Don’t get hung up on the 0-60mph time. Admittedly our recorded time of 6.5sec doesn’t look hugely impressive, but there are a few things you need to understand before dismissing the Scirocco R. First, it faced the worst possible conditions for acceleration runs: not fully wet, but greasy. Second, the Scirocco R tags the limiter in second at 58mph.
Instead, consider the 0-100mph time, which at 13.7sec matches that of the old Mégane RS 250. Negate the effect of unfavourable conditions by looking at the 30-100mph interval and the Scirocco R is 0.5sec quicker than the Renault, which is in turn 0.2sec quicker than the last generation Focus RS.
So it is fast, but also flexible. Compared with the regular 2.0-litre TSI Scirocco, which is remarkably linear for a turbocharged engine, there is more a pronounced power band. The boost starts to build from 2200rpm, before really getting into its stride at 2500rpm.
And yet the R’s engine remains impressively tractable, producing no histrionics if you slot fifth gear from as low as 20mph. Similarly, the engine is happy working at the top end of the rev range. Although torque starts dropping off from 5000rpm, and power from 6000rpm, the Scirocco R will happily rev to its 6500rpm red line without ever feeling breathless.
The soundtrack we were less convinced about, initially at least. Compared with the current Focus RS, the Scirocco R is somewhat well behaved, with none of the fireworks of the Ford. It has a rather pleasant rasp, and under load from low revs it whooshes a little, but we were expecting more.
But then we lived with the Scirocco R for a little longer and its voice started to make sense. There is just enough vocal encouragement to make an occasion out of going quickly, but for the rest of the time it is refined enough to use every day without being tiresome.
So if the Scirocco R blends killer performance with effortless practicality, why not a higher overall star rating? The brakes are good, with more staying power than the Ford’s, if less than the Renault’s, but the ABS intervention proved slightly juddery in extreme use.
Ultimately it is the gearbox that lets the package down. While the spread of ratios is well judged for both urban, cross country and motorway work, the action could be improved. It is not a disaster, but the long lever exaggerates a slight bagginess as each gear slots home.
You can, of course, specify Volkswagen's impressive and rapid-shifting DSG, something neither rival was ever offered with.