The last time I had so many people pointing their cellphones at my car in an effort to snap a fuzzy image of it, was in 2007 when I drove the then still-under-wraps Audi R8 from Cape Town to Upington so Topcar could (unofficially) break the South African land speed record.
Okay, the R8 wasn’t my car. And neither is the bright red Volkswagen Scirocco parked in front of my local Spar, the one with the small group of car nuts peering through the windows and aiming their mobile phones at it.
As I walk towards the car, I press the unlock button on the remote and their heads snap up like a family of meerkats that have just spotted Eddie the Eagle cruising overhead.
One guy admits he doesn’t like the Interlagos 18-inch alloys our test car is running on. But that’s it. The rest of this little impromptu focus group would trade a sister to own one.
This is quite remarkable. Let’s think of the mainstream German car manufacturers as the Bible Belt of the motoring world, which would make Volkswagen, the most conservative and traditional of them all, the buckle.
With the Scirocco, VW has undone the buckle and they’re twirling the belt above their heads while doing a pole dance.
WHAT’S COOKING, GOOD LOOKING?
Sporty, sexy, sensual, seductive, sculpted, stylish. Somehow words starting with a slinky S work when you’re describing the Scirocco. It’s one of the best looking cars that have graced our parking lot for a while. Parked next to the new Golf 6, it manages to make its stablemate look like a frumpish hausfrau that never got lucky.
We’re glad to see VW has kept most of the good bits from the 2006 Iroc concept while thankfully losing the huge gaping grille it had planned. Instead we have a crisp, dynamic front, sculpted sides and a loooong roofline which descends into wide, muscular haunches. It’s automotive sculpture. One of those cars that urges you to take a few steps back to admire it from different angles.
A BLONDE MOMENT
The Scirocco’s sexy exterior delivers on so much of the Iroc’s promise that the interior comes as a disappointment. The dashboard is sourced from the Eos and, compared to the improved interior of the new Golf, it all feels a little old and uninspired. Score one for the hausfrau!
Seriously though, VW has let themselves down by not extending the sports car intentions of the Scirocco to the inside surfaces. That said, the driver’s seat is supportive and very adjustable. With the expected rake and reach adjustments possible on the steering wheel, it isn’t difficult to find a great driving position.
The rear seats are sculpted buckets, so there’s space for two people and not much else. It’s a relatively easy one-step process moving the front seats forward so the rear passengers can get in and out once you’ve opened the big heavy doors. This is a sports coupé after all, so leg space and head room in the rear is adequate rather than exceptional.
The headrests on the rear buckets, the small rear window and large C-pillars combine to make reversing a delicate operation preferably performed with restraint. The large A-pillars serve up additional blind spots which can catch you off-guard if you don’t pay attention when turning into traffic.
Boot space is 312 litres, slightly less than the Golf, but you can fold the rear seats which extends it to 1006 litres.
Irritatingly you can’t open the boot manually in situ, which means you have to use the release on the driver’s door or the one on the key fob.
CAN YOU KEEP UP?
All these gripes seem to fade into insignificance once you’ve turned the key and start driving. I was expecting a Golf 5 GTI in a sexy dress. After all, the Scirocco has the same 147kW 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and the same 2578mm wheelbase, so how different could it be?
Turns out there’s quite a difference. It’s not only 65kg lighter, but its track is wider by 35mm at the front and 59mm at the back, plus it’s 97mm lower.
So what you have is a responsive engine combined with the lightning quick and deliciously smooth DSG gearbox, in a body that’s lower, wider and lighter than the GTIs. It’s a fantastic combination and the car is a joy to drive, slowly in traffic or enthusiastically on track or along winding country roads.
When we drove the car originally on launch, we said it felt faster than the claimed VW figure of 7.1sec for the 0-100kph blast. Turns out we were right. Our test figures show a 0-100kph of 6.7sec, with the rapid in-gear acceleration figures of 3.45sec for 60-100kph and 4.21sec for 80-120kph arguably being even more impressive.
Even though our car wasn’t equipped with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control (R10470) which offers Normal, Comfort and Sport modes, it hardly ever felt like it needed it, even during our testing session at Killarney Race Track.
The springs, dampers and stabilisers are all sourced from the current Golf GTI, but they’ve been tweaked for the Scirocco. The grip and stability of this coupé in corners and sweeps is impressive. All our testers commented on the fact that the chassis could handle more power quite easily, and more power is exactly what VW has given us with the launch of the 195kW Scirocco R.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s plenty enough on offer in the 147kW version on sale here. There are even vocal extras – the throaty burbles and blips on up- and downshifts – to keep enthusiasts entertained.
COMMITMENT OR ONE-NIGHT STAND?
It’s a keeper. It’s one of the most sorted, good looking (from the outside) and involving cars I’ve driven in a while. It’s also easy to live with, equally at home in the daily commute as on a mountain pass over weekends. Price is always an issue. Paying R339 700 for a reskinned Golf seems ludicrous. Paying the same amount for one of the better sports coupés on the road sounds like a bargain.
All I know is that the new Golf 6 GTI will have to be damn good to beat this.
Volkswagen Scirocco TSI DSG
1984cc, 16v, 4-cyl turbocharged, 147kW @ 5100-6000rpm, 280Nm @ 1700-5000rpm
6-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
0-100kph 7.1sec, 233kph, 7.6l/100, 179g/km
HOW BIG? (LENGH/WIDTH/HEIGHT/WHEELBASE)
0-60kph3.72sec, 0-100kph 6.7sec
QUARTER MILE TIME/TERMINAL SPEED
60-100kph 3.45sec, 80-120kph 4.21sec