Two years ago, this bottom-of-the-podium position in the Intramurals was occupied by the Golf R. I slated the car for being both too slow to run with the Japanese rally-reps and too porky to match the FWD turbo Volkswagens on a back road.
The Scirocco R addresses both of these concerns: it’s FWD, light, and as we’ll discuss below, brutally quick. Compared to the Golf R… well, it barely compares. It’s Stilton to the Golf’s Velveeta. And yet it’s in third place, just like its Haldex-twisting cousin. What gives?
In the previous Intramurals, a few people asked for hard performance numbers. Frankly, I don’t believe in the validity of a one-off G-meter or GPS run on a variable street surface, particularly not in FWD cars. Luckily for me, the nice people at Car and Driver had the car before I did and they say that
First, an apology to current Golf R owners: The Scirocco R solidly wipes the floor with your sophisticated Euro hatch. It hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, on its way to a 13.7-second quarter-mile sprint completed at 104 mph—0.7 second and 0.6 second quicker (and 5 mph faster) than the last Golf R we tested. Top speed is an equally impressive 157 mph, and thanks to its sticky summer tires, the Scirocco clung to our skidpad at 0.94 g. The Golf R, by comparison, tops out at 127 mph and was limited by its all-season tires to 0.86 g on the skidpad.
The review goes on to talk about how awesome Sciroccos have always been, perhaps forgetting that both generations of Scirocco were thoroughly and completely trashed by C/D when they debuted. The second-gen 8-valve car in particular was the subject of an extended diss track. Back in the day, the magazine always preferred the Rabbit or Golf. However, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of something or another.
The numbers recorded by C/D are more or less exactly what you’d expect from a Porsche 993 or 986S. I have both of the aforementioned automobiles in my garage and have plenty of back-road time in both. In this case, numbers don’t tell the story. The Porsches make most of their power at the valvetrain-chewing end of the rev range and both of them require alert work to keep the revs up coming out of each turn. By contrast, the Scirocco is totally idiot-proof. The DSG snaps, crackles, and pops its way through instant shifts up and down, each one punctuated by some deliberately-generated touring-car exhaust noises. The 261-horsepower engine that feels overmatched in the long-geared manual-transmission Golf R is continually on the boil here, pulling the little coupe up hills with ferocity and somehow generating almost no torque steer whatsoever.
Grip, as you’d expect, is massive, and it’s properly served by a suspension that is not bump-sensitive yet keeps body roll firmly in check. The R feels like a single, well-engineered unit. Our drive route at the VW event was restricted to a very short loop but by requesting the car while the journosaurs were all at the sumptuous lunch, I was able to take it through a series of 15mph-marked deep hairpin bowls. Oh, how my tummy growled as I lift-throttled the little blue hatch again and again to generate the most benign and amusing tail motion possible, and how I dreamed of a nice sandwich as I floored the throttle on the way out and the engine snapped to attention, pulled the Scirocco straight, and brapppped its way into fourth gear before the next corner.
My audio notes from the drive are rather breathlessly positive and I’d be embarrassed to give you the transcript. At some point, the phrase “Woo Hah! I got you all in check!” might have appeared. This is the fastest stock Volkswagen to ever touch these shores, even if it’s only for demonstration purposes. If you thought the Corrado VR6 was totes brill, this will be mos def your favorite car of all time. A NASA HPDE 1 student could rip the panties off a back road with it. Even the brakes are good enough, which is fair since I recognize the monster sliders from my V8 Phaetons. It’s more or less faultless and unlike the Golf R I’d say it would have a fighting chance at keeping an Evo X or last-gen STi in sight in a fast-road contest. On-track, surely the front wheels would eventually give up the battle, but make no mistake: this ain’t no Focus ST, cooking and roasting the rubber before succumbing to heat soak and the physics of considerable heft.
In a world without the Renault Megane RS265, which I reviewed for Road&Track here, this is the undisputed king of hot hatches, sitting on its throne of melted Mazdaspeed3 crankshafts in perfect serenity. In this world, the Megane still smokes it in every single way, from the powertrain (stronger and more exciting to drive) to the chassis (at least halfway towards a proper FWD club racer). The Megane’s more handsome inside and out as well.
Since we can’t have either of the cars in the United States, it’s kind of sadly irrelevant which is better. But if you care, it’s the Megane, and here’s the primary reason: Unlike the Megane, and unlike the Porsches, the squat VW hatch is just a bit too point-and-shoot. It’s too easy to get 95% out of the car and the remaining 5% isn’t all that useful. It’s very, very quick but it’s also a bit sterile. That’s the kind of phrase that always infuriates me when I see it in EVO so I’ll try to explain further. Your first run up a road in the Scirocco will be almost as fast as the tenth. Just stomp the throttle and let the DSG work. Then stomp the brakes into ABS. Then turn into you hear it squeal. That’s the most efficient way to do it and it’s the fastest and it’s also the only way the Scirocco will really permit. If you try to trail-brake too much the DSG and electronic throttle will stop playing. If you attempt to adjust with the throttle in mid-turn you’ll just slow the exit. It’s fast, but it never feels furious.
If you want fury, you can just consider the price. C/D says it’s cheaper than the Golf R in Europe. If that translated to a $34K sticker here in the United States, it would render the Golf R completely irrelevant. Still: that’s Mustang GT money. The Scirocco isn’t a match for the 5.0 on paper or asphalt. Where the Scirocco’s driver is DSGing and FWD-stabilizing his way up the road in rapid but bland fashion, the Mustang is rip-snorting along sideways.
Ah, but this is the Intramurals and we’re supposed to be limiting the comparison to the Wolfsburg badge. Okay. In 2011, the Golf R didn’t deliver the joyful exuberance of the GLI and GTI but it cost a fair bit more. The Scirocco R is better, but in 2013 it finds itself in the same position as the cyclist who trained all winter but found in April that the guys who beat him last year have been training as well. Great car, just not as great as the stuff ahead of it. As a novelty piece, as a trophy for a lifelong VW loyalist, the R is unbeatable. As a real-world, pay-your-own-money proposition, it’s third.