Emerg­ing clas­sic: VW Cor­rado

Ban­ish­ing the Scirocco to the sta­tus of also-ran overnight, the Cor­rado blended Golf and Pas­sat to great ef­fect and re­mains one of the best front-driv­ers ever made.

Classics Monthly - - Contents - WORDS PAUL WAGER

The wedgy lat­ter-day Scirocco.

D es­pite the suc­cess of the GTI, Volk­swa­gen even in the late ’80s tended to leave the per­for­mance game to sta­ble­mate Audi. Where In­gol­stadt of­fered four-wheel drive and turbo power, VW tended to ma­jor on sen­si­ble and prac­ti­cal: mid-range Polo, Golf and Pas­sat mod­els were the bread­win­ners for the com­pany. Sure there was the Scirocco coupe, by then in its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion but me­chan­i­cally the car was sim­ply a stylish ver­sion of the Golf. The ad­vent of the twin-cam 16V en­gine added ex­tra mus­cle to both Golf and Scirocco but still only kept pace with the likes of the turbo Fords and 1.9 Peu­geot 205 GTI rather than leapfrog­ging the com­pe­ti­tion en­tirely.

But then in 1988 Volk­swa­gen pulled some­thing of a sur­prise out of the bag in the shape of the Cor­rado. The car’s styling had echoes of the Mk1 Scirocco with its chunky rear pil­lars and it was based around the Mk2 Golf plat­form but the way it drove left the Golf far be­hind.

Styled by Her­bert Schäfer, the wedgy Cor­rado – named af­ter the Span­ish verb cor­rer, to run – was a very mod­ern shape which with its flush glaz­ing and neat de­tail­ing was a jump ahead of the Mk2 Golf. In­side, the in­te­rior was a step above too, with a qual­ity feel which left the squeaky Mk2 Scirocco cabin far be­hind. The dash­board was taken partly from the then-new Pas­sat B3 and like the Scirocco and con­vert­ible mod­els, the Cor­rado was as­sem­bled for Volk­swa­gen by Kar­mann.

The chas­sis lay­out was pure Mk2 Golf, shar­ing its front strut/ rear tor­sion beam lay­out and sub­frames, but with de­tail im­prove­ments in­clud­ing de­formable sus­pen­sion bushes de­rived from the Pas­sat which pro­vided a pas­sive rear-steer ef­fect. With a weight dis­tri­bu­tion of 55/60 rear/front, the Cor­rado was well bal­anced for a front­drive car and the re­sult was han­dling which was praised by road testers.

Ini­tially the driv­e­train was limited to the in­jected twin-cam

1.8-litre in 136 bhp Golf GTI 16V form, to­gether with the su­per­charged G60. Sold in the UK ini­tially only in spe­cial or­der left-hand drive form, the G60 was some­thing of an aber­ra­tion for VW and was its most pow­er­ful en­gine to date. The su­per­charger was an un­usual de­sign in­spired by a 1905 patent and us­ing two snail-shaped scrolls which looked some­thing like the let­ter ‘G’, hence VW’s term G-Läder or G-charger.

The G60 of­fered 0- 60 mph in around eight sec­onds and a top speed of 140 mph which was new ter­ri­tory for a VW-badged car and im­me­di­ately took it into a class above the Scirocco. Both 16V and G60 en­gines were paired with the fa­mil­iar VW five-speed box which also bor­rowed from the new Pas­sat for its cable-op­er­ated gearshift. At the press launch, pick­led jour­nal­ists were heard to make jibes about the Austin Maxi but VW’s cable shift was rather bet­ter and is now well re­garded.

It may have been the fastest VW to date but it was also one of the most ex­pen­sive, with the 16V re­tail­ing at £16,991 and the G60 at £19,907 in 1990. To put it into per­spec­tive, that meant the G60 was com­pet­ing head-on with BMW’s 325i coupe and even the in-house com­pe­ti­tion of the Audi Coupe 2.3.

In 1991, the G60 was fi­nally made avail­able in right-hand drive and the fol­low­ing year the car was facelifted with a re­vised front grille and bon­net line as well as re­shaped wings. These changes were to per­mit the in­stal­la­tion of VW’s new nar­row-an­gle V6 pow­er­plant which would re­place the G60 in 1993. The ‘VR6’ of­fered 190 bhp which made it use­fully quicker than the G60 as well as be­ing less frag­ile. At the same time the nor­mally-as­pi­rated 1.8 be­came a 2-litre with the same power out­put but im­proved torque.

Pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued un­til 1995, with an en­try-level 2-litre eight-valve model in­tro­duced to­wards the end of the car’s life. A run-out spe­cial model was of­fered in the UK badged as Storm in a nod to pre­vi­ous spe­cial-edi­tion Sciroc­cos and fea­tur­ing leather, BBS al­loys, colour coded grille, spe­cial badg­ing and ei­ther Clas­sic Green or Mys­tic Blue paint.

Con­tem­po­rary road testers raved about the Cor­rado, even while ac­knowl­edg­ing it to be a bit on the pricey side for a VW. It de­served the praise though: I know from ex­pe­ri­ence as a teenager in the back of a Cor­rado that it’s a full four-seater while all the mod­els of­fer nim­ble han­dling which makes the Golf feel some­how stodgy.

The G60 in par­tic­u­lar is great fun with its punchy power de­liv­ery and unique G-charger drone, with many pre­fer­ring it to the more pow­er­ful VR6. De­spite the Kar­mann badg­ing they were pretty well put to­gether too and if you can find a nice stan­dard ex­am­ple left, then it’s a great al­ter­na­tive as a mod­ern clas­sic to the Golf GTI.

Nugget Yel­low (top) was pop­u­lar in the late ’80s. Su­per­charged G60 (above) boasted 160 bhp, mak­ing it the fastest- ever VW in 1988.

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