2008 Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI

The history of the Scirocco in America
Speaking of the 1970s and 1980s, here's a quick history lesson on the Scirocco. The first-generation Scirocco made its U.S. debut in the mid-1970s. It was designed to be the sporty alternative to the Golf (or Rabbit, in the United States), and, indeed, it shared all of its running gear with the tall hatchback. With a low-slung body designed by Giugiaro, the Scirocco lost some of the Rabbit's utility but made up for it with its looks and its performance. GTIs could haul marginally more stuff - and had a much more usable back seat - but Sciroccos were quicker when the road turned.

The second-generation Scirocco made its U.S. debut in 1982 with a completely new body. The Mk2, as it's often called by aficionados, was styled in-house but looks remarkably like the design that Giugiaro submitted to VW. (That design eventually made it to production as the Isuzu Impulse. Google it and you'll see the similarities.) In U.S.-trim with quad headlights, the Mk2 looked quite a bit like the DeLorean DMC, itself a Giugiaro design - but the new VW came in for some criticism due to its dynamics. It was slightly longer and heavier than the first-generation Scirocco, but it wasn't actually much different underneath. Larger engines made up for some of the weight, but the chassis itself was essentially unchanged from the Mk1.

Until the 1986 Scirocco 16V came out. The 16V was a separate model that looked more aggressive thanks to a body-colored aero kit and featured an all-new 7200-rpm 1.8-liter sixteen-valve four-cylinder that produced 123 hp. That was enough to fling the 2380-lb Scirocco to 60 mph in about 8 seconds - quite quick for its day. Upgrades to the suspension (a cross-brace, bigger anti-roll bars, and revised shocks and springs), quicker steering, and bigger brakes (including discs at the rear) stopped all the complaints in their tracks. Contemporary road tests praised the Scirocco's handling and acceleration, and Csaba Csere, now editor-in-chief of Car & Driver, called it a "supercoupe to be reckoned with."

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