Volkswagen Corrado VR6: PH Heroes

A quick look back in time reveals that to date just two Volkswagens have acquired PH Hero status - the Golf GTI and Golf Rallye G60. Well now there are three. And the Corrado VR6 is every bit as deserving of the accolade, with the chunky wedge-shaped three-door undoubtedly one of the finest driving and best sounding coupes of the 1990s.

For a start, the timeless VR6 looks more desirable today than it did a quarter of a century ago, and that unique narrow-angle V6 satisfies at both ends of the rev range. With that larger, heavier engine driving the front wheels the range-topping Corrado could well have been let down by poor handling, but the reality was quite the opposite - the VR6 possessed a level of chassis control and steering sharpness that left other rivals in its wake. And from behind the wheel it more than holds its own today. Compared to the muscular VW, contemporary rivals like the Ford Probe, Vauxhall Calibra or Honda Prelude just won't cut the mustard.

Sadly, many of those lesser rivals actually out-sold the Corrado, which had at one point been the most expensive car built by VW. Being sold alongside VW's popular and long-running Scirocco until 1992 hadn't helped and Wolfsburg's beancounters cut the Corrado from VW's range a little over four years after the VR6's introduction.

That seemingly hasty decision has made the ultimate Corrado (the VR6 is nearly 30hp up on the supercharged G60 model) even more desirable, adding a degree of exclusivity as befitting the car's bespoke Karmann-fettled design. Add in a surprisingly spacious interior, impressive comfort, good reliability and affordable parts and you have a recipe for near-perfect modern classic ownership.

Wedged in
Volkswagen's innovative VR6 engine was first unveiled at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show, but its installation in the Corrado necessitated a degree of tweaking. The narrow-angle V6, displacing 2,861cc and packing two offset banks of cylinders at 15 degrees to one another, possessed just one cylinder head. It was positioned transversely in the Corrado's engine bay, requiring some surprisingly involved engineering to make it fit.

The 'A2' Mk2 Golf underpinnings required a raised bonnet and various bespoke engine mounts, not to mention revised bodywork and uprated suspension components taken from the Mk3 Golf's A3 platform. These included the rear axle and some of the front axle assembly whilst the wider front track necessitated new front wings with wider wheel arches at the front and rear, plus a new front bumper assembly.

Built at the Karmann factory in Osnabruck, and designed by Herbert Schaefer, the Corrado actually replaced the Scirocco in many markets, with the supercharged Corrado G60 the initial powerhouse of the range. But the six-cylinder VR6 took that mantle with the first UK buyers getting their hands on the car in 1992. The car's comprehensive spec also included MacPherson struts with Sachs dampers and an uprated anti-roll bar at the front, with a rear trailing-arm design boasting track-correcting bearings, a torsion beam axle and a rear anti-roll bar. Rake-adjustable steering was included plus electric windows and mirrors, ABS disc brakes, 15-inch alloys, optional air conditioning and an electric sunroof.

The Corrado's characteristic wedge-shaped profile, and an active rear spoiler that raised automatically when the car exceeded 45mph (or 56mph on later models) added some additional exclusivity but at a price - 1992 UK list price for the VR6 manual was £19,895 and the less popular four-speed auto set buyers back £20,795. So, although 97,521 Corrados were manufactured worldwide fewer than 6,000 found buyers in the UK, with just over 3,500 being VR6 models. We reckon there are now fewer than 2,000 left, roughly half of which are still regularly driven. Our high-spec 124K-mile featured car, owned by PHer Alistair Axcell, has a rare dealer-fit Davia air conditioning system, coupled with optional heated black leather seats.

A UK-only limited-edition 1995 model, the Corrado Storm, marked the end of VR6 production and came with some tasty extras that including a colour-keyed front grille, 15-inch BBS Solitude alloys, heated leather front seats and a smattering of Storm badging. Only 500 were produced - 250 in Classic Green and 250 in Mystic Blue.

Into the storm
Cramming a virile V6 into the VW Corrado certainly had the desired effect on performance - 6.4 seconds to 60mph and a 146mph top speed put the VR6 firmly into Porsche 968 and Ford Escort RS Cosworth territory, even though the torquey Corrado's power delivery was a good deal more linear than the Ford's. So you won't find yourself pinned you to the back of your seat, but you will enjoy a super smooth delivery of power, accompanied by an intoxicatingly throaty V6 soundtrack. And unlike some V6s the Corrado's torquey engine still seems alert at high revs.

Nail the throttle and the revs seems to rise almost effortlessly, with second gear taking you all the way to 60mph - and third touching 100mph. And there's a real growling sweet spot in the mid-range where you can keep the VR6 hovering expectantly - ready to pounce whenever the need arises. And going against expectations the handling is excellent too, despite the front-engined, front-wheel drive layout. Just how much that trick rear spoiler really helps at higher speeds is unclear, but it was designed to improve downforce and directional stability.

Gear changes are slick and pretty precise, whilst the driving position feels like you're in a proper sports car. And the steering is a breath of fresh air - nicely weighted and pleasingly direct compared to more modern machinery. All in all, the Corrado VR6 is one of the sweetest driving coupes of the era and best left pretty much as VW intended. ECU remaps don't add much power anyway but can free the responses up a bit, although some US owners have gone down the route of adding forced induction. But UK VR6 owners are advised keep their Corrado as standard as possible - to preserve the car's value as an appreciating classic. That said, the factory brakes do really need upgrading if you're intending to drive the car hard.

Little wedge
So how easy is it to find a good'n? Well a handful appear for sale every month, but with dwindling supply you will need to be prepared to act quickly when you find one that fits the bill. Always buy on condition not mileage, as a well-maintained VR6 engine is capable of covering big miles without issue. As a result some still use one as their daily driver, but we'd recommend you keep yours as a second car, to be enjoyed on a modern classic limited mileage classic insurance policy.

Expect to fork out upwards of £5,000 to secure a good example, although low mileage cars and Storm models will set you back a lot more. And servicing and maintenance costs can be kept under control with the help of a benevolent VR6 specialist. Check out owner forums for the best one in your neck of the woods.

VED is currently a very reasonable £235 a year whilst fuel economy varies quite a bit depending on how heavy your right foot is. Don't be sucked in by an imperfect cheaper example - your VR6 must have a full service history and a good reason for sale, given that best examples are rising in value.

As with all classics you must keep on top of any rust issues as soon as they arise and buyers should look out for a noisy cam chain suggesting guides and tensioner wear. Replacement at 100,000 miles is expensive as the gearbox has to come off. Also keep an eye out for damp footwells, misbehaving heating and air-conditioning (if fitted), knocks from the suspension, jammed sunroofs and seized brake calipers.

Most parts are still available but not original exhausts, so most cars now have aftermarket items fitted, and the standard windscreen wipers aren't the best - many owners have fitted Audi TT arms and blades instead. But aside from these tweaks the Corrado VR6 is best enjoyed in as close to fettled factory trim as possible and - if well maintained - a car like this will appreciate steadily over the next few years. Better still, Volkswagen's Corrado VR6 is also one of the cheapest PH Heroes to maintain.

: 2,861cc V6
Transmission: 5-speed manual /4-speed auto
Power (hp): 190@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 181@4,200rpm
0-60mph: 6.4sec
Top speed: 146mph
Weight: 1,240kg (claimed)
On sale: 1992-1996
Price new: £19,895 (manual) £20,795 (auto)
Price now: £3,500-£15,000

Many thanks to the Corrado Forum, the VR6 Owners Club and PHer Alistair Axcell for the loan of his car









[Photos: Tim Brown]

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Comments (114) Join the discussion on the forum

  • smilo996 01 Mar 2017

    Never liked the Corrado when compared to the Scirroco. However on its own, decent car.

    That VR6 was such a lovely engine.

  • TaylotS2K 01 Mar 2017

    My friend has one. Good looking from the outside - but boy the interior is woefully cheap looking.

  • Yipper 01 Mar 2017

    Journalists, dealers and VW fanboys have been calling the VR6 a "future classic" since about 2002, but the market keeps on stubbornly refusing to comply.

  • MDMA . 01 Mar 2017

    partial to the vr6. had a couple myself.

    typo on your write-up though. the Corrado VR6 was based on the VW A3 platform, not Audi A3 ( the car ). A3 was the 1H/1E internal code for the MK3 Golf and Jetta.

  • mmm-five 01 Mar 2017

    I still miss mine, even after almost 15 years, despite going over to the BMW M side and having 2 e34 M5s (3.6 and 3.8) and now driving a Z4MC.

    The Corrado was replaced, after about 5 years, as it was way too stiff for the 25k miles I was now doing. The M5s were wonderful at eating up that mileage, but were getting expensive to maintain as they got older, so my man-maths worked out I could get an almost new (9000 miles) Z4MC for less than it cost to run the M5.

    At TRAX, Silverstone

    At Castle Combe in the late 90s

    It did have some upgrades to cope with the track days it did

    A Corrado gathering in 2001, just before I sold it

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