Roc' Solid Fun : VW Scirocco R

Car Specifications
1984cc, 16-valves
Cylinder Layout: 
4-cylinders in-line
Top Speed: 
6-Speed DSG (Manual Transmission option available)
6 seconds
256bhp at 6000rpm
330Nm at 2400-5200rpm

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)

Thank goodness the Scirocco offers VW a second chance to get the "R" thing correct. By most accounts the Golf R had not quite eclipsed its more mundane GTI stablemate. Its either a testament of how right the GTI fundamentally is or the guys at the R department need to take lessons from their Porsche counterparts.

Of course if one reads the VW press releases correctly, the R department is really bunch of marketing types that managed to coerce VW to produce more powerful versions of their everyday heroes like the Golf and Scirocco. Its not a bad idea really but the motoring world has come to expect a bit more than just more power and a fancy body kit.

The GTI is an enigma for VW. For one it manages to outshine even the parent company's image with many proclaiming to own GTIs rather than VWs. Then it is practically alone out there with the GTI name though VW at one time or the other, made GTI versions of the Polo and Scirocco. However they never managed to turn that into the success enjoyed by the M-division of BMW or the AMG of Mercedes Benz.

And because the GTI's image is so strong its hard to successfully tack this name onto any other model than the Golf without destroying the enviable image of VWs most sought after model.

So then the "R" gambit is to unite the entire range with a top-gun version of each series as they have already shown with the R32, R36 and R50. So far with the current range they have dropped the numerals and given us the Golf R and Scirocco R. It will be interesting to see what they will serve up next.

Back to the present, the Scirocco R. Why is this coupe priced to undercut the Golf? In the good old days it was the other way around with the Scirocco priced above the Golf. We say enjoy the anomaly for the moment as VW attempts to resurrect the Scirocco name.

The most significant difference between the Golf R and Scirocco R has to be the extra heft of the 4WD system. We thought it unfairly penalized the otherwise excellent Golf GTI's balance offering little in return. (winter driving anyone?)

Sure the power and torque of the R-tuned turbocharged 2L at 256 bhp and 330 Nm over the GTI's 210 bhp and 300 Nm has the potential to overwhelm the geometry and invite all kinds of torque steering demons, or so we were led to believe. So turning a livewire GTI into a genteel, well-mannered Golf R was the only thing to do... or was it?

Enter the Scirocco R. No AWD. Problematic torque steer and dreadful power understeer you say? Without the benefit of a proper drive we'd be in agreement with you, but fortunately for VW, there are a few engineers who don't merely march to the beat of the marketing drummer.

The Scirocco has already garnered a bad-boy image amongst the enthusiast crowd with many tuned versions of the 2.0 TSI model, which has essentially the GTI's motor under its curvaceous bonnet.

Hence the Scirocco R is to make legitimate the numerous claims to the power and suspension enhancements already in existence today on the aftermarket.

You'd buy this R because its the real deal complete with pedigree and papers to substantiate its claim to the throne. However unlike the Golf R, the Scirocco is just FWD and to shut the naysayers up there is barely a hint of torque steer, certainly no worse than whats evidenced in the GTI. Moreover the newfound power is not sapped up driving the extra differentials and wet clutches.

It is turned into tangible propulsive power. Using the launch control (ESP off, Gearbox in "S" and left foot brake and hit the throttle hard) the poor 19-inch Bridgestones are overwhelmed by the torque and produce embarrassing amounts of wheelspin. Yet VW claims a 0-100 km/h dash of 6.0 seconds is possible. (probably with Cup tyres or semi slicks on)

Not surprisingly VW has retained the services of the wet clutch 6-speed DSG instead of the 7-speed dry clutch one. This original 6-speed DSG and Porsche's PDK are the finest examples of Double Clutch Gearboxes around as they are robust and they offer slow speed take up that really rivals that of a traditional slushbox.

VW has given the exhaust system more latitude to sound more meaningful and have kept the delightful afterburn burble in between gear changes. Now the engine readily charges up to the redline where the GTI would run out of puff. The kickdown response at 50 km/h is most impressive, kicking down to 2nd launching the car to the horizon in a proper petrolhead manner.

The test car came with the DCC or VW's version of Audi's magnetic ride system (AMR), which uses ferro-magnetic damper fluid to change damping characteristics in a flash. The corollary of this is it makes redundant the Sport and Comfort settings provided.

The auto switching mode is so effective one really can ignore Comfort mode entirely. The Sport mode has to be there if for no other reason than to let the adrenaline junkie get their kicks.

Frankly the Sport setting is a tad too stiff for normal everyday use and gets your viscera into an uncomfortable bounce. Yes, the steering feels well-connected with Sport mode engaged but it's only a small difference. But hey, if you need this button to push, be our guest. Our advice? Leave it in Auto.

Like the Golf R or GTI, the ESP cannot be completely disabled and while the dashboard light shows it's off, it will swoop in to gather the car if it deems that it's going to spin. Although it is quite inobtrusive. one cannot get too far out of shape, so while the handling is mostly benign it is the positive chassis response that one appreciates.

The huge 19-inch Bridgestone RE050As have fabulous grip and thanks to the DCC suspension it is not all that harsh considering its ultra low profile. There is noticeable road roar but we'd say its in keeping with the brand's 'R' intentions.

The performance envelope is definitely stretched upward and outwards, but hooligan antics are not allowed. But hey, even the 911 GT3 now has a ESP switch, but it's one the driver can really disable. Time VW took that leap of faith, at least with its R versions (or RS versions hint, hint)

This is one of those cars that one can get a flow into and through the bends as long as one works the DSG manually. The hard Germanic sports seat is a touch too wide for an asian frame, but otherwise the Scirocco R is a well-built car, more substantial than the Japanese equivalent. Forget about the manual box as it pales in comparison to the Japanese boxes, but this DSG is a gem. (see conclusion after tech. specs.)

CAPACITY: 1984cc
CYLINDER LAYOUT : In-line 4-cylinder
BORE X STROKE: 82.5 x 92.8mm
MAXIMUM POWER: 256 bhp at 6000 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE: 330 Nm at 2400-5200 rpm

TYPE: 6-speed manual or DSG (as tested)

TOP SPEED: 250 km/h (electronically limited)
0-100KM/H: 6.0 seconds

FRONT: MacPherson struts
REAR: Four-link suspension with separate spring and shock

FRONT: 345mm Ventilated Disc
REAR: 310mm Solid Disc

TYPE: Bridgestone RE050A
SIZE: 235/35 ZR 19

ABS: Yes

LxBxH: 4248 x 1820 x 1394 mm

The Scirocco R indeed offers 'rock-solid' fun (especially compared to the Golf R), but this can prove to be a double-edged sword for those who are looking for more visceral thrills and spills. Like the other Volkswagen sports models, the 'Rocco R is effortless to drive fast, but this could well be its downfall. Hot-Hatch devotees have never had it better, with many other brands offering their interpretations of the hot-hatch DNA: the Ford Focus RS and Renault Megane RS250 may not be the common choices, but if you're looking for something more than a car for the people, they may provide a scintillating bang for your buck as well. - mp
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