Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Achtung!… it’s Kapt Jakob Spärrow

On test… VW Golf R & VW Scirocco R

With their two new R models, Veedub have swooped in on the current flotilla of high performance cars. Just like pirates… German ones. Everybody say Rrrrrrrrrrr!

They don’t make pirates like they used to. Once they had flowing locks, full beards and wore thigh-high leather boots into which were tucked small-but-vicious knives and some eyeliner. These days though they’re just skinny Somali blokes with an inflatable dinghy and a rocket launcher.

It’s just not the same.

Neither is the hatchback market now that these two Germans have come sailing in cannons blazing. It’s the classic guerilla pirate tactic… move in quickly from different directions, sow panic and confusion among the fleet, and then disappear over the horizon with the booty.

As a potential car buyer the main confusion is which one of the two R’s to buy. And as most thing things do, it all boils down to a matter of personal taste. The R’s have already plundered their shared 188kW 2.0 turbo engine from the Audi S3, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Golf Rrrrr!
The Golf R is the slightly safer option. Its 4Motion all-wheel drive train means it tracks through corners as if on rails. Acceleration times too are marginally quicker than the Scirocco’s and if you compared lap times, the Golf R would probably shade it’s sibling as well. As with many modern turbo’s the EA113 mill is wonderfully tractable – whether you’re using the 6-speed manual or optional DSG paddle-shift auto, there ‘s bags of lowdown grunt (350Nm of torque between 2 500 and 5 000 r/min). Both test cars also came with VW’s (rather pricey) Adaptive Chassis Control system that allows one to flip between “comfort”, “normal” and “ sport” suspension settings. But frankly, it’s hard to tell the difference between them, and even “comfort” is plenty stiff.

The Golf is of course a more practical vehicle with four doors and a bigger hatch, but that doesn’t detract from an air of menace the car exudes. A stance 10mm lower than the GTi’s, standard 19-inch alloys and darkened light clusters see to that. The effect is one of subtle menace.

Scirocco Rrrrr!
Then again there’s nothing subtle about the Scirocco R. The standard two-door, coupe-like Scirocco is low, wide and aggressive enough, but the R’s body kit with its bigger rear wing, sill extensions and new bumpers takes it up a notch or three. It sits on the same 19-inch alloys at the Golf, but it’s the way the Scirocco’s rubber handles the tarmac that really sets these two cars apart.

The Scirocco feels more engaging. It requires more of you as a driver. Unlike the all-wheel drive Golf, the Scirocco delivers its power through the front wheels only, which in turn requires more precise throttle control in the corners. Get on it too early and the car pushes toward the outside, but get it right – set the corner up with the wonderfully precise steering and unspool the wheel, feeding in the gas – and the Scirocco feels incredibly planted.

Both are brilliant sports hatchbacks and it must be mentioned that the Scirocco is a shade under R12k cheaper than the Golf. However, in the end it comes down to your sword of choice… the precise and deadly rapier, or the more swashbuckling sabre. Personally, I’m more the swashbuckling type.

The Golf R starts at R419 300 and the Scirocco R at R407 400

As appeared in the October 2011 issue of the Kulula in-flight magtazine