pillar far back to allow excellent side visibility.
A favourite Victorian country road put the Scirocco firmly in its natural habitat and soon we were flying through remote twisty roads with vigour.
Tight right-handers annoyingly caused the chunky A-pillar to obscure the view and, while the updated sports seats are typically Volkswagen firm, supportive and comfortable, the base does not tilt meaning longer-legged drivers lack leg support.
That encouraged our 188cm tester to brace against the door and centre console which became uncomfortable especially during extended twisty road sections, but that could be ignored with a distractingly pure driving experience.
Volkswagen has done an extraordinary job with the front-drive chassis, and despite using all of the 330Nm on less than perfect surfaces, the Scirocco showed no sign of torque steer.
Just as impressive was the nippy coupe's resistance to understeer which can be largely attributed to its new XDL differential which sends power to the outside wheel if the inside hoop starts to spin.
Combined with bags of steering feedback and sharp responses, the Scirocco R encourages aggressive entry to corners and early application of power without fear of plough-on front-drive traits.
Its low centre of gravity and adaptive chassis modes keep body-roll negligible, adding to confidence inspiring behaviour.
Clicking through the six manual gears completed the experience and despite a wide gap between 2nd and 3rd ratios, this self-serve option is preferable to the automatic DSG transmission in such a driver-focused car.
We found the impressive engine's 5000rpm sweet spot and stayed there all day.
On a rewarding road and under the perfect conditions of our test drive, the Volkswagen Scirocco R devours kilometres with psychopathic efficiency.
We are pleased VW resisted the temptation to give its coupe the extra power and four-wheel drive of the Golf R because Scirocco proves that keeping size and weight down is the recipe to driving pleasure.
Volkswagen has not yet announced pricing for the updated 2015 Scirocco, but has said that it will be “competitive”, and we hope so too.
When it arrived on Australian shores in 2012 it became the most exciting vehicle to wear the VW badge, and with a mild refresh, it still is.
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