Send me to a twisty road, please
Enough about straight-line performance, though, because the Scirocco is all about the curves. I couldn't find the size of its rear sway bar anywhere in the specs that Volkswagen sent me, but in my mind, it must be about five inches thick. A big rear bar helps rotate the car, and understeer is clearly not part of the Scirocco's game - in constant-radius turns that would have the GTI's front tires howling and the driver yawning, the Scirocco takes a perfectly neutral set. I did an entire lap of a big roundabout with almost no steering lock on, the Scirocco in a perfect four-wheel drift.
When was the last time you saw a front-wheel-drive car do that? Answer: never. I've not seen a tail-out attitude like that from a front-wheel-drive car since the last time I drove my own Scirocco - which routinely tries to kill me by hurtling itself sideways at the merest suggestion of trailing throttle.
A GTI taken to near-perfection
The current GTI is one of the best-balanced front-wheel-drive sport hatches on the market today, yet it just can't compete with the Scirocco when it comes to chassis balance. And unlike the GTI, which suffers from mushy brakes and an ABS system that seems to draw the pedal down into the ground, the Scirocco's brake pedal was always firm and positive - not unlike the pedal feel in an R32. The exhaust note was muted at high revs, peppered with whooshing sounds from the turbo.
The remainder of the driving experience is familiar VW - the dash comes straight out of the Eos (meaning that its distinct lack of sportiness is in stark contrast to the Scirocco's bold exterior styling), the shifter and steering feel just like a GTI's (which means that there's no torque steer, great steering feel off-center, and the clutch's takeup is smooth and progressive.) The seats are aggressively bolstered and supremely comfortable. The new touch-screen navigation system is slow-witted and frustrating, and it refused to recognize my iPod.
One thing has changed dramatically in twenty years. My Scirocco's big rear spoiler blocks my vision of everything under about four feet when I'm looking in the rear-view mirror. The new Scirocco's sloped roof does exactly the opposite - cutting off everything above around four feet. But the rest of the recipe - rear-wheel-drive moves in an efficient, sexy package - hasn't changed one bit.