Future Cars

2008 Volkswagen Scirocco

I begged senior editor Joe DeMatio to let me go to Berlin for the unveiling of Volkswagen‘s IROC, the concept version of the soon-to-be resurrected VW Scirocco. My argument was simple: I’m the only person in the office who owns a vintage Scirocco, so I should be the first to see the new one.

My tactic worked. I gathered up my passport and some business cards and uploaded a few photos of my mint Flash Silver 1987 16V onto my cell phone. Betting I’d be the only journalist there who owns a Scirocco, I’d show my baby off to anyone who would look at it.

I couldn’t wait to see the IROC. It’s been a long time since a car named after a warm, Mediterranean wind has sat glimmering in a VW showroom. The last Scirocco sold in the U.S. was a 1988 model. It successor (in spirit, though not in name) was the Corrado, which retreated from our shores in 1994.

Apparently no one told VW that IROC isn’t just a clever way of hinting that this new concept previews the forthcoming scIROCco. A quick Google search would have clued them in to the International Race of Champions–or worse–a few mid-’80s Camaro models. During the concept’s introduction, Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard listed off a few things that come to mind when he hears the word IROC. Of course, so did we, and the Germans all seemed to scratch their heads when our small group of American journalists laughed hysterically after someone said “mullets!”

Regardless, Bernhard’s point was that his team was charged with recreating the energy and fascination that surrounded the original Scirocco, not necessarily recreating the car. In that mission, they have succeeded–there’s definitely a buzz surrounding the IROC. But it is most certainly not a Scirocco.

The press photos you may have already seen do this car no justice. It’s gorgeous. It’s wide, low, and muscular. You would definitely notice it coming up in your rearview mirror. The rear fenders are so aggressively flared that you want to caress them. The way the brushed stainless-steel grille surround intersects with the painted, plastic bumperette is fascinating. The cooling ducts for the brakes look hotter than the rotors they’re supposed to keep cool, and the integrated exhaust tips look positively menacing.

The closer you look, the more interesting details you see–the way the hatch hinges are neatly integrated into the big rear spoiler, for example. And I wish I could have just one of those seats in my car. (Or in my office or my living room, for that matter.)

So why isn’t it a Scirocco? Making the IROC an upright, proper four-seater means misinterpreting what the original Scirocco was about. Back then, if you wanted to maximize practicality and have fun at the same time, you bought a GTI. (In fact, you buy a GTI today for the very same reasons.) The whole point of a Scirocco was to have a low-slung, sexy sports car that threw practicality to the wind. Both generations of the Scirocco and the Corrado had back seats, but you couldn’t actually fit human beings in them. If the production IROC is half as stimulating to drive as it looks, it’ll make a hell of a GTI. But it’s not a Scirocco.

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