Batten down the hatches – the most powerful Scirocco yet has blown in! Squeezing 261bhp from its 2.0-turbocharged engine, the coupé has earned the R badge, denoting the most extreme models in VW’s range. It first appeared alongside the class-winning GT24 competition cars at the Nürburgring 24 Hours race in May. But will it enjoy similar success? We took a test drive in the newcomer together with its legendary forebear to find out.
The R shares the standard Scirocco’s bodyshell, but it has to be diverted early in the production process to a separate line. All the modifications are courtesy of Volkswagen Individual – an arm of the firm tasked exclusively with preparing R cars.
And the attention to detail is instantly obvious. While the regular coupé is no shrinking violet, the Rising Blue paintjob and muscle-bound bodykit ensure that the R looks lower, wider and meaner. Rubbing strips have been removed from the doors for a smoother profile, LED running lights give the aggressive front more presence and the larger roof spoiler and wide-set twin exhausts – an R trademark – leave onlookers in no doubt about its potential.
Climb inside and you sink low into the sculpted sports seats. The interior is a masterclass in build quality and understated elegance. Every surface is good to touch, from the abrasive aluminium pedals to the soft leather on the dash. Where the standard model gets chrome or brushed metal inserts, the R has high-gloss black, for a more sinister character.
It’s the engine that steals the show, though. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo is a development of the Golf GTI’s unit, but power is increased to 261bhp – thanks to uprated pistons, high-pressure injectors and a bigger turbo and intercooler. All that grunt is channelled through the front wheels via a six-speed manual box as standard, but our car came with the six-speed twin-clutch DSG – a £1,300 option.
Floor the throttle and the surge of acceleration is instantaneous, with the front wheels digging hard into the tarmac. The exhaust note has a harder edge than Audi’s S3 – which also uses this turbo engine – and there’s a wonderful rasp from the tailpipes whenever the DSG changes ratios on full throttle.
>>WATCH THE SCRIROCCO R BATTLE WITH THE GOLF R HERE
As the centre of gravity is lower and the track wider than the Golf’s, the model corners fast and flat, with only the merest hint of torque steer on rutted surfaces. As with all Sciroccos, Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) comes as standard, allowing drivers to adjust the dampers, steering weight and throttle response at the touch of a button.
There are Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. The middle setting covers most conditions, the softest mode is best for motorways and Sport is sufficiently stiff for track day fun. It’s just a shame you can’t have Normal steering feel with the firmest damper settings – the wheel is unnecessarily heavy in Sport.
Some might fear the R will be too stiff for daily use, but it rides well. While it’s always firm, road imperfections are smoothed out. A set of unique 18-inch five-spoke alloys is standard, with bigger 19-inch rims a £515 option. We tried both, and while the latter make for a harsher ride, it’s bearable. With the R, VW has finally given the Scirocco the performance it always deserved and upped its visual impact – without compromising its usability.