BRIAN BASSETT loses 30 years while driving the new Volkswagen Scirocco R
LAST week, I had the most enjoyable time I’ve had with a car in a long while. It all started when Kevin Pillay, dealer principal at Baron’s in Pietermaritzburg, lent me his personal vehicle, a Volkswagen Scirocco R, for a few days.
The Scirocco is now in its third generation following its launch in 2009.
It is a sports coupé aimed at buyers who go for aggressive styling.
The Scirocco R provides this in spades, starting with those slit-eyed bi-Xenon headlamps and large air intake openings up front and continuing to the rear, where LED lights wrap around that gorgeous derrière. Even the number plate has soft LED lighting.
On the sides, streamlined door handles and colour-coded mirrors support the chic sportiness of the design, which is punctuated on the Scirocco by the huge, 19-inch Cadiz alloy wheels.
Dark grey stitching adds taste to the already elegantly black interior which is good enough to pose for its own selfie. The leather-covered multifunction steering wheel and aluminum, tiptronic gearshift are a pleasure to operate. The steering also operates an impressive eight-speaker, 400-Watt audio system consisting of a six-disc changer/MP3/ aux and radio. Having tested the car in the dark, I can vouch all the gauges are easily readable while looking ahead.
When starting up, the luminous rev and speed needles make a quick flip to their maximum positions, an old trick that still manages to add personality to the car each time you turn the key. The onboard computer scrolls through a wealth of information at the flick of a button on the steering wheel.
In a hood above the dashboard are three dials which remind me of a Triumph TR3 I owned in the 1960s. Should you wish to keep an eye on your oil pressure, lap times or charge pressure while on the way to work; these will allow you to do so. The well-placed touch screen in the centre of the dashboard operates a number of information-linked and radio functions, as well as the Park Assist Function, while a built-in DVD drive and standard Bluetooth technology are available on the vehicle and the RNS 510 Radio. The climate control system is sophisticated and effective, as well as easy to operate.
The rear seat space is quite adequate for two adults, even for the two somewhat large adults I used to measure it. The boot will take luggage for two for a weekend away, but should you need to add a set of golf clubs the rear seats fold down in 50:50 fashion, virtually doubling the space available.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
The Scirocco R has a 5-star NCAP rating and just about every safety and security device available. Beside the usual ABS and EBD the car has Hill Hold Assist, an Anti Spin Regulator, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Program and Transverse Differential Lock to mention but a few.
For the passengers there are safety belts, rain sensors, Driver Fatigue Detection, Isofix attachments for new mums, side impact bars and six front and side airbags. The vehicle is also alarmed and locks remotely.
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
In the initial two days the Scirocco R sat under my carport, I drove it around town and on the N3 so I can tell you what I already knew; namely that the steering is precise, the parking easy, the envy amusing and the acceleration from a working traffic light invigorating.
On the N3 you can sail past everything from 60 to 100 and — if you don’t mind the fines — you can leave many more expensive German cars standing when that softly whistling turbo kicks in. But the highway will not allow you to touch the heart of the Sirocco R, which is that of a thoroughbred sports car.
To really experience this four-cylinder, turbocharged 188 kW motor, which can give you a 350 Nm lumbar massage that will make the needle hover over 100 about six seconds, you need a few hairpins and a decent straight.
There are not many tracks that are long enough to allow such fun in safety, but invest the gate fee, for if you take the Scirocco R there, it will take you to a top speed of 250 km/h, remaining at all times taut, tight and together.
I spent an hour allowing the Scirocco to express itself in conditions for which it was designed. This really is a car for the connoisseur, someone who loves driving as much as they love life.
The power is delightful, the exhaust note symphonic, the flappy paddles on the steering immediately responsive. The steering itself is direct and the cornering — given this is a front wheel drive — superb. After an hour I found myself smiling broadly, feeling 30 years younger and longing to own this car while envying those who have one.
GUARANTEES, COSTS AND THE COMPETITION
The Scirocco has a three-year 120 000 km warranty, a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and a five-year 90 000 km service plan. The Scirocco R will cost you about R 490 000. Also have a look at the Renault Megane Coupé, the Opel Astra GTC the Peugeot RCZ and the BMW 2 Series.
Exhilarating: The Scirocco R looks good even when parked, but around corners this car at all times remains taut, tight and together even at very high speeds.