SCIROCCO R VS. SCIROCCO STORM
Fast VW time-travels to duel a long-dead ancestor
But other than a shared name, do these two Sciroccos have anything at all in common? Some defining characteristic that binds them; a familial link? That's what we're here to find out, here being a chunk of the Northants countryside that plays host to the Volkswagen press office's heritage fleet.
With its Adaptive Damping Control (ACC) set to 'Normal' the chassis soothes away most of the rough stuff, while cossetting Recaros, a first-rate driving position and efficient dual-zone climate control contribute to your sense of wellbeing.
Although the new Scirocco seats four, you seldom feel it's a large car, not by today's standards. Then you park alongside the original Scirocco. The difference isn't as holy crap dramatic as when you stick old and new Minis side-by-side, or Fiat 500s, but you do start wondering if the stylists over-inflated the design. The R is longer, wider and, most significantly, taller; the R's door mirrors sit almost as high as the older car's headrests. As ever, passive and active safety requirements effectively dictate that modern cars have to be gigantic, but the original Scirocco's tightly proportioned, compact lines make you wistful for simpler times.
The R is a different story. Even in colours other than the Viper green of our test car. Its nose is a gaping chasm of air ducts, its headlights styled to look aggressive and 'technical'. It rolls on 18-inch alloys with a check-me-out countenance. And yet compared with, say, a Subaru or Mitsubishi boasting 261bhp, the R's a visually restrained machine, if not exactly shy and retiring.
The mk1 Scirocco Storm you see here was first registered in June 1981 (and sold for the princely sum of £6687), at which stage its cabin design was already seven years old. Contemporary road tests commented on how Spartan it was beginning to look compared with more modern rivals of the day, although the ergonomics, driving position and build quality continued to garner praise.
To 21st century eyes the interior does look old, but not ancient. Sit behind the Storm's thin-rimmed, leather trimmed steering wheel, and there's a refreshing simplicity to the way everything's laid out. The radio and heating/ventilation controls are up high, next to instruments that are plain and easily read. There are no electric windows and while you can adjust the door mirrors from inside the car, it's a manual mechanism. Still, the Storm offered the luxury of leather upholstery and door cards; if you could live without the cow coverings, the Scirocco GTI offered the same mechanical package for less money.
Exposure to the R's brand of performance, on the other hand, makes you fear that a drive in the Storm is going to feel merely quaint and that its remembered magic will be extinguished. Because the R is hellish quick - 155mph flat-out, 0-60mph in a claimed 6.2sec, the ton in less than 14sec. Mind you, the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine's smooth, almost linear delivery subjectively takes some of the sting out of its actual rampaging pace. And please, Volkswagen, could you make it sound more inspiring. But there's no escaping the fact that when you're in the mood to rip the guts out of a demanding back road, the R makes a glittering weapon.
Even in a modern context the sohc motor has a robustly energetic soul from as little as 2000rpm, leading on to a vigorous mid-range and finally a spirited charge towards the 6700rpm red line. In fact, the power curve peaks at 6100rpm, but the engine is so willing to rev and does it so sweetly and sonorously, that you can't resist using every last revolution. And that's with an engine closing in on its first 100,000 miles.
The joy of the Storm extends beyond the fact that it's a feisty playmate. Its unassisted steering is light (once you're moving), precise and fast, its chassis agile and faithful. In other words, it's lively and fun. Only its spongy brakes spoil the party a bit, but once you're aware of their shortcomings you make allowances in your driving style and think harder about every corner you approach.
It's easy to emerge from the R being awestruck at just how quickly you can make it go. But probably just as impressive - no, make that more so - is the fact that within a few miles the 30-year old Scirocco ceases to feel like a classic car and becomes simply an entertaining, enjoyable and capable sports coupé that you would happily drive all day, every day.