What is it?
The Volkswagen Scirocco celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and gets a new style for its big birthday.
We say new, but the changes aren’t so big as to constitute some sort of mid-life crisis – it’s all rather more subtle than that. Even here in the range-topping R model you’d need to be a committed Volkswagen fan to spot the differences.
The head- and tail lights are changed (the rears now using LEDs), the bumpers reprofiled and the usual improvements in economy, emissions and performance are mooted.
The R’s power rises to 276bhp, some 15bhp more than previously, though that's still 20bhp down on the Golf R. The coupé also makes do with just front-wheel drive compared to its four-wheel driven hatchback relative.
Underneath the bonnet remains the old Scirocco R’s EA113 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, the updates not going so far as to include the newer EA888 unit of the Golf R.
That accounts for some of the deficit in output. The modest increases made with the older unit are achieved by electronic tuning rather than any mechanical revisions.
Volkswagen will point at the Scirocco R's greater standard specification over its hatchback relation, with DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control), navigation and leather upholstery all standard, but the 5.5secs it takes to reach 62mph is bettered by the Golf’s 4.9secs.
The Golf offers more opportunity for fun given its fully switchable ESP system, while the Scirocco R’s is always working behind the scenes regardless of your chosen setting.
What's it like?
In isolation the Scirocco R remains an appealing, rapid choice, but Volkswagen’s updates take place in a market that now features several tempting alternatives such as the on-form Peugeot RCZ R, Toyota’s rear-driven GT86, Renaultsport’s ever faster Mégane and the BMW M235i.
Against that newer, more engaging collective the Scirocco struggles, even if the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit’s linear delivery allows any-gear, any-rev punch accompanied by a deep-chested sound that suggests something with a greater cylinder count than four is powering it.
That performance is best enjoyed with the manual transmission. The DSG is unquestionably quicker, but its eagerness to drop ratios in the search for revs makes for frenetic progress.
Only a handful of R buyers will opt for the manual, but it ups the fun - if not the convenience. The shift is not the crispest out there but it is accurate enough to be enjoyable and allows you to explore the 2.0-litre turbo’s impressive mid-range urgency.
The DSG removes a layer of involvement from a car that, while unquestionably fast, just doesn’t engage its driver like its best rivals.
The steering is quick and precise, if lacking in any real information at the wheel, though the 17-inch brakes are unfailing in their stopping power. There’s plenty of grip, good traction and the car, in Comfort mode at least, rides with real composure.
Should I buy one?
It's a technically impressive car, but the Scirocco R never really goads you into exploring what it’s capable of, which in fairness is a great deal.
That’s always been something of an R characteristic though – its maturity appealing to some, but leaving others cold.
It’d take a committed Golf R driver to shake it, despite its lesser technical specification, though any of its other rivals will give their drivers a bigger grin.
Volkswagen Scirocco R 2.0-litre TSI 280 PS DSG
Price £33,795; 0-62mph 5.5sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 35.7mpg (combined); CO2 185g/km; Kerb weight 1450kg; Engine 4cyls, 1984cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 276bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 258lb ft between 2500-5000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic