2012 Volkswagen Scirocco R

Unfortunately this car is a bit too climate-controlled

By Shahzad Sheikh

Volkswagen Scirocco R

The Volkswagen Scirocco is a great little car, an astonishingly manic little coupe/hatchback that begs to be thrashed. Knowing this, we’ve waited a long while to get our hands on the Scirocco R with its 60 extra horsepower.

Unlike its cousin the Golf R, this car doesn’t feature four-wheel drive, so all that power and torque goes through the front wheels alone. Now this should be fun.

But first let’s recap a little – what is a Scirocco. It’s a got an illustrious history, it was always like the Golf but lower, sleeker, cooler. And when it was reborn in 2008, VW stayed true to that philosophy and gave us a car that still is.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

Unless you have family or friends you need to put in the car, why put up with the stodgy seriousness of the Golf, even in GTI form, when you can have the more sports car feel of the Scirocco. And you know you can still get a couple of people in the back. Small people. At a push.

It looks fantastic, retro yet contemporary, with narrow glass and a sucked onto the tarmac stance. There’s aggression but also a svelt style. Driving the regular car I remember it to be as frenetic as at GTI but more playful, more eager, more arousing.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

When word came of the new R versions of both the Golf and Scirocco, the anticipation was hard to keep in check. But when I got hold of the Golf R I found it fast and agile, but a little staid when compared to the regular GTI. What the GTI lacked in performance it made up for in excitement.

But how could more power be less fun? Easy, I figured, it’s the four-wheel drive. The enhanced grip underplayed the power – not to mention of course, the electronic drivers’ aids. This Golf R is too competent, too efficient for its own good, and didn’t feel that significantly faster than the GTI. The Scirocco R, would be better though, surely?

Volkswagen Scirocco R

You get in the car and it’s all very familiar. Solid quality, no-nonsense layout, precisely trimmed and positively without theatrics apart from a subtle ‘R’ on the dashboard. In fact it’s all little too familiar. And as such rather disappointing. There’s nothing that really marks this car out as special or different, just a sea of uncharismatic black efficiency. Where’s the checker seat trim? How about some red piping? Bit of carbon maybe? Slash of yellow? Nah, you get what you need and that’s it.

And of course this is not a manual car, it’s a DSG six-speed paddleshift, mating the bhp and lb ft to the front wheels through a new electronic differential lock (XDS) and the optional dynamic chassis control (DCC), which turns out to be extremely clever indeed. On the outside the main differences are front and rear bumpers, the black grille, twin tailpipes, widened sills and ‘Talladega’ 19-inch R design. It all works though, and if anything the R looks even naughtier and deadlier than the regular flavour.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

Get in, turn it on and drive off, apart from the massive rear C-pillars, narrow rear glass and hopeless rear view mirror the purpose of which is confounded by the low curvature of the rear roof-line leaving you to rely on the side mirrors, plus of course the very low slung seating position, you find yourself remarkably nonplussed. This could just be any small, slightly comfort-compromised car.

Now you’re expecting me to say that when you put your foot down, the turbocharger winds up, you get a kick up the backside and all hell breaks loose. Meh… well… yeah… kinda. Except I’d be lying if I made it sound that dramatic. There’s a solid surge of torque delivered in a solemnly serious manner.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

Yes there’s a delightful parp from the exhausts on the gearchanges, but there’s not tyre squeal, no scrabbling for grip, not even a wrenching of the wheel from your hand on acceleration and upshifts. It’s all very calm and composed. Which you might say is a good thing, but in a car like this, is it though? Is it really?

Now to be fair, I think some of this has to do with the rising temperatures. I’ve driven few cars as sensitive to the environment as this – and I don’t mean that in a good, sort of eco-friendly way. Taking it out late one night to get some stuff from the local shop, I took a longer than normal route, because it seemed like much more than several extra horsepower had been unleashed from the engine due to the cooler air. Likewise the tyres protested and turn-in was compromised because the rubber was colder.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

In the day the car felt composed, with a completely neutral steering attitude, but now it was a little unhinged and some of the sensations of the standard Scirocco shone through.

So it’s all about driving style, the engineers would argue that the diff and the more controlled power delivery makes for a safer car which thus encourages optimum performance. I would counter simply that I didn’t enjoy it.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

And that’s what annoyed me the most about the R. Just like the Golf R, driving it just led me to appreciate the regular car more, and also recommend you buy that version. Yes in Europe with its harsher road surfaces and freezing climes the R could be the one to opt for, but for the UAE, save the extra money you’d spend on the R and get yourself some furry dice and chequered seat covers to liven up the cabin of the regular flavour Scirocco instead.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

Volkswagen Scirocco R
Price: AED125,600 ($34,130 – starting price, the car we drove was AED149,000)
Engine: 1984cc, four-cylinder turbo, 265bhp @ 6000, 258lb ft @ 2500-5000
Performance: 0-100kph 5.8 seconds (DSG), 250kph (limited), 8.0L/100km
Transmission: six-speed auto (DSG), Front wheel drive
Weight: 1439kg

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