Scirocco R adds sporting appeal

I was very smitten with the new Volkswagen Scirocco when I tested it in October 2008. So, when the performance Scirocco R appeared on my list of cars to road test, I was full of anticipation.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

It could have all gone so wrong when I clouted my head on the low roof rail as I got aboard. Fortunately, it is well padded (the roof rail, not my head), so the car was soon forgiven and the lesson in lowering my head was well learned.

The driving environment is pure Volkswagen and none the worse for it. Just as the exterior is clean and unfussy in its design, so the interior is practical and sensible. With quality materials and finishes, including piano black accents, this is quite an upmarket environment and nicely sporting with the special sports seats.

One thing that has not changed, of course, are the visibility issues. At the back the rising waistline, rear pillars and small rear window make reversing a little more challenging than some cars. You also have to be aware that the heavy front pillars create blind spots.

For this test I shall concentrate on the performance aspect of the Scirocco R and leave you to look back at my road test of the Scirocco 2.0 TSI to read more general impressions of the Scirocco.

Setting out on my first journey I was instantly impressed. You just touch the accelerator and the response is immediate and eager. The power delivery is smooth and seamless.

I had been a little concerned that, with 265 bhp being delivered through the front wheels, I might find myself fighting torque steer, or feeling that strange vagueness around the straight ahead steering position that used afflict powerful front wheel drive cars. I’m pleased to say neither proved a problem, even under power on tight corners or roundabouts. Indeed, I had soon completely forgotten to which end of the car the power was delivered!

My longest trip during the time I had the Scirocco R was a trip from Aberdeen to Inverness on the A96. It is a road I hate. It is 100+ miles of heavy trucks, tractors and slow-moving, short-distance traffic mixing it on a single carriageway twisting road, alongside those of us trying to make efficient progress between two of Scotland’s main cities.

Volkswagen Scirocco R interior

It is a dangerous cocktail. Frustration and poor road design make this an unwelcome journey, but there is virtually no alternative.

What you do need for the A96, is a car that is comfortable and effortless to drive, so that the long tedious grinds behind other traffic pass more easily – but, one that has the power and performance, to seize the overtaking opportunity when they arise.

The Volkswagen Scirocco R proved ideal. It cruises in refined and effortless style, but whisks into rapid overtaking mode when needed. You can get out, get past and back to the safety of your own side of the road in double quick time. (Yes, politicians and legislators, good performance is a safety feature.)

For a turbo performance car, it is noteworthy that the Scirocco R even pulls strongly from remarkably low revs in sixth gear.

When you leave the main roads the Scirocco R really comes into its own. As with the Scirocco 2.0 TSI I drove previously, the Scirocco R seems to revel in sorting out and helping the driver achieve rapid and smooth progress along twisty country roads. The Scirocco R with its tuned dynamics, even more so.

As with the other Sciroccos, you have the choice of “normal”, “sport” and “comfort” settings on the ‘adaptive chassis control’. These, too, have been retuned for the Scirocco R. Flick it to the “sport” setting and you can feel the suspension tightening up, such that you feel every ripple in the road. On the other hand, if you have your granny in the car, you can switch to “comfort” and you really do get a softer, more cosseting ride quality.

This ADC system links suspension, steering and accelerator, sharpening them up in response to the road conditions and driving style.As with the 2.0 TSI, I found it very satisfactory just to leave the system to adjust its own settings automatically for most journeys.

Although the capacity is the same at two-litres, the Scirocco R has a power boost of 55PS compared with the Scirocco GT 2.0 TSI. Acceleration 0-62 mph takes exactly six seconds, almost a second quicker than the GT. But, it is the responsiveness of the Scirocco R within the overtaking range that is even more impressive.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

You can always tell a well sorted car by the way that the accelerator, clutch, brake, gearbox and steering all seem to work together as a team, letting the driver make smooth, safe and efficient progress. The Scirocco R clearly enjoyed some careful fine tuning during its development.

The good news is that the Scirocco R delivers this performance with pretty good economy. The official combined fuel consumption is 34.9 mpg and my experience suggests that this figure is more realistic than on some cars. My time with the car was dominated by that 200-mile trunk road drive, the trip computer awarded me an overall consumption of 34 mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions are 189 g/km.

The price of the Scirocco R is £29,485 – representing a premium of just over £5,000 on the Scirocco GT 2.0 TSI.

It’s a pretty well equipped car, but there is one ‘extra’ that I would feel tempted by. That is the £1,300 option of the DSG gearbox. I haven’t driven it in this model, but I have been very impressed with it in others. Plus – most unusually for an automatic gearbox – the DSG is fractionally quicker and more economical than its manual sibling.

The other thing to consider is the mechanically similar Volkswagen Golf R, which costs just £1,600 more for greater practicality and similar (indeed fractionally quicker) performance.

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