For musicians it’s the third album that can really cause problems. The first album was a big hit and the second built on that success, but what do you do for the third? Do you give your loyal fans more of the same and risk boring them or go for something new and exciting but risk alienating them? It’s a problem that’s recognised in the music industry but not exclusive to it – car makers can suffer from it too.
Volkswagen have reached that difficult third model with their Scirocco. The first Scirocco, released in 1974, was a big success and was followed in 1982 by a Mk2 version that was largely the same. Then Volkswagen dropped the Scirocco completely, stopping production in 1992 and replacing it with the Corrado. In musical terms the Corrado was a one-hit wonder and is now gone, and into its shoes steps an all new Scirocco after almost twenty years in retirement.
So what is Volkswagen to do? Rehash the old original Scirocco recipe or redefine it? On the evidence of the Volkswagen Scirocco GT Bluemotion TDI it would seem that they have stayed faithful to the Scirocco’s roots but added a fresh new sound. So is the introduction of Bluemotion technology enough to guarantee the third Scirocco the success it craves, or is it destined for the discount shelf at the back of the store?
No doubt you’re familiar with the current Scirocco. It’s been back on our roads since 2008 when Volkswagen resurrected the name and has been a constant presence at the top of the coupé charts ever since. Largely based on the Mk5 Golf, the Scirocco follows in its granddad’s footsteps by taking pieces from the Volkswagen catalogue and injecting them with some sporty appeal and coupé styling. What you might not be aware of is this Bluemotion model that combines a punchy diesel engine with Volkswagen’s latest fuel-saving technology.
Eye Of The Beholder
When the new Scirocco was released I couldn’t make my mind up on its styling but I’ve warmed to it over the years. For me the front is the best angle with the long bonnet descending to a low and wide nose. The narrow grille adds to the impression of width and the gaping intake below it gives the Scirocco a purposeful appearance when it appears in a rear view mirror.
The side profile is good too, with a gently sloping roofline enhanced by the rising waistline and wheel arches filled by standard 18-inch wheels. The rear is softer, more curvaceous with exaggerated hips, rounded bumpers and large light clusters. It somehow seems at odds with the sharper front end, but that’s just my opinion.
Extra touches included as part of the GT trim level of this car include those lovely turbine-styled 18-inch wheels, front fog lights and tinted rear windows.
Look closely at the side profile and you’ll realise the Scirocco has frameless front windows. Blip the central locking and they drop down a centimetre, allowing you to open the door unimpeded. As you settle into the driver’s seat and close the door they rise back up into the door seals. It’s the same story when you switch the engine off – the windows drop in anticipation of you opening the door to climb out. Sometimes it’s the little things that impress the most.
The cabin is typically Volkswagen, constructed from high-grade and soft-touch materials. The dashboard has a sensible layout with large wonderfully damped buttons, rotary dials and clear, easy to read instruments. The only problem is that it’s all very grey and, other than the triangular door pulls, fails to match the promise of the external looks.
Standard specification is good and packs in plenty of safety gear, including front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes. Automatic wipers and lights are part of the standard package as is dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation.
This car was fitted with the optional RNS 510 satnav and multimedia system. It’s a great piece of kit that uses a bright 6.5-inch colour touchscreen to offer clear navigation instructions and easy control of the radio, Bluetooth phone connection and multimedia. The sat-nav also integrates with the trip computer display in the instrument cluster, so it’s always easy to follow the directions.
One thing to note is that although this car’s seats were covered in cloth, and very comfortable at that, the Scirocco GT is now being sold with black leather seats as a free upgrade. Oh, and Volkswagen have also started fitting all Sciroccos with DAB radio.
The twist that Volkswagen have added to this third Scirocco is a touch of environmental conscience. The Bluemotion badge introduces two key pieces of technology designed to cut exhaust emissions and reduce fuel consumption. So if you’re eager to cut your carbon footprint or, like me, keen to save money on your fuel bill then you’ll appreciate the Bluemotion badge on the bootlid.
The first is a faultless stop/start system that kicks in when you knock the gearbox into neutral and release the clutch. The engine cuts out, saving precious fuel, and restarts the instant you press the clutch pedal again. It’s so fast to respond the engine is purring away before you’ve even slotted it back into gear.
Alongside the stop/start system is an energy recovery setup. Instead of recharging the battery from the engine the Scirocco captures energy generated by the brakes that would otherwise be lost as heat, saving even more fuel.
The combined effect of these two systems is an official economy figure of 62.8mpg from the 2.0-litre turbodiesel. That’s impressive, but what I found to be even more impressive is that I was able to beat that figure on three separate journeys and without even trying particularly hard. It really is easy to get 50mpg and not too hard to squeeze 60 miles out of a gallon, and you have to be driving the Scirocco like you stole it to get the economy to drop anywhere near 40mpg.
Fortunately the Scirocco’s engine is another great diesel from Volkswagen. The 138bhp output and 9.3 seconds to 62mph might not sound particularly impressive on paper but the TDI feels livelier than they suggest. There’s a generous amount of torque on offer (236 lb/ft from 1,750rpm) that gives the Scirocco a sense of urgency in the mid-range. The engine needs to be kept between 2,000 and 4,000rpm to extract the best from it, but fortunately that’s not difficult thanks to the smooth action of the six-speed manual gearbox.
The Scirocco is a good car to hustle along. The wide stance makes it feel incredibly solid through corners and in dry conditions you need to be driving like a total nutter before you’ll run out of grip. The nose dictates the attitude into a corner but the combination of nicely weighted steering and a decent feedback allow you to lean on the front tyres with confidence.
Most of the chassis is borrowed from the Golf but the rear axle is actually taken from the Passat to give the Scirocco a slightly wider track. It doesn’t make the Scirocco feel any livelier but it does add to that feeling of composure.
One smart feature is Volkswagen’s Adaptive Chassis Control, fitted as standard to all GT models. ACC manages the dampers electronically, scanning the road conditions up to a thousand times per second and adjusting the setting of each corner. You can also choose from Normal, Comfort and Sport modes by simply pressing a button on the centre console. The difference between Comfort and Sport is not as pronounced as I expected, and both modes are very capable – Sport adds tighter control over pitch and roll but isn’t uncomfortable, while Comfort rides more softly but doesn’t turn the Scirocco into a wallowy mess in corners.
For most conditions Normal mode works best. The automatic adjustments mean that the Scirocco rides well, despite the low profile tyres, and body roll isn’t an issue unless you’re really pushing on.
I’ve already mentioned the Scirocco’s aversion to guzzling fuel, but the low consumption also means low CO2 emissions. Rated at 118g/km the manual Bluemotion Scirocco slots into tax band C. That’s great news because it means the road tax disc is free in the first year and then costs just £30 per year after that. The optional DSG transmission increases emissions and pushes the Scirocco into the band above, so if you’re really keen to keep costs down then go for the six-speed manual.
Volkswagen have the Scirocco GT starting at £24,680 for the Bluemotion model. That’s far from cheap considering that this isn’t a particularly quick car, but the good news is that the Scirocco enjoys strong residual values. Add to that the second-hand appeal of economical diesels and you have a car that will hold its value well over the years.
The Final Reckoning
The Volkswagen Scirocco makes a great argument for switching to diesel. Performance isn’t scorching but it is more than adequate for everyday driving, while the low emissions and fuel consumption mean you can stick two fingers up to the Exchequer when you refuel or collect your road tax disc.
The Scirocco also happens to be a classy coupé and seems to attract plenty of admiring glances and comments. The asking price may be steep but the combination of Volkswagen badge and Bluemotion technology mean that this will be a sought after car when the time comes to sell.
There are few cars that can combine economy and class as well as the Volkswagen Scirocco GT TDI Bluemotion. Volkswagen have managed to avoid the ‘difficult third album’ syndrome with the Bluemotion adding a subtly different sound to the Scirocco’s repertoire. The question is … what are they going to do for the fourth album?[table “29” not found /]
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*Prices taken from Volkswagen website, June 2012
All photographs © Chris Auty 2012