– Great power and handling
– Cabin space and features
– Fairly comfortable ride
– Pricey for its size
– Tight rear-seat access
– Limits obvious at the track
The VW Scirocco is nothing more than a Golf with less headroom. So is the Scirocco R simply a Golf R with less headroom? Not exactly.
Compared to the regular 2.0TSI externally, the Scirocco R gets a unique bumpers, 19-inch “R” wheels, dual exhaust tips and, well, a couple of “R” badges. You can get it in several colours, but if it weren’t for that special blue paint unique to the R, it’d be hard to spot one in a crowd of Sciroccos.
Inside, it has exactly the same interior as the lesser Scirocco, except for a few more “R” badges, on the front headrests and the steering wheel. Aside from the futuristic triangular door handles and the sporty individual rear seats, the rest of the interior is exactly the same as in the Golf GTI, with its premium soft-touch dash and door surfaces as well as the pretty gauges and gadgetry. The only downer is an exposed cup-holder compartment up front, whereas the Golf gets a covered one.
Legroom, both front and rear, is pretty good. Surprisingly, while the headroom seems reduced, any basketball player can still fit fine up front if the heavily-bolstered seats are moved back, at the expense of rear space. With average-sized people, passengers can fit in the back comfortably too, although slipping in back there is another story. The boot space is a little less than that of a Golf, but having to lift heavy luggage over that high rear bumper makes it more impractical. Aside from the boot, some small door pockets, central armrest cubby and front cup-holders is about as much storage capacity as you can get in this car, unless you fold down the rear seats.
The Scirocco comes with the exact same gadgetry that can be had in every other VW, including that ubiquitous touchscreen for the stereo, phone and navigation that we’re so familiar with by now. With a dual-zone auto a/c that worked well in September weather, cruise control, good CD stereo with optional USB cabling, optional leather upholstery with power driver’s seat, “smart” keyless entry with starter button, HID headlights, “turning” foglamps, a full set of airbags, and a big glass moonroof that only tilts up, it does more than enough to keep the average driver satisfied.
The Scirocco R doesn’t just have a GTI motor with the boost turned up, as some idiots would have you believe. The R is powered by a strengthened 2.0-litre 4-cylinder with bigger turbochargers, making an effortless 255 hp at 6000 rpm and 330 Nm of torque at 2400 rpm, slightly detuned compared to the European version. The Scirocco R is also front-wheel-drive, not getting the all-wheel-drive system that the Golf R has. What’s lost in ultimate traction is gained in weight-savings, as we managed a 0-100 kph time of 6.3 seconds in November weather, with “Special” RON95 petrol as given to us by VW. That’s 0.2 seconds quicker than the last Golf R and the last Chevy Camaro SS we tested! And that was with a ton of wheelspin using launch-control. We probably would’ve got a quicker time if we refuelled with “Super” RON98 fuel and if we practiced dialling back the wheelspin a bit, but we had time for neither.
Still, with a muffled-yet-growling engine note, lightning-quick DSG automanual paddle-shifts signalled by a “boom” through the exhaust, there isn’t any real need for it to be quicker. The low-end torque pushes you back into your seat, unlike non-turbo cars like, say, the Cadillac ATS that gradually build power. In fact, there is superb torque all through the six gears, unlike the Golf GTI which runs out of steam at highway speeds.
The Scirocco R is as fun to throw around as the GTI, with its precise somewhat-firm steering, limited body roll and good grip, all playing their part on long high-speed curves. The steering feedback and the brakes feel stronger here. Understeer crops up when you’re driving at the limit, as we found out when we had a brief run at the Yas Marina racetrack, but the R is much more fun on the streets, as the car’s small size and chuckable demeanour are assets.
All-round visibility is great, thanks to thin forward pillars and big windows. So daily life around the city is easy with this car. The power is intoxicating, so we gunned the engine everywhere, and still managed a fuel consumption of only 12.5 litres/100 km. The DCC system is amazing, in that the ride becomes as smooth as that of a BMW when set to “comfort” mode, and can be firmed up in “sport” mode as needed. The regular Scirocco we drove without DCC had a relatively harsh ride.
Still, there are some annoying quirks. The delayed response at initial throttle tip-in from standstill is an issue of the electronic drive-by-wire pedal. The first gear response is also jumpy and rubbery around town. But drive at speed, and none of these issues are apparent. On the highway, wind noise is as low as in a luxury car, but the engine drones at almost 3000 rpm when doing 120 kph, and there was a fair bit of tyre noise from the 235/35 tyres.
Like the VW Golf R, the Scirocco R is pricey, but you get what you pay for. Luxury gadgets, adjustable suspension, turbocharged speed and a smooth ride all in one package at this price, it actually matches many other sports cars at this price when it comes to performance. Aside from the fun factor, the Scirocco is also arguably the most attractive hot hatch available in the GCC right now, the R benefiting even further from some cosmetic mods. The Scirocco R makes for a compelling alternative to the slower Mini Cooper JCW and the bulkier Chevy Camaro SS.
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