Motoring | Test Drives

The mighty Scirocco R tried and tested

The best thing to come out of Germany since Heidi Klum, the Scirocco R is a Teutonic triumph says Craig Hawes

  • By Craig Hawes, alpha. magazine
  • Published: 00:00 May 1, 2012
  • alpha

Volkswagen Scirocco R
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • The front radiator grill and bi-xenon headlights combine to form the Scirocco R’s sleek and distinctive face.
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Back when it was going through its second-generation phase in the mid-1980s, Volkswagen's Scirocco turned other drivers' heads quicker than a roadside poster for women's underwear.

It was known as a bit of a flier even then, its appeal to younger drivers boosted by its passing resemblance to the DeLorean DMC-12 in Back to the Future.

And when it rose again, phoenix-like, in 2008 after a 20-year hiatus it faithfully retained the ethos of the early models: compact, wedge-shaped, something that, if it were dropped nose-first into the sea, would barely cause a ripple.

Four years on, this lean and muscular little coupé has re-established its starting place in the Volkswagen All-Stars. Assuming there was such a team, the Scirocco R would be its star striker, a prolific finisher with speed, grace and a touch of the flashy Dan - a back-heel flick where a side-footed pass would have done.

That said, it has a deceptively simple silhouette. Devoid of any extraneous bumps or grooves, it's like The Terminator in his liquid metal guise - eel-smooth and almost ahead of its time. The front radiator grill and bi-xenon headlights combine to form the car's sleek and distinctive face and wherever you look you'll find evidence of Volkswagen's famous attention to detail, from the Talladega alloy wheels to the chrome-finish tailpipes. The widened side stills, painted in body colour, emphasise the car's compressed look.

The interior is the epitome of sporty refinement. A tactile, leather hunk of a steering wheel and Kyalami fabric-clad seats provide plenty of comfort. There's a lighted glovebox (handy when you're fumbling around for CDs in heavy traffic), a ‘DYNAUDIO Excite' sound system that provides a satisfyingly lucid sound, and all the usual technological bits and bobs that those Teutonic geniuses at Volkswagen somehow fit in without it feeling gimmicky and too try-hard, such as SD card readers, 30-Gigabyte hard-drive and a DVD drive.

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At night, you'll love the way the speedometer and fuel display needles light up in electric blue. And for those rare chilly nights in the Gulf you can get your back warmed up nicely by the seat-heating - even if it did melt the M&Ms I'd left in my jacket pocket.

Melted chocolate aside, if there's anything to quibble about, I'd say that the rear windscreen is so narrow that your view is limited, therefore you find yourself compensating for this by double-checking the wing mirrors each time you want to change lanes. But then that's a bit like saying Lionel Messi may be the world's greatest footballer by a million miles but he can't head the ball for toffee, which is perhaps a little churlish.

As for performance, press the ignition button and you're met with the kind of throaty growl that can embarrass drivers of lesser machines. You'll be pulling away from the traffic lights with the speed of Usain Bolt and the furious bellow of King Kong, while the pathetically shrill splutters of protestation from other cars fade into the background - which isn't a bad way to start each day if you're prone to the odd moment of smugness (and who wouldn't be when driving a brand new Scirocco?).

The turbo four-cylinder TSI engine provides ridiculous power for such a small car and in Sport mode you're just craving the safety and wide space of the race track so you can really crack the whip and see what it's capable of. It's totally wasted on the congested, stop-start streets of the inner city. Top speed according to the press kit is 250km/h - and I don't doubt it for a second. At the lightest nudge of the pedal it surges forward like a cheetah on hot coals. And it loves bends, sticking to the road with reassuring adhesion.

It's telling that the Scirocco R comes in muted colours (blues and greys), with the only exception being a light green. This is a car that is fun without being frivolous, serious without being sombre. In other words, very German.

It's a mystery why the Scirocco went away at all as you'd think it would have the resilient staying power of its VW brother, the Golf. Let's hope it stays around for longer than a paltry decade this time. With longevity should come the respect it thoroughly deserves.

Quick specs

Engine: 2.0L TSI
Horsepower: 265bhp
Transmission: 6-speed
Drive type: front-wheel drive
Wheels: 19-inch Talladega alloys
Cost: From Dh125,600

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