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.
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.