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Volkswagen Scirocco 2012: road test

A hurricane-size wind that blows north from the Sahara into the Mediterranean.
EXPERT RATING
8

Naming your cars after winds can be as tricky as sailing into them. Volkswagen claims the German word for the trade winds that charted early sail boats as the name for its family model, Passat.

But with 188kW and the attitude of a psychotic guard dog, a soft breeze wouldn't wash over the two-door version of the hot Golf R.

That's why the Scirocco - a hurricane-size wind that blows north from the Sahara into the Mediterranean - so suits Volkswagen's coupe and explains that even Maserati was enamoured with the same wind by twice using using its Arabic name, Ghibli, for high-performance cars. Even Errol Flynn's first yacht filled its sails in the Pacific wearing the name spelt as Sirocco.

VALUE

I expected it to cost more. At $47,490 - and an extra $2500 for the six-speed DSG dual-clutch auto - it has the h ot looks, bristling performance and thundering exhaust note to trounce coupes with double its price tag.

The kit is expansive, starting with the eight-speaker audio with Bluetooth and iPod/USB connection, bi-xenon headlights and 19-inch alloys, heated seats and park sensors, and electronic adjustable suspension damping.mThere's 345 nation-wide sales to June 1 this year, indicating it's also pleasingly uncommon.

DESIGN

Even since I saw one - white with silver alloys and red brake calipers - rumbling through a narrow, cobblestone Berlin street five years ago, it has become one of my key yardstick cars.

Its design is purposeful yet beautiful, feminine in parts with its sculptured hips and chamfered nose, while relaying undeniable strength. Inside, my love diminishes somewhat - not because it's done badly but because I've seen all of it before in other Volkswagen products. It seats four adults - ensure they're not to tall for the rear, however - and the boot is surprisingly deep (mainly b ecause there's no spare wheel).

TECHNOLOGY

The Scirocco arrives in Australia in one version only - the 188kW/330Nm wearing the R label. This is the white-hot version of our 155kW Golf GTI and uses the same direct-injection turbo-petrol engine as the $49,990 all-wheel drive Golf R.

Scirocco deletes the AWD and saves 120kg over the Golf, but with a 0-100km/h of 6.2sec, still isn't as quick as the grippy Golf's 5.9sec sprint. Scirocco shares the Golf R's extended electronic diff lock (XDL) that successfully improves traction and minimises understeer. It also has three-mode damper adjustment - normal, sport and comfort - and electric steering.

SAFETY

No crash rating for this car. It's regarded as a limited production car - like all Porsches, for example - so doesn't get to kiss the concrete wall. But given it's based on the Golf, it should be seen as a "safe'' car.

Standard gear includes six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, tyre pressure monitors, heated mirrors, park  sensors, bi-xenon headlights and a hill holder. There's no spare wheel, just aerosol goo and a compressor.

DRIVING

Don't expect that because it's based on the Golf R that it feels like one. In fact, the Scirocco's lower seating position amplifies its performance aggression and, combined with the tuned exhaust note - that burbles and grumbles, roars and screams in proportion to right-foot pressure - makes all the car's dynamics come alive.

It's quick, though you find that halfway through the rev range. Under about 3000rpm it's docile enough to go shopping. Hit the pedal hard and the acceleration is so instant it almost pulls its own clothes off. Handling is very, very good - more grip that you'd expect from a front-drive car thanks to electronics fiddling with the diff and the ABS system. Purists would prefer a mechanical system but our streets are not race tracks.

The car's suspension is best left in "comfort'' mode for the city and suburbs, clicked to "sport'' for country roads. Ride in sport is firm - you get kicked in the butt on rough roads - but keeps the car flat through the curves. Clearly, it's a lot of fun.

VERDICT

Wonderful piece of art that works on so many levels. But two doors limit cabin accessibility making the five-door Golf R a worthy alternative.

Pricing guides

$24,990
Based on 22 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$18,870
Highest Price
$27,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
R 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $15,900 – 22,110 2012 Volkswagen Scirocco 2012 R Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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