Volkswagen Middle East turned on the Ramadan generosity the other day and bequeathed us siblings from their stable – the 2012 Golf GTI and the Scirocco R. Like possessive parents, Arnab and I immediately took up cudgels on behalf of our wards.
Pradeep Warrier : This is a much anticipated test for me– the iconic Golf GTI ! I’ve loved the Mk6 version for its looks right from its launch and now having driven it, I’m hopelessly smitten. With 210 bhp on tap, 280 Nm of torque from its turbo charged engine and a 0-100 km time of 6.9 secs, VW have nailed the balance perfectly for this segment. This is the quintessential hot hatch and in my books, no other manufacturer has quite anything to match it overall.
Arnab Saha : Except of course that the Scirocco R just does it all better. It is a lighter, more powerful, more agile and may I add, better looking package. Try 255 bhp and 350 Nm to your GTI. And from the same engine, just in a better state of tune than the GTI. Oh, did I mention 0-100 km in 5.7 secs. That’s a whole 1.2 seconds less than the GTI. Now that you’ve read the numbers, you must be feeling a little inadequate?
Pradeep Warrier : The Scirocco R’s styling is obviously a big part of the car. I love the looks and its stance on the road. But the Scirocco’s bhp and torque figures doesn’t change anything for me. The only inadequacy in your equation comes from the lack of sufficient doors on your ride. Honestly how do you expect your rear seat passengers to get out of the car without crunching their midriff? I know what ails you. Style over practicality: the perennial pitfall of youth.
Arnab Saha : Not really, but let’s get on with how the cars handle. The Scirocco is obviously the better performer. The way this machine gets around curves beggars belief. Any corner the GTI can floor, the Scirocco will do it faster and better composed. And isn’t that the whole point of a hot hatch? You feel the difference those extra horses make every time you give it stick. And the torque on the Scirocco just keeps it ahead of the GTI everywhere except maybe at very low revs on the bottom end of the torque curve.
Pradeep Warrier : I’ll concede the Scirocco R is astonishing in the bends. The limits of adhesion are phenomenally high and you’d be doing illegal speeds even before you reach those limits anyway – which is why I think the GTI makes a better road car. You can have your fun at a fairly decent turn of speed without being compelled to rip the performance envelop. The suspension is competent without being as harsh as the Scirocco’s and the ride quality much better for commuting. If I wanted to go railing round every bend, I would definitely opt for the Scirocco R – and use it on the track!
Arnab Saha : Still, both cars get serious only when you slot the gear selector into Sport mode. In normal Drive mode the Scirocco is very docile and some would even say tame below 3,000 rpm. This car desperately needs a manual transmission to complement its lovely chassis and strong engine. The GTI also feels more like a family car when you opt for Drive mode.
Pradeep Warrier : I agree, Sport mode is where both cars come alive, although the GTI carries more bottom end torque which it then gives away to the Scirocco as the revs build. I quite agree that both cars are better sampled with a manual tranny. However the DSG gearbox almost makes up for the lack of a stick shift. The flappy paddles change gears so quick that I’m completely sold and have nothing to compare it negatively against a manual shift. Oh and what about the flat bottomed steering wheel. I just love the looks, the feel and the way these cars steer.
Arnab Saha : Agreed, but even with your clear bias for the GTI, you have to admit the Scirocco’ steering is weighted heavier and communicates better. It must be to do with the car’s lowered stance, its firmer suspension and those 19 inch wheels – which by the way, looks a whole generation ahead of the GTI’s telephone dial wheels.
Pradeep Warrier : They are called ‘Detroit’ alloys in VW speak; and ok, they do remind you of the old ringer. But those 18-inch wheels on the GTI are a whole lot more comfortable than the Scirocco’s 19’s because you can get some flex on the higher profile tires. Try going over a speed bump in a Scirocco without using all you concentration. Couple that with the Adaptive Chassis control on the GTI and you really can enjoy the best of both worlds. The GTI is a commuter with adequate road comfort and a sporty corner carver when the need arises. The Parallel Park Assist is a lovely feature that more cars should come with. Who would have a thought – a car that can parallel park on its own! Factor in ample passenger room, even in the back, a generously sized boot for the groceries, and you really have a car that can do it all.
Arnab Saha : Well we young guns don’t generally cart a football team around in the car. My grocery does not extend beyond a sandwich and I can do with the 2+2 seating. And lest you forget, the Scirocco is a sports car first and foremost. It is evident in the way the lovely exhaust noise filters into the cabin, the way the seats hug you and the way the car catapults you from a standstill. You need to exercise good control to keep the tyres from screaming away from stoplights. Which I absolutely love listening to!
Pradeep Warrier : The exhaust sounds much better inside the car than when hearing it pass by. I believe this has been engineered into the cars in order to remain ‘politically correct’. It’s a sign of the times and perhaps the way forward for all manufacturers!
Arnab Saha : I just wish VW would up the game when it comes to the interiors. They are good, but their stable mate Audi just seems to do it better on the design front. Having said that, I quite like the way VW seems to extend the design theme across their models, lending an instant familiarity to anybody who has driven a VW before. Then again, you look at the price difference and you realize that you are getting a lot of car for your money with both these machines. The GTI serves up serious performance for only AED 143,500 and the Scirocco R for AED 150,000. Both are great cars but for my money I’d pick the Scirocco any day.
Pradeep Warrier : So to the verdict: the Scirocco for the young-at-heart, fashion brigade who still likes his hot hatch and doesn’t mind the restriction of 2 doors in exchange for outright performance. The GTI for the mature driver who needs to cart his brood around bit loves an involving ride on his solo jaunt. Shall we call it a draw?
Arnab Saha : I don’t quite agree to the typecasting. But yes, I’ll concede it’s a draw. You could buy either one of these and get more than you bargained for. It’s just that the GTI driver will always be looking up the Scirocco’s dual exhaust every time the bell rings out for playtime!
Photos by Brian Donegan