Volkswagen Scirocco R: Local Launch

12 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Volkswagen Scirocco R: Local Launch

Volkswagen Scirocco

R: Local Launch

Precise handling

Potent power delivery

Not so much

No leather seats

Thick pillars reduce vision

Boot release only via key fob

— Filling a space that wasn’t there?

Was there ever a real need for Volkswagen to bring the high performance 188kW Scirocco R to Australia? No, not really. The Golf GTI and Golf R have been selling very strongly in this country, with the all-paw Golf R now accounting for 10 per cent of total Golf sales.

In retrospect I’m pleased that Volkswagen did decide to finally import the Scirocco R, because it’s one of the most engaging hot hatches I’ve had the good fortune to drive.

Powered by the same 188kW/330Nm 2.0-litre four-banger as the all-paw Golf R, the Scirocco R may be a front-wheel drive corner-meister. But it is lower, lighter, faster and can hold higher corner speeds. Basically, it trumps the Golf R in every way, expect for practicality.

The introduction of the Scirocco R has spelled the end of the three-door Golf R, but it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out this was a good move. Simply put, Scirocco R is the new Volkswagen performance leader.


— What do you say to $50k?

Two models are offered, both priced at under $50,000, which to my mind represents decent value. We tested the cars on both the road and racetrack and they didn’t miss a beat.

The six-speed manual version sells for $47,490 and the six-speed auto (DSG) model chimes in at $49,990 — a modest $2500 premium for what is arguably one of the best self-shifting transmissions available in a mass produced car.

Both models come with plenty of standard equipment; 19-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, xenon headlights with dynamic levelling and corner lighting, six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, dual-zone climate control, CD-tuner with touchscreen interface, USB port and MP3 playback and keyless entry. Rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlamps are standard too.

Body-hugging sports seats are included in the package while the centre console and steering wheel have glossy piano black accents that add subtle upmarket ambience.

There are only three options available to prospective buyers: Panoramic glass roof ($1800), Sat Nav ($2500) and the Dynaudio Excite premium audio ($1100). Leather is not available.

— Flashy front-drive tech

All local-spec VW Scirocco R models come as standard with a neat little system call XDL, or Extended Electronic Differential Lock, which basically brakes the inside front wheel to limit understeer. It works pretty well, as we discovered when driving the car on twisting roads in pouring rain.

Adaptive Chassis Control is also part of the Scirocco R’s kit, which at the touch of a button changes the damping rates of the shock absorbers to firm up or soften the ride and handling qualities of the car.

Lurking beneath the large 19-inch alloy rims are four disc brakes; big 345mm rotors up front and 310mm discs at the rear. The electro-mechanical power steering has been calibrated for a sportier feel.

Peak power and torque of 188kW/330Nm is slightly down on what European drivers get (195kW/350Nm) but the Scirocco is no slouch. Volkswagen claims a 0-100km/h sprint of 6.0 seconds flat — but our rudimentary timing equipment showed a time slightly quicker than that (5.9 seconds) when using the brutally effective launch control with DSG.

The front wheels retain partial grip through first gear when using launch control but the sleek Veedub accelerates vociferously nonetheless, snicking into second gear with ridiculous rapidity. Before you know it, you’ll looking at the magic tonne on the speedo.

While the car can be frugal — Volkswagen claims an 8.2L/100km average on the DSG model — we recorded a staggering 23.4L/100km during a 200km stretch during our stint on the track.

While the Scirocco R is based on the VW Golf platform, one of the fundamental differences between it and the Golf R is weight. The Scirocco is 1351kg, a good 125kg lighter than the 1476kg Golf R, and you can feel it in almost every dynamic respect. Acceleration, cornering speed and braking are much improved on the Scirocco and though it might miss out on an all-wheel drive setup, the weight difference more than compensates.


— Striking exterior, similar interior

Though aesthetics are always a subjective thing, for mine the Scirocco R hits the nail on the head (don’t forget the original 1974 VW Scirocco was designed by Italian design guru Giorgio Giugiaro). It has a low-slung stance, short overhangs, an aggressively profiled silhouette and muscular rear haunches, all of which communicate the car’s intent while appealing to one’s eye. Pillarless doors are a nice touch too.

The interior is a nice place to be, though if you unfocus your gaze it looks and feels the same as Golf. There a few token tweaks here and there which tart up the cabin, such as the comfortable sports seats, flat bottom steering wheel and glossy black accents.

The door grab handles have a unique triangular motif that mimics the car’s wedge-like profile and there’s a few ‘R’ badges around too.

The driver and front passenger sit suitably low in the car which contributes to its sporty attitude and, though it’s a bit of fiddle to get into the pair of sunken rear seats, they offer moderate leg room but cramped head room. But if you’re in the market for a no-nonsense hot hatch, you probably won’t be too concerned about back seat comfort.

Interestingly, boot space is better than the Golf R — 292 litres for the Scirocco R versus the 275 litres.

— Five-star performer

The Volkswagen Scirocco R has been awarded a five-star safety rating by EuroNCAP, thanks to several safety features being fitted as standard.

Contributing safety systems include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, traction control, stability control and six airbags covering front and rear passengers.

A tyre pressure indicator is also part of the package, as are seatbelt reminders.


— France versus Germany

The Renault Megane RS 250 may not have been on the radar as a competitor to the Scirocco R initially, but after driving the Volkswagen I can guarantee that we’ll be organising a comparo involving said cars.

Other rivals could include top-spec turbo versions of the Volvo C30 T5 and the Ford Focus RS has the potential to be on outer edges of the radar too.

Better late than never? The Scirocco R’s Australian launch comes more than three years after European drivers got to sample the sleek German uber-hatch. Why? Volkswagen Australia’s MD, Anke Koeckler, explained it thusly:

In 2009 we started the initiation to get the Scirocco R into the country. We wanted to have it last year, but then there was a little bit of limitation in the production and that didn’t make sense. We have to make sure we have enough production. so we didn’t have the same challenge we faced with the Polo GTI.

And that was the reason why we postponed it and did it right in 2012.


— All hail the king?

First let me get the negatives out of the way. The A-pillars in the Scirocco R are thicker than average, obscuring your vision somewhat, particularly when navigating right hand bends. The C-pillars are also chunky.

This reduces rearward vision and makes headchecks virtually pointless.

There is no way for an individual to open the boot without the key fob either, which seems like a bit of an oversight.

Now, the good stuff. Volkswagen Scirocco R is a demon of a car, one that surprised me with its resolve. The national launch drive took us to the alpine region in the North East of Victoria and the weather was foul, to put it bluntly.

Torrential rain, slick roads covered with leaf litter and bark, but the Scirocco R exhibited excellent turn-in grip and an ability to get its power to the ground with effortless ease.

This is the most involving Volkswagen I’ve ever driven, period. It’s a car that seemingly shrinks around the driver and becoming an extension of one’s body. Indeed, Volkswagen has crafted a chassis that just won’t quit, to quote Homer Simpson, and one that encourages the driver to explore its performance threshold.

The steering is direct, the chassis communicative, the experience rich. On wet roads the car telegraphed clearly when it was about to lose traction (which was rare) and almost invited the driver to test the lines of communication.

A lot of cars would have struggled in the inclement weather, but this 188kW front-wheel drive pocket rocket maintained traction with effortless ease. The harder I pushed, the more impressed I became.

The XDL also does a good job of keeping the front end pointed in the direction the driver requests, virtually eliminating torque steer and improving power delivery. Another plus is the stability control, which is remarkably unobtrusive. Even when system starts tweaking the brakes and retarding engine power, it never does so with a heavy hand.

Most telling, however, was a day later when we drove the Scirocco R on the race track, with not a cloud in the sky. While the auto DSG Scirocco R was probably faster around the Winton circuit than the manual version, the latter was more involving. Overall however I think the DSG is the better overall vehicle, handling urban driving with less effort on the driver’s part.

The brakes held up to repeated punishment (though they did begin to smoke after heating up) and the levels of body roll through tighter corners were minimal. I experienced lift-over oversteer on a couple of occasions, but unlike some FWD cars where it surprises you, it was nice and predictable on the Scirocco, testament to its keen chassis and weight distribution.

Better yet, Volkswagen was kind enough to let us drive the Golf R back-to-back with the Scirocco R. The verdict? Scirocco wins, no contest.

It was faster in a straight line, maintained higher mid-corner speeds and decelerated with more resolve, much of which can be put down to its 125kg lighter kerb weight.

The Golf R felt lethargic in comparison, unable to power out of corners with the same intensity (splitting torque between four instead of two wheels can do that). While the Scirocco would sometimes spin its inside wheel exiting a tight corner, the Golf never lost traction, but that’s about the only area where the Golf outperformed Scirocco. Ultimately, the Golf wasn’t as rewarding or as fun to drive flat-knacker; which is quite something when you think about it.

Lower, wider, lighter and longer than the Golf R, the Volkswagen Scirocco R is an exceedingly competent driver’s car, arguably one of the best front-drive hot hatches on the market. Ride quality is somewhat firm when punting around town, but when it drives this well it’s a compromise I’m certainly willing to accept.

But is ‘Rocco king of the hill? I reckon it’s a strong contender for the crown. We’ll know soon enough – the Renault RS 250 awaits.

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Published. Thursday, 2 February 2012

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