The Corrado was king of the coupés in the 1990s. We hit the road in a VR6 to find out why
Only the era that made David Hasselhoff a bona fide pop star could have sired the Volkswagen Corrado, a car famously described by Car magazine as ‘the great new coupé that will make Porsche bleed’.
The same unbridled ’90s optimism that introduced MC Hammer to the world can definitely be sensed in this, an otherwise sensible German two-door that’s clearly coming down from an all-nighter. The Herbert Schäfer-penned proportions might be a masterclass in understatement but the Pearl Metallic paintwork and the engine it cloaks emphatically aren’t.
Volkswagen’s narrow-angle V6 is a curious creation – its two banks of cylinders are just 15 degrees apart and share a single cylinder head – but it means that Wolfsburg could squeeze 2.9 litres into an engine barely bigger than a Golf MkII’s. The Corrado’s creators could have extracted the requisite oomph by force feeding a four-pot with more air (as it had already tried with the supercharged Corrado G60), but we’re glad that Volkswagen stuck with the VR6.
The result’s a delightfully creamy engine that’s eager to rev. Slot the stubby gearlever into fourth and it’ll belt from 30mph to 50mph in a shade over seven seconds. Try the same trick in a BMW 325i from the same era and you’ll get there more than a second and a half later. It’s a wonderful unit with ample mid-range torque and encourages you to hang on to gears to make the most of its gutsy soundtrack.
But the Corrado VR6’s real calling card is the way in which it involves the driver through the corners. Show it a sweeping stretch of asphalt and the three-spoke steering wheel comes alive in your hands. It’s power-assisted, but VW’s engineers managed to perfect the balancing act of lightness that doesn’t trade off feedback; in short, the faster you go, the more perfectly weighted it feels.
It works effortlessly in tandem with the torsion beam suspension, with the end result being a coupé that positively thrives on twisty bits of country lane. Chuck it into a tight corner too quickly and the blunt front end will eventually succumb to neat, predictable understeer and it’ll cock its inside rear wheel – just like a contemporary Golf GTI does – but it’s all delightfully controllable and seems to openly egg you on to enjoy it ever further.
It’s a set-up that’ll make you chuckle with delight every time you exit a corner, and you’re perfectly placed to enjoy it from the Corrado’s very natural-feeling driving position – its Golf-esque dimensions result in a higher seat than most of its coupé contemporaries, but the pedals are well placed for go-faster driving. It’s just a shame that, while its cabin is beautifully made and clearly driver-focused– the centre console in particular is obviously angled towards you for easy reach – the unrelenting greyness of the dashboard plastics and unapologetically sensible layout of the controls don’t come close to matching the pugnacious aggression of the car’s exterior.
But that’s just about the only criticism of a handling hero that has aged beautifully.
Well, better than David Hasselhoff, anyway.