It's not the shape or the proportions of the latest Volkswagen show car that make the memory chip inside your head switch from standby to high alert. It's the color that does the trick, a wild shade of Kermit the Frog metallic called, past and present, viper green. If you're old enough, this hue triggers an instant flashback to the rocking 1970s. In 1974, when the first-generation Scirocco debuted, the world witnessed the end of the Nixon era and the dwindling of the hippie movement. The freshly completed Sears Tower stood so tall that, from its viewing platform, you could almost watch Skylab chase Soyuz. Down below, the streets of Chicago were crowded with compact fuel misers such as the Chevrolet Vega, the AMC Gremlin, the downsized Ford Mustang II, and a certain VW Golf that was called the Rabbit in the United States. The Golf passed on its DNA to the original Scirocco.
Designed by Giugiaro, built by Karmann, and sold in the States between 1975 and 1981, the first Scirocco was an instant showroom success. Although the replacement model (1982-88) and the portlier Corrado (1990-94) turned out to be less popular, Volkswagen decided to revive the affordable coupe with the Iroc concept. (ScIROCco, get it?) A month before its public debut at the Paris auto show, we drove the concept, which is closely related to the production version slated for 2008.
The Iroc is definitely not your father's Scirocco. Based on the running gear and the platform of the Eos convertible, it is bold, butch, and mean-looking. They haven't offered shapes like this in Wolfsburg for years. But now Wolfgang Bernhard is in charge, and he wants "no more middle-of-the-road cars!" That's why the Iroc looks the way it does, and that's why the new Scirocco will look very similar to the Iroc.
True, the car that will leave the assembly line in Palmela, Portugal, starting in early 2008 will have less radical wheels and a slightly slimmer silhouette. Also due to change are the flush-fitting, electrically actuated door handles and the contrasting lower body panels, which will be painted. But the big picture is spot-on, with zero changes envisaged to the love-it-or-hate-it hexagonal grille, the headlamps, the side sheetmetal, the daring greenhouse, and the interior and exterior dimensions.
Based on a design by Robert Lesnik, who also conceived the Eos, the Iroc is a stunning blend of coupe, station wagon, hatchback, and proper sports car. Its pivotal styling element is the grille, which has a honeycomb pattern adopted from the GTI and an all-new brushed-aluminum frame. The inner segments could be selectively opened up to cool the brakes and the intake air, but the outer ducts are fakes.
Unlike any other VW, the Scirocco-to-be surprises with an almost sculptural three-dimensionality. The interplay between concave and convex surfaces is particularly striking where the hood, the front fenders, and the A-pillars meet and also where the C-pillars flow into the rear side panels. The dark roof blends so neatly with the large windshield that VW should consider making it standard--or at least an option--on the production car. Inside, large quantities of carbon-fiber trim adorn the roof structure, the doors, and the pillars. Predictably, the interior, which was penned by Nils Poschwatta, is going to be toned down to meet stringent cost targets. The basic dashboard layout, however, is there to stay, so you can expect two large, round gauges; rotary secondary controls; air vents that mimic the contours of the grille; and a dished sport steering wheel with three metal spokes. When you look back in time, you'll find that about the only fundamental difference between the Iroc cockpit and the instrument panel of the Mark 1 Scirocco is the high-mounted radio in the original car.