About 10 months ago, the odds of you sitting down to read an Australian review of the updated Volkswagen Scirocco R appeared slim.
But a change of heart from local management midway through last year put the 2015 Scirocco back on the agenda, and by October we’d been thrown the keys to the facelifted model a few months ahead of its official release and the announcement of pricing.
Skip back to today and we now know the 2015 Volkswagen Scirocco R costs $45,990 with the six-speed manual transmission and $48,490 with the six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic (plus on-road costs) – $2000 less than before.
The price cut comes despite a big increase in standard equipment, most of it tech and infotainment features, including satellite navigation (previously a $2500 option), reverse-view camera, front parking sensors (complementing the existing rear sensors) and 20Gb of music storage.
Other additions include a dash-top instrument cluster with oil temperature, stopwatch and boost gauge dials, a new multifunction R leather steering wheel, fresh upholstery and trim, and an updated exterior with styling tweaks and – finally! – a boot release incorporated into the tailgate badge.
These new features add to the already-standard 19-inch alloy wheels (new design for 2015), bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, three-mode adaptive suspension and XDL electronic differential lock, among other items.
Available for the first time in the updated Scirocco (and fitted to our test car) is optional leather upholstery, which isn’t cheap at $2850, but is significantly sexier than the standard cloth and worth the stretch if you can afford it.
The new pricing and spec makes the Volkswagen Scirocco R a close match for its key rival, the Renault Megane RS265, which costs $43,990 in base form and $47,990 in Premium trim (both manual only).
Unlike its famous five-door sibling, however, which is based on a new platform, features new engines and is available with a host of additional tech features, the Scirocco continues with its previous-generation Golf-derived underpinnings and old 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine.
Australia’s Scirocco R also misses out on the enhanced 206kW/350Nm on offer in Europe, instead making do with the same hot-climate tune as before, delivering 188kW at 6000rpm and 330Nm between 2400-5200rpm.
It means the Scirocco is outdone in the torque stakes by the cheaper GTI (350Nm), and beaten on both measures by the RS265 (195kW/360Nm).
It matters little, though, as the Scirocco is expert at putting its power down, accelerating from zero to 100km/h in a Megane-matching 6.0 seconds (DSG, 6.2sec for the manual), leaving the GTI Performance four-tenths adrift.
The engine begins to hit its straps from as low as 1500rpm, is on song from just over 2000rpm, and surges powerfully towards its redline with sweet linearity.
The free-spinning engine forms an irresistible partnership with the brilliant exhaust, which emits a deep burble at idle and intoxicating, grin-inducing pops and crackles when the transmission upshifts, downshifts, when you get off the throttle… actually, most of the time.
The aural theatrics are enhanced with the DSG in Sport mode, where gears are held longer allowing the engine to rev faster, and lower gears are selected with more aggression under hard acceleration and braking.
The downside of the optional transmission mode is the amount of fuel the engine burns through. Don’t be surprised to see figures up to 15 litres per 100 kilometres on the trip computer (as we did) if you’re cruising around in moderate traffic in S mode – almost double Volkswagen’s official 8.0L/100km combined cycle figure.
Depending on how deep your pockets are, though, you may find Sport preferable to the standard Drive, which feels like it muzzles the engine and keeps it from hitting its potential.
The Scirocco can also become quite tiresome in D – the transmission’s partiality to high gears often leaves the engine revving at about 1500rpm where the exhaust emits a booming (bordering on nauseating) drone.
Positioned just ahead of the gearshifter is the button that controls the adaptive suspension, which also allows you to select a Sport mode, as well as a Comfort setting and the default Normal.
The Scirocco’s naturally sporty suspension tune means the ride is firm whichever mode you’re in, but also nicely controlled. Comfort is your friend around town where it takes the edge off sharp bumps and potholes, while Sport’s best left for those more enthusiastic spurts when you want quicker corrections to surface imperfections and less roll around corners.
It’s more comfortable and easier to live with than a Megane RS, but lacks the all-round sophistication of the Golf GTI and R.
There’s nothing unsophisticated about the way the Scirocco goes around corners, however. It sits flat, feels balanced, and there’s no high-pitched protesting from the 235/35-aspect Bridgestones. It’s an easy car to drive fast, and one that encourages you to do so often.
The accurate steering impresses in those serious driving spurts, though it becomes hard work around town and when parking as the weighing transitions from medium to heavy as more lock is applied.
The view from behind the flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel is a familiar one, nailing Volkswagen’s signature ‘classy conservative’ directive by blending high quality materials with conventional design, though the blue needles add welcome doses of colour and exclusivity.
The seating position is a good one, and the front seats offer good side support yet are also broad enough for bigger bodies. The Scirocco’s over-the-shoulder visibility is hindered by the thick rear pillar and the fixed rear headrests, but it’s still easier to see out of than a Megane.
The 6.5-inch touchscreen is neat, though dated alongside newer rivals, and the unintuitive Bluetooth system requires you to scroll through trip computer menus with buttons on the steering wheel. The nav is easy to program, however, and provides simple directions.
The two back seats are more than simply an afterthought, which is more than can be said for many coupes. The bases are heavily scalloped, meaning passengers sit low and have more headroom than they might expect, though legroom can be tight with adults on board. There are no air vents back there either, and the plastics surrounding occupants are of the hard variety rather than the elegant soft-touch materials used up front.
The deep boot isn’t the largest, measuring 312 litres (slightly more than a Polo city car), but can be expanded to 1006L with the 50:50 split seats folded forwards.
The Scirocco is covered by Volkswagen’s capped-price servicing program – but don’t assume that means it’s cheap to maintain. The first four services at 12-month/15,000km intervals will set you back $3060. As with all Volkswagens sold in Australia, the Scirocco gets a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and matching roadside assistance.
The pragmatists will be baffled by Volkswagen’s decision to sell the updated Scirocco in Australia. After all, it offers nothing tangible that isn’t matched or bettered by the Golf GTI or R.
But therein lies its appeal. It’s not a Golf. It turns heads. People dig its low-slung body and wide hips and ask you what you’re driving.
If you love the Volkswagen sports car manifesto but don’t want to be another member of the Golf club and can suck up making a few sacrifices, the Scirocco could be your niche.
Click the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.