Volkswagen has freshened up its Scirocco coupe for 2014 with the mildest of visual tweaks. We drive the range-topping Scirocco R that gets the biggest bump in power.
Finally, an all-new Volkswagen Scirocco – is it any good?
Woah, hold your horses. The all-new MQB-based Scirocco doesn’t arrive for another two years. That means the current car, that first went on sale back in 2008, lives on with new front and rear bumpers, redesigned headlamps, new LED rear tail lamps, redesigned alloys and a bit more kit inside.
Is that it for the Volkswagen Scirocco?
No, the big changes are found under the bonnet with the Scirocco adopting the more powerful and efficient engines from the Mark 7 Golf. That means in comes a more powerful 123bhp version of the entry-level 1.4-litre turbo petrol. The old 158bhp 1.4-litre is dropped, but to fill the gap there’s two versions of the familiar 2.0-litre turbo Golf GTI engine – a 178bhp and the usual 217bhp variant.
Around 75 per cent of the 5000-8000 Scirocco sold are diesel side, reflecting how the car has become a hit with company car drivers. The revised car has two - a 148bhp and a 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel with the lower power version capable of cracking 67mpg.
The only exception to the rule is what happens to the most powerful Scirocco R. Like the rest it gets more power and is fractionally more efficient, but unlike the others in the Sirocco range it doesn’t get a new engine and has to soldier on with the old EA113 lump that has been very lightly tweaked to liberated an extra 15bhp boosting power to 276bhp. That sounds impressive until you consider the Golf R’s more modern engine pumps out an a healthier 294bhp. The all-wheel drive Golf R is also more efficient. The cost cutting continues when you hear spring rates and adaptive damper settings have been carried over entirely unchanged. Apparently, Scirocco R customers told engineers their cars were ‘perfect’ just as it was.
Sounds like a cynical facelift, should we just go out and buy the Golf R?
Not so fast, our first drive back in 2009 wholeheartedly agreed with those owners. Back then we gave the Scirocco R a prestigious five star verdict. OK, things might have moved on. but there are advantages of being based on the Mark 5 Golf. It means you do without any silly variable ratio steering rack that always adds a synthetic element to the steering feel, for example.
So what does it feel with the extra power you might ask? Well it certainly seems as lively as ever and despite the extra poke traction, in the dry, borders on phenomenal. Remember, the Scirocco has to fake a mechanical diff using its ABS, but you can give it full power in even second-gear tight corners without it spinning away all its power. Over cook it and it's agile and engaging and responsive to mid-corner throttle inputs. In other words it’s as great as it ever was and substantially quicker, now taking 5.7seconds to hit 62mph – three tenths quicker than the old version. On our drive we kept the adaptive dampers set in ‘comfort’ because even in normal mode the car's dampers fight too much with small bumps and ruts. Worth remembering that the Golf R is the more cosseting companion.
Anything else we should know?
Careful if you have your heart set on the more involving slick-shifting six speed manual Scirocco R. It averages 35.3mpg which means its emissions push it into the dreaded £485 VED band I. The quicker–still DSG version, meanwhile, is a cool £145 a year cheaper to tax.
Volkswagen Scirocco R Verdict:
The Scirocco R remains one of CAR’s favourite affordable sportscars. It’s great to drive, has serious pace and is the automatic choice if you have to carry kids. It would remain our favourite small coupe if we conveniently forgot the Peugeot RCZ-R exists. But it does, and that car is cheaper, more exciting and better to drive.