PUR­PLE REIGN

The Corrado was king of the coupés in the 1990s. We hit the road in a VR6 to find out why

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driving - WORDS David Simister PHOTOGRAPHY Alex P

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.

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