On test: Volkswagen Scirocco R
The Scirocco has been on sale in the UK since 2008 but it took Volkswagen another year to produce the ultimate R version and we've just spent a week discovering its charms.
Basically a road going version of the Nürburgring 24 Hours class-winning GT24, the car comes fitted with a 261bhp 2.0-turbocharged engine, a top speed of 155mph and scorches its way to 60mph in just 6.4 seconds.
It certainly felt fast enough, but in the interests of keeping a clean licence, having my eight-week old son aboard most of the time and the fact that our test car was delivered with less than 1,000 miles on it; I can't verify these figures.
I think that the Scirocco is still one of the best-looking coupes around and the changes for the R are well-integrated, giving a subtle but tougher look. The most obvious changes are the body kit, especially at the front with the deeper front air dam and distinctive LED driving lights. There's also gloss black finishing to the door mirrors, grille and rear diffuser, the elegant 18-inch alloys and distinctive twin rear pipes at the back. The Rising Blue paint of the test car worked well with the Scirocco's curves too.
Like the exterior, changes for the interior are subtle but well executed. Build quality is excellent and I particularly liked the special brushed metal touches for the R that included the pedals, dash trim and door kick plates. There's also the usual flat-bottomed steering wheel and other gloss black touches to distinguish the R from a standard car.
The driving position is low and comfortable in the front. At a push, there's room for two in the back too. But, my wife found the upswept rear windows make the rear cabin feel claustrophobic and getting a baby seat in and out of the back seats was hard work. Still I guess most people who buy this car will be singletons. Finally, the boot is a deep, practical size but is let down by the high loading lip.
So what's it like to drive? Well the engine is a cracker, developed from the Golf GTi's unit and acceleration seems almost instantaneous. Grip is excellent so there's no wheel spin at all and it has a snarly soundtrack. Our test car was fitted with slick six-speed manual transmission, but six-speed twin-clutch DSG is available as a £1,300 option.
The Scirocco's lower centre of gravity and wider track really help with the handling, as the R corners flat and fast with virtually no torque steer, and the ride is good considering it's a performance car on low profile tyres. As with all Sciroccos, the R is fitted with Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) as standard; this allows you to adjust the dampers, steering weight and throttle response. There are Comfort, Normal and Sports modes with Normal or Comfort best for motorway work while sport suits B road fun.
To sum up, the Scirocco R has the performance to match its seductive looks. Wth a £26,945 price tag it's not a cheap option, but thankfully the R performance add-ons haven't compromised its everyday usability.