2008 Volkswagen Scirocco

Charlie Magee

The viper-green exterior is mirrored by viper-green door inserts, stitching, and neoprene seat faces. The body-hugging bucket seats are quite comfortable, and they adjust with rare generosity. Next to the push-button that operates the electric parking brake, we find Audi's MMI multifunction control knob. The gear lever that operates the DSG dual-clutch manu-matic transmission is locked flush in the horizontal position until you twist the ignition key, when it automatically pops to attention. The hard-to-read speedometer and tachometer reside in deep acrylic holes that glow in an evolution of the eerie blue lighting that VW prefers over more conventional shades of amber.

The engine fitted to the Iroc concept is the same Twincharger (supercharged and turbocharged) 1.4-liter four-cylinder that recently debuted in the European-spec Golf GT. What looks like a lame duck on paper is in fact a steam hammer on steroids. Thanks to the teamwork between the whining supercharger (active at low to middle revs) and the whistling turbocharger (active at middle to high revs), the compact four musters 208 hp. Thus, in terms of performance, the viper-green one-off is in the same league as the GTI. Quantitatively, that's about seven seconds for 0-to-60-mph acceleration and a top speed of about 130 mph. Unlike the GTI's 2.0-liter engine, which is relatively thirsty when pushed, the 1.4-liter Twincharger should stay on the eco-friendly side of 30 mpg.

Although it's still early, the VW Iroc tells us a lot about the future Scirocco's definitive visibility, packaging, and maneuverability. The A-pillars are quite wide, but the big windshield and the low-cut side windows ensure that this is no castle on wheels. The view through the rear window is framed by viper-green seatbacks. This is more of a roomy two-plus-two than a proper four-seater, and while rear headroom is hard to fault, access to the second row requires a certain degree of physical fitness. Those two buckets obviously have been upholstered for looks, not comfort. The major controls are pure Eos--only crisper and more immediate.

The steering is accurate and always on the alert, but it feels heavy at parking speeds. The brakes are a little grabby at first, but after a while one begins to appreciate the instant-on response and the linear deceleration. The hide-and-seek shifter is needed only to select drive, reverse, or park. If you really feel compelled to change gears manually, the steering-wheel paddles do the job just fine. There is not a lot to be said about handling and roadholding at this point, even though the show car is a real runner good for speeds up to 125 mph. The phenomenal grip seems to neutralize understeer, the suspension tends to favor body control over compliance, and with about 220 lb-ft of torque available just above idle, traction can be an issue in the wet.

When it goes on sale here, it's likely that the Scirocco will be offered with the 168-hp, 1.4-liter high-output Twincharger and the GTI's direct-injection, 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbo. No VR6? At least not initially--there are many Volkswagen managers who believe that the six is the wrong engine for this car, for reasons that include weight, fuel consumption, price, market positioning, and nose-heavy handling.

Instead of the Scirocco VR6, we are much more likely to see a lightweight version powered by a tweaked, 230-hp, 2.0-liter four. When you consider that Audi soon will squeeze 280 hp out of this engine for the upcoming TTS, the output planned by VW is very much on the cautious side. In addition, this lightweight version, possibly called the R20 and earmarked for 2009, would get its own body kit, tires, seats, and cabin trim. Transmissions will include a six-speed manual and the DSG manu-matic. Over time, VW intends to build 40,000 units per year, but there is no stringent capacity limit should demand exceed expectations. Perhaps Wolfsburg should, in the wake of the reborn Scirocco, also reexamine the comeback of other cult cars. Bring back the Microbus!

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