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Volkswagen Scirocco GT 2.0l TSi Review

When the VW Scirocco first broke cover last year, I was far from enamoured with it. I really couldn’t understand why motoring journalists were all cooing over it, and was equally stumped as to why it was being called a coupe, when it looked (to me at least) like a hatchback. Personally I preferred the Golf GTi on which the Scirocco was based, feeling that the latter was more contrived than stylish.

Now, anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m not the type to easily admit that I was wrong, but in the case of the Scirocco, I was! Having spent a while driving a Scirocco GT every day, my opinion hasn’t so much changed, as turned on its head. To cut a long story short, I absolutely love this car, and I will be very, very sad to see it go back to VW.

The Scirocco is definitely a car that you need to see first hand because the photos simply don’t do it justice. Even in the somewhat garish green of the test car (although I kind of like the colour), the Scirocco looks sleek and stylish. And yes, the rear end still shouts hatchback to me, but the front three quarters are every inch a coupe. The rake of the windscreen, the long stretch of glass as the front windows melt into the rears and of course the frameless nature of the front windows all make this car feel more coupe than hatch. It’s also pretty low compared to any current hatchback, giving it a far sportier look than most.

The test car that VW sent me is the range topping 2.0l TSi model which sports the same turbocharged engine as the MkV Golf GTi and pumps out just under 200bhp. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that the Scirocco is some kind of performance hooligan, because it isn’t. In fact this is an incredibly refined vehicle that just oozes build quality – yes my Clio 197 F1 produces the same amount of power and is a fair bit quicker, but when it comes to day to day comfort, the Scirocco is in another league. Even more impressive is that VW has managed to keep CO2 emissions down to 179g/km, meaning that the Scirocco falls into the £170 per annum Road Tax bracket!

Other engine options include a 1.4l TSi petrol lump which still produces an impressive 160bhp and raises combined fuel economy from 37.2mpg to 42.8mpg. Of course if fuel economy is paramount to you, but you still like the looks of the Scirocco, you could go for the 2.0l diesel option. This will put out around 140bhp while returning a wallet friendly 55.4mpg.

If there’s a downside to the Scirocco’s undeniable refinement, it’s that it isn’t as sporty to drive as its looks suggest. That’s not to suggest that getting behind the wheel of this car isn’t fun, because it is, but if you’re looking for a hardcore driver’s machine, there are better options out there. But that’s not really what the Scirocco is all about, and despite the fact that I always buy my cars based on dynamic ability and performance, I could happily live with this car as my daily drive.

Of course what we’re really here to talk about is the technology that VW has endowed the Scirocco with, and in this department it’s no less impressive. This test car isn’t quite stuffed to the gills with options, but what’s there is very good indeed. So, if you’ve been won over by VW’s baby coupe (as I have) and are wondering which option boxes to tick, read on…

The Scirocco that VW supplied me came equipped with the top of the range infotainment system, the RNS 510. This is a beautifully integrated system with a large 6.5in touch-screen display that complements the car’s interior perfectly. But the RNS 510 doesn’t just look good, it’s also one of the most feature rich, easy to use and generally impressive in-car entertainment/navigation systems I’ve come across. What’s so special about it? Let’s start with the entertainment side of things.

First up, I should mention that this isn’t the basic RNS 510 system. The version that VW has included is the full fat £1,800 DynAudio version, which includes a 600W amplifier and no less than ten speakers. The result is the best in-car audio experience I have ever encountered from a factory fitted system. So powerful is the DynAudio setup that I seriously couldn’t push the volume above halfway – well, not without causing my ears to bleed anyway.

But this system isn’t just loud, it’s also very accomplished and clearly designed to make the very most of the cabin’s acoustics. No matter what style of music I threw at the Scirocco, it took it in its stride. If you’re a fan of heavy bass beats, the DynAudio system will accommodate with fulsome, low-end thump that literally rattles your bones, but without the slightest hint of distortion. If you prefer something more delicate, this system also has you covered, managing to bring out an almost unbelievable amount of clarity from source material, but not at the expense of bass response.

For anyone who’s serious about their digital music, the RNS 510 will be a dream come true. The real party piece is the 30GB integrated hard drive, allowing you to have an impressive amount of music in the car with you at all times. The quoted 30GB capacity is something of a misnomer though, since the maps, voices and everything else to do with the satellite navigation takes up a fair chunk of space. In reality you’re left with just under 20GB of space for music, which is still more than enough for a decent size library.

The RNS 510 doesn’t support CD ripping, so music is transferred to the hard drive via the integrated SD card slot. You can play music directly from an SD card too, so if you want to grab a few songs from your computer before you leave on a journey, you don’t need to wait for them to copy over before you can start listening.

The process of copying the files over is very simple, but it makes sense to have all your tracks in a useful file structure on the SD card before copying. The easiest method is to just copy the whole SD card in one go, but this will result in a new “copy of SD card” folder being created on the hard drive with all the songs in it. If you wanted to then arrange the tracks in different folders, you’d have to do it manually. Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out a way to copy multiple files simultaneously, without already having them grouped in a folder.

A slight disappointment is that the RNS 510 isn’t SDHC compliant, which means that the highest capacity SD card you can use is 2GB. Considering that 16GB SD cards can be had for under £30 online, you could have significantly increased the storage capacity of the RNS 510 had it supported the SDHC standard. It also means that it’s going to be a far more lengthy procedure to fill the hard disk up with music, since you’ll have to do it in 2GB chunks.

The system will happily playback both MP3 and WMA files from any of its sources as long as neither is cursed with any form of DRM. Songs are organised in a basic tree file structure, which means it’s not as simple to navigate your music as it would be on, say, an iPod. That said, if you take some time at the beginning to organise everything logically, you’ll reap the benefit of easier navigation later.

If you still like to go old school and listen to your music from a CD, the RNS 510 has you covered too. The main head unit has a single CD/DVD player, while nestling inside the central arm rest is a six CD changer. So, you can have up to seven discs worth of music in the car as well as the hard drive and the SD card. That’s got to be enough for even the longest of journeys.

You may be thinking that all those CD slots is something of an overkill, but if you choose to keep all your navigation data on DVD instead of storing it on your hard disk, the head unit CD/DVD drive won’t be available to you. Hence the six disc changer will give you the ability to play CDs, while freeing up the full capacity of the internal hard drive. If you decide that you can live with the navigation data taking up space on your hard drive, and therefore don’t need the six disc changer, you can spec the system without the latter, saving yourself £215.

It’s not all about music either because the RNS 510 will also happily playback your DVD movie collection. I wasn’t really expecting much when I loaded up ”The Bourne Identity”, but about 20 minutes later I realised that I was watching the film and actually enjoying it. OK, so a 6.5in screen is pretty small, but viewing was surprisingly comfortable from the driver’s seat. But in reality it was the sound that made the experience so immersive, with the DynAudio system creating a relatively convincing surround sound envelope.

Of course the DVD playback only works when the car is stationary, so you won’t end up causing an accident while you’re watching Jason Bourne hurtle through Paris instead of watching the road ahead. There was also a setting under the menus for TV, but there obviously wasn’t a tuner present in the test car, while a look around the Scirocco configurator on the VW website showed no sign of a TV tuner option.

Finally, there’s a 3.5mm aux input mounted in the centre console, should you wish to hook up your MP3 player. Of course you won’t be able to control the player via the RNS 510, and with such a plethora of built-in options for your music on offer I can’t imagine why you’d need to use this.

The RNS 510 isn’t just about in-car entertainment, it’s also a fully featured satellite navigation system, and again, it puts in a very solid performance. I criticised the system in the Renault Laguna Coupe for having no touch-screen and no postcode support, but VW has ensured that I can’t make similar criticisms about the Scirocco.

Equipping the RNS 510 with a touch-screen interface was definitely the right thing to do. No matter how good any other method of menu navigation may be, there is simply no substitute for being able to just stab a finger at the option you want. This is never more true than when you’re trying to input a destination into the sat-nav. Simply tapping out each letter of the address is infinitely quicker and easier than using dials or joysticks.
”’(centre)The map display will automatically switch to night view when the sun goes down(/centre)”’

Even though the RNS 510 does include postcode support, bear in mind that it only searches on the first five digits of a postcode. This will put you in the rough location of your desired destination, but you’ll still need a house number to be completely exact. It is slightly disappointing that you don’t get full seven digit postcode support, but to be fair I’ve yet to see a factory fitted sat-nav that offers it. It’s all the more annoying that the vast majority of after market sat-nav units come equipped with full postcode support.
”’(centre)Choose from three routes to your destination(/centre)”’

Once you’ve input the destination address, the RNS 510 will then return three different routes to your destination, overlaying them all on the map in different colours. You’ll usually be faced with one route that’s potentially the fastest but may be longer, one that’s the shortest distance and a third that’s, well, just different. What you’re usually deciding is whether you want to use motorways to save time or travel the fewest miles. It’s a great feature and saves you time when comparing the shortest distance over the shortest time.
”’(centre)Simply touch the map and navigate there(/centre)”’

A particularly nice touch is that you can tell the system to navigate to any point on the map by simply touching it. If you know exactly where you need to get to on a map but don’t necessarily know the postcode or address, you can stab your finger at the desired location and then tell the RNS 510 to take you there. You can also set waypoints on a route, ensuring that you get from A to D while stopping at B and C along the way. You can even record an exact route and then retrace it at a later date – so if you happen to find a circuit of particularly good driving roads, you can record it and go back later for some more fun!
”’(centre)The 3D map view(/centre)”’”’(centre)The 2D map view(/centre)”’

The map view can be switched from 2D to 3D at the touch of the screen. Although 3D views are definitely the option of choice these days, many still prefer the simplicity of a top-down map view. And of course, the map will switch from daytime to night time mode when it gets dark, thus making the display less distracting to the driver.

You also get full TMC functionality built in, so the system should be able to route you around traffic jams dynamically. You can also bring up a list of current traffic blackspots in relation to your location, allowing you to decide whether it’s worth embarking on the journey in the first place.

The Scirocco’s cabin is a very nice place to be. Everything around you has a quality feel and the driving position is surprisingly well sorted. The seats in the test car came trimmed in Anthracite Vienna leather and proved to be very comfortable and supportive. The driver’s seat featured electronically adjustable lumbar support which ensured that my back was amply supported at all times.

Both front seats were also heated, which comes as part of the £1,560 leather package. Nestled in the centre console are two dials for controlling the level of heat seating for both the passenger and the driver. With settings ranging from zero to five, you should be able to find the perfect temperature to warm your cockles. And of course it allows the driver and passenger to heat themselves independently of the other.
”’(centre)The centre console houses controls for climate control and heated seats(/centre)”’

Continuing with that theme is the dual-zone climate control that comes as standard on the Scirocco GT. On the centre console you’ll find two temperature displays that indicate how warm/cool it is for the driver and passenger. Once again this allows the driver and passenger to be comfortable without that comfort coming at the expense of the other. Of course if you are both in agreement about the cabin temperature, you can disable the dual-zone function and have a single temperature for the whole cabin.

The Scirocco also features Adaptive Chassis Control as standard, which allows the driver to alter the characteristics of the car at the touch of a button. ACC has three options, Normal, Comfort and Sport – Normal is suited to general driving, Comfort to motorway cruising and Sport to more focused B-Road or track driving. Changing the ACC settings will alter the damper rates, the level of steering assistance and the throttle response. I have to admit that I rarely switched the Scirocco out of Sport mode, and even then I found the car a little soft. However, I’m probably more hardcore than the average potential Scirocco customer, and I imagine that many will be happy to leave ACC set to normal most of the time, perhaps flicking into Sport for the odd blast round some country lanes.

The steering wheel is another highlight. VW and Audi have both adopted the flat bottomed steering wheel design for their sporty models, and although there’s no practical reason for the design in a car like this, it looks great. The wheel is also beautifully tactile and just the right thickness for a solid, yet comfortable grip.

The steering wheel also comes equipped with an array of controls. On the left you’ll find buttons for volume control and telephone functions, while on the right you can access the in-dash display menus and control the audio system. Just like the rest of the steering wheel design, the button placements are ergonomically perfect for thumb control – assuming that you drive with your hands where they should be.

The in-dash display is also a welcome addition, giving you access to information without having to look down at the centre console. Here you can view what the audio system is doing with the track and artist information displayed, along with the selected source device. You can also display navigation instructions here, again saving you from having to look down at the main map display on the RNS 510 system.
”’(centre)The sunroof may not open fully, but it really lifts the cabin(/centre)”’

The test car came with a panoramic sunroof, which will set you back £640. Now, I’m not generally a fan of sunroofs – structural rigidity and all that – but having all that extra light flooding into Scirocco’s cabin really does make a difference. The sunroof only tilts up rather than opening fully, but it lets in a decent amount of fresh air without causing too much wind noise, even at high speeds.
”’(centre)Auto-dimming rear view mirror stops you getting blinded at night(/centre)”’

You also get automatic headlights, rain sensitive windscreen wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror as standard, while a cooled glove box and tinted glass in the rear windows are nice touches too.

The Scirocco comes equipped with an array of six airbags – front, side and curtain – and unlike some cars, the passenger seat airbags can be deactivated by the end user with the ignition key. Obviously if you want to use a baby seat in the front, you’ll need the airbag switched off first. The two front seats are fitted with head restraints that move towards the occupant in the event of a rear collision to avoid whiplash, while the seatbelts have pre-tensioners to keep you fixed firmly against the seat back. There’s no Euro NCAP crash test data available for the Scirocco yet though.

Adding to the crash safety credentials, in the event of a collision the hazard lights are automatically triggered, the doors unlocked, the interior lights are switched on and the fuel pump is shut off. The latter obviously reduces the risk of explosion, while interior lights will make it easier for rescuers to see who is in the car and having the doors unlocked will allow them to get those people out. Obviously we didn’t test any of these features, but I’m going to take VW’s word that it all works.

There are Isofix mounting points located on both the rear seats, so even if you have a couple of young children, you shouldn’t have any problem fitting them into the Scirocco. My three year old daughter seemed to have plenty of room in the back, although as with any three door car, it can be a bit of a performance getting children in and out of car seats.

The test car came equipped with rear parking sensors – an option that costs £330. However, unlike many parking sensor systems, the one in the Scirocco gives you a visual as well as audible indication of how close you are to an object. The main RNS 510 display instantly switches to the parking sensor screen as soon as reverse gear is engaged. In then shows you how close you are to an obstacle, and where that object is in relation to the car.

There’s no keyless entry or push button start on the Scirocco, instead VW has stuck with the flip style key that it has been using for some time. On the plus side, the key fob can be used for global open and close duties – pressing and holding the unlock button will open all the windows and the sunroof, while pressing and holding the lock button will do the opposite. The latter is particularly useful if you get out of the car and realise that you’ve forgotten to close the sunroof, as I did several times. And of course there’s an alarm and immobiliser as standard.

The VW Scirocco is a very special car. It may be tied by blood to the Golf GTi, but it feels so much more of an event than the ubiquitous German hot hatch. The looks are sleek and stylish, the cabin is beautifully crafted, and the drive is just the right side of exciting.

But the Scirocco isn’t just a pretty face and a good drive, it’s also a well equipped beast. The RNS 510 is one of the best entertainment and navigation systems I’ve come across. The integrated hard disk and SD card slot make it easy to have a large library of music with you at all times, and the sound produced by the DynAudio equipped system is superb.

The navigation portion of the RNS 510 is just as impressive, with simultaneous, multiple route calculation, 2D and 3D map displays and full touch-screen interface. And even though the five digit postcode support is a slight disappointment, everything else is so well thought out that it’s hard to criticise this car when it comes to integrated technology.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t talked about communication systems, and that’s because my test car didn’t come equipped with Bluetooth or voice control. That’s not to say that you can’t get Bluetooth support on the Scirocco, just that this particular car didn’t have it. I’ll make sure that the next VW I look at has this feature so I can put the system through its paces.

When all is said and done though, there is very little not to like about the VW Scirocco, and as I said at the beginning of this review, I’ll be very sad to see this car go.

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