If everything old becomes new again then the Volkswagen Scirocco R Wolfsburg could be seen to return to the prowl for one last attack at the sports coupe class.
While its Golf GTI hot hatch sibling hogs the limelight, particularly in 40 Years guise, the 2011-era Scirocco R is almost the forgotten performer, or yesterday’s hero.
But let’s not forget that this slinky three-door Volkswagen is more powerful than any five-door Golf GTI (limited-run 40 Years excepted) while continuing to be lighter than any all-wheel drive Golf R. On paper, it still seems like a winning blend of virtues.
This Scirocco R Wolfsburg will see the series out for good, but thankfully there are goodies in store before production ends this year. And sadly without replacement.
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $51,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 188kW/330Nm 2.0 turbo petrol four-cyl | six-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.0 l/100km | Tested: 10.0 l/100km
Available with either a six-speed manual for $49,490 plus on-road costs, or the optional automatic DSG with the same number of ratios for $51,990 (plus orc), the Wolfsburg demands an extra $3500 over the now-departed regular Scirocco R.
Only 150 units are making their way to Australia, an overwhelming 120 of which are equipped with the automatic DSG as tested here.
There are no mechanical changes and few styling changes for the Wolfsburg, a name that references Volkswagen’s German home town. It comes complete with a badge of its coat of arms, in addition to a numbered build plaque, 19-inch black alloy wheels, black mirrors, ‘motorsport’ style bucket seats (which disappointingly delete the side airbags) and a colour trip computer display.
Unlike the Golf GTI 40 Years and its Peugeot 308 GTi and Renault Sport Megane RS 265 closest rivals, the Scirocco R lacks a mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD). It does, however, score three-mode adaptive suspension as standard.
- Standard Equipment: keyless auto-entry with push-button start, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, Alcantara/leather trim with heated front sports seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and automatic on/off headlights and wipers.
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology and eight speakers.
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 312 litres (minimum), 1006L (maximum)
From the outside most punters would not pick that the Scirocco R has been on sale in Australia for seven years – and available globally for even longer, since 2009. Only the exterior lighting package has really been revised since, complete with classy LED daytime running lights and full-LED tail-lights that lift it up into this decade.
Likewise, several in-cabin additions disguise this model’s older origins, notably a new three-spoke steering wheel (shared with all current sporting Volkswagens), a colour trip computer display and a high-resolution 6.5-inch touchscreen complete with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology.
Intriguingly, there are examples inside the Wolfsburg where the, uhh, Wolfsburg-based brand has adopted some cost-cutting measures with newer Golf models. The hard lower dashboard plastics are nicely textured and tightly fit around the centre console, where current Golfs are slightly thin and loose down there respectively.
Traditionalists will love the Scirocco’s manual handbrake – Golfs have gone electric – while drinking enthusiasts (of the sparkling water variety if driving, of course) can still enjoy the detachable metal bottle opener that has since been boned from Vee-Dubs.
Not all is rosy (or rose-tinted), though, with the dashtop pod of gauges (comprising oil temperature, analogue clock and turbo boost) still appearing cheap, especially now that the complementary digital clock’s red font matches nothing else inside.
The door handles feel a bit flimsy, too, and there’s absolutely no other driver assistance technology that underscores a modern offering. While the missing automatic park assistance, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor and forward collision warning may not be needed, this is a $52,000 vehicle before on-roads.
That bunch – along with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – was even standard on the DSG-equipped $48,990 (plus orc) Golf GTI 40 Years, although it disappointingly remains a $1500 option on the equivalent $55,490 (plus orc) Golf R.
There’s absolutely no space in the rear seat, and a relatively small boot, although the Scirocco R is not really about practicality. Its greatest asset is those snug new seats that seem to be positioned much lower than in a Golf GTI, which along with a lower roofline and smaller glasshouse, primes the driver for a sporty steer ahead.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 188kW/330Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed dual-clutch automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
- Brake: ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically operated mechanical power steering
A two-door version of a hatch the Scirocco R is not. Its body length is 16mm down on a Golf, while its wheelbase draws in by 42mm. It’s 21mm wider than the current GTI/R while measuring 50mm lower overall, enhancing its squat stance on the road.
The Wolfsburg continues to use an older 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine compared with the newer, more fuel efficient units found in its hot hatchback siblings. It doesn’t get stop-start tech that turns the engine off at idle to save fuel, while its outputs don’t align with either the GTI’s 162kW/350Nm or the R’s 206kW/380Nm.
Instead the coupe produces 188kW of power at 6000rpm and 330Nm of torque between 2400rpm and 5200rpm, with a 6.0-second 0-100km/h claim a half-second ahead of the GTI but a second behind the R (which benefits from all-paw traction). Yet oddly it mirrors the acceleration claim of the 195kW/350Nm 40 Years.
While that’s initially a case of ‘go figure’ the answers come thick and fast on the road. The Wolfsburg feels slightly ‘laggy’ and then ‘boosty’, or initially dulled then frenetic, although such attributes are ably disguised by the slick six-speed DSG.
After all these years the Scirocco R remains a thrilling hatchback-cum-coupe to drive. It’s genuinely entertaining to ride the wave of turbo torque around town and know that a quick ankle-flex is all it takes to blast beyond other meandering motorists.
Although its steering and chassis trace back to the middle of the last decade, this Volkswagen doesn’t really feel like it has aged on the road. In some instances, as with the interior, it reveals that the company may have regressed slightly.
The three-mode adaptive suspension still does a sterling job of hiding away the impacts of the low-profile 19-inch tyres. Comfort is nicely absorbent without turning soggy, although Normal is most ideal for retaining a perfectly level ride without harshness that can be evident in ultra-tight Sport.
It’s the electro-hydraulic steering that impresses most, not around town but certainly during harder driving.
Volkswagen has switched from using an electric motor to run the hydraulic power assistance pump, to an electric motor delivering the power assistance for the mechanical steering linkage. The 40 Years recently tested offers creamy-smooth and consistent steering, whereas this Scirocco R feels a bit loose and vague on the centre position. But where the former is numb in hard driving, the latter comes alive.
The upshot is – and the extent of this only occurred when driving this Scirocco R soon after the 40 Years – that while this chassis may be older and less capable than the newer hatchback, its driver attains greater feedback at the limit.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when steering through tighter corners with 188kW but without an LSD or a Sport electronic stability control (ESC) mode. The Scirocco R can feel scrappy when pushed if patience on the throttle isn’t afforded, and while bodyroll is kept in check, the chassis is planted without feeling playful.
If tight, grippy, point-and-shoot fun is the preferred method of driving briskly, or driver connection is valued above outright sharpness, then the Scirocco remains fabulous.
ANCAP rating: 5-stars - this model scored 34.96 out of 37 possible points.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera and front and rear parking sensors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Five-year/75,000km capped price servicing program covers the first five annual/15,000km checks at a higher-than-average $1626 for the first trio combined.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It’s less than $10K to stretch to the demonstrably superior BMW 230i coupe, while a Golf R or GTI huddle around the Scirocco R Wolfsburg with fierce sibling rivalry. The Megane RS 265 is old and in run-out, but remains a pearler for dynamics.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Something old like the Scirocco R hasn’t transformed into something new with this Wolfsburg final edition, and it’s a travesty that Volkswagen isn’t planning another slick-looking low-slung sports coupe follow up.
Certainly, however, absence made our heart grow a bit fonder for this Golf-class spin-off. It certainly still offers a styling advantage over its sibling, as well as cabin appointments that have held up surprisingly well, a sportier driving position, plus heavily boosted performance and touchy-feely handling.
When the going gets tough, the Scirocco R Wolfsburg simply lacks the front-wheel firepower of LSD-equipped rivals such as the 40 Years, Peugeot 308 GTi and Renault Sport Megane. Likewise, there’s a distinct lack of technology for the price.
All of this will soon be for the history books, though. And this Volkswagen will go down as a cracking good car.
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