Yes I have finally done it – test drove the new 2010 Scirocco-R and Golf-R back to back.  Here is my detailed review and commentary, plus information about stuff no other reviewer has mentioned (but I think any owner would want to know).

I did this on Saturday 15th May 2010 in Auckland, courtesy of Giltrap Prestige on New North Road.  The weather was a combination of overcast, and rain (ranging from light showers to very heavy downpour).  This means that at one stage part of the roads were VERY flooded, and plenty of variety to test the cars   Oh, before I start I would have to say the sales staff were very helpful, and knowledgeable too.

UPDATE Feb 2011: I now own a Golf-R – my updated review can be found here (but read this post 1st!)

Anyway, here’s what I will be covering in my review:

  1. My overall impressions of each car, trying to focus on what other reviews don’t tell you (but you might wanna know)
  2. The differences between each car
  3. How they stack up against the competition and the whole value thing

Before I start my commentary, heres the links for all the stuff I am NOT gonna comment on:

* The only reviews online at the moment from NZ are re-writes of the VW media release, it’s clear they haven’t driven one – all they talk abotu is ACC, ESP and DSG, oh and 195kw/350NW.  Blah blah …

1) Overall impressions (comments apply to both cars)

To start with both a VERY good cars.  Design and build quality is excellent.  I was fortunate to take both cars for over an hour each (and in fact took the Golf-R for a 2nd drive after-wards, to retest it in the heavy rain).

As I stated in my 1st review of the Golf-R, the gearbox/clutch set up (the VW DSG) is just AWESOME.  So many commentators call it the best in the world – and I have to say it’s THE best I have used in ANY car.

Feels like a true manual, but it just changes the gears for you (well if you want it to).  I would say that the difference between D (for drive) and S (for sport) is quite extreme.  In Drive it will pop itself into 6th gear around town quite easily.  In Sport it will red line every gear, and sit in 4th at 100km/hr on the open road when there is the slightest hint of pedal movement.  Lets just say S is certainly Sports mode!

Both cars are highly speced, but (and I will cover this more later) they are pricey.  Many comparable cars have more extras included as standard for the same price.  With that said, it depends on what you say is comparable.  The Scirocco-R is $68,250 and the Golf-R $72,500 add $4,000 for a leather interior), which puts them into the same category as many mid-level european cars, but at the very top end for most Japanese cars.  I am going to discuss this much more below when I go over value.

Both cars look quite understated.  Clearly modern, sporty (for a hatch), but not aggressive.  In fact the Golf-GTI looks slightly sportier in my opinion.   Some people will love this, others not.  Compared to similar performance cars, its VERY understated.  Mind you, so are most Audi’s (and it works for them).   I for one like the understated look.

2) Differences between each car

While most people may suggest that these cars are very similar, I have to say as much as on paper they are (and I guess they kinda have a similar “VW look”) they drive and feel TOTALLY differently.  The Scirocco-R feels like a standard front wheel drive car (coz it is)  As it has almost 200kw (195 to be precise, the Golf-R being 199kw, but though a computer controlled 4WD) going through two wheels its VERY easy to wheel spin.  In fact I was quite surprised that it would do this so easily, as I (incorrectly) thought traction control would stop this – but clearly not.  Some people will like this, giving it a true drivers car kinda feel.  I have to say I didn’t overly enjoy it.  I ride bikes with WAY more power than my back wheel can manage 90% of the time, so fully get the don’t just jump on the accelerator if you want to go fast thing, but it just wasn’t me.  I think for many the Scirocco 147KW model would be much more enjoyable and drivable, and MUCH better valued .  Don’t get me wrong, the Scirocco-R was a VERY nice car to drive, and I think if I hadn’t test driven the Golf just before (and just after) the Scirocco-R then I would have just though “wow .. lots of power .. awesome fun”.  You see, by comparison, the Golf-R was just confidence inspiring.  It was ROCK solid doesn’t matter how much I threw at it, or how badly I jumped on the accelerator mid corner, even in the wet, with bad traction going through shingle road works (yes I did this).    The Scorocco-R wasn’t bad – it was I guess “normal”.  It was the Golf-R that was just awesome.

I did a further extreme test of the Golf-R and drove it on the motorway, through water about a foot deep (you know when the car goes from 100 to 50 in like 3 seconds, all without brakes) then a quick left up a steep hill with 3 quick turns all through roadworks in the rain. The whole time rock solid, felt like it never missed a beat, and I could have done it 20km/hr faster.  (By comparison the Scirocco would wheel spin and/or just lose grip on the shingle and wet bits when I floored it).  I did lots of other tests – fast sweepers, motorway lane changes at speed (and not smoothly), quick “flick” as one went around the corner in the rain while jumping on the gas.  Not once did it even HINT at loss of traction or control.  The Scirocco did what every car is expected to do, and when pushed it say “HEY – stop that”.  I even managed to get under-steer out of the Scirocco-R in a wide u-turn on ramp onto the motorway (mind you I had to go around the cnr 5 times at ever increasing speeds to get it to happen!)

I did a further wee test today (being Monday 17th May) and drove my 2003 , 104KW rear wheel drive Toyota MR2 like I did the Scirocco-R in the rain.  Sure enuf the wheels spun as much.  So the whole comment about the wheels spinning is not so much that the Scirocco-R is sub-standard, but that the Golf-R is quite special here.

Outwardly the Scirocco-R looks more like a sports car (it is a sports hatch after all!), and the Golf-R quite like a modern hatch back, but styley.  Inside I have to say both have a polished, BUT, and here is the big BUT, I think the Scirocco isn’t quite, well, finished.  There are a few design elements that I could call quirky.  Almost like “oh, where will this go … lets pop it there”.  Small things, and others may not notice this, and I think unless I sat in the Golf-R to compare I may not have noticed.  Anyway, things like the hazard like button on the centre of the dash, it looks, well cheap.  The Golf-R uses a different button (weird!).  A better example if the seat belt and how it inserts/starts on the floor.  As its a 2 door/4 seater it doesn’t have the support of door frames, so uses a metal slider on the floor to allow the belt to move freely.  Some may say “oh, silver, classy”.  But I think “oh, what … ummm .. no”.  Yeah, I told you I would point out stuff no other reviewer would!

OK, now for something VERY VERY important: Since its very possible this car may be owned by a couple, and lets just say this couple is a man and a wife.  Lets say that one of them likes to go over the 100km speed limit every now and again, for the sake of things lets call this person the man. Anyway, on the Golf-R if the wife is in the passenger seat she can’t see the speedo in a normal seating position.  In the Scirocco-R its in plain view (all about how the instruments are blocked or not by the rest of the dash).  So the short version is, if you like to go fast, and the person sitting next to you doesn’t then the Scirocco-R means someone is gonna get a sore ear from all the whingeing “slow down!” (or a sore arm from the bashing!).  Oh, and just to be clear here, both have the same instruments, it’s just what can be seen that changes.  The speed is shown on both the dial, and also in the centre in digital form (in the image on the right the car is stationary, so the centre part is showing an open door image – but when it’s moving this shows the speed readout as digits, and this is what can be seen by the front passenger in the Scirocco-R).  Click on the image for a larger version.

Spare tyre: I don’t like this on EITHER car, but one is better than the other.   On the Golf-R it’s a space save (CHEAP Volkswagen – CHEAP!) and on the Scirocco-R its not even a tyre, its a foam blow up kit thingie.  Hmm, goes from bad to worse.  Anyway, I don’t really like ether.  When you spends $70,000K on a car I expect FIVE tyres.  Ok, rant over.

Other Stuff: Just so you know, the windows don’t open in back of Scirocco-R at all (and the boot only from a button on the remote, not from the boot itself).  Also visibility much less in the Scirocco, including front viability and also out the back.  This is true of many cars of this shape.  Oh, and something VERY German. The Golf-R has a beer bottle opener in the cup holder (it’s removable).  The Scirocco-R doesn’t (maybe they are supposed to drink wine, or maybe just drink from a can or something).  Cute touch.

Extras: Be VERY aware that what is standard and what is extra varies between countries.  So while the flat tyre indicator is standard in the UK on both models, in NZ its an extra.  Mind you, the stereo is upgraded in NZ.  However a more significant issue for some if that the Scirocco-R does NOT have ACC (Adaptive Chassis Control) as standard, but does in the UK, and this is $2,000.  Anyway, check the specs on any car you want to buy, and don’t assume anything!

3) The competition – how they stack up (and value)

Many reviewers compare the new VW R Series to similar performance 4WD cars like the Mitsubishi Evo-x or the Subaru-Impressa WRX. These review then go on to say that the others are hotter looking, but actually slightly worse performance.  They also go on about how the VW R-Series couple are more expensive, and that the Golf-R in particular is just (somewhat) boring to drive.  Well I think they are wrong, not about the comments, but what they are comparing the VW’s R Series cars too  I don’t think that the Evo-X or Impressa WRX are the competition.  If you want a fast 4WD car, yeah they are, but one doesn’t buy a Golf-R because of that.  One considers a Golf-R because its a European car, so has a good build, has an amazing gear box/clutch combo, it isn’t common, and as a bonus it goes like a rocket.  But that’s the BONUS, not the purpose.  If I wanted pure performance/look then go elsewhere and get something that looks like a boy racer’s car.

So who is the competition? Well to be honest, imagine you had $NZ 70,000 and can buy any car.  THAT’S the competition.  Yes I know that includes the two cars I excluded above, but for most if they are gonna SPEND 70K they would be looking at cars like a cheap Audi, or a entry-mid level BMW, maybe even a Lexus.  What I will say is that compared to the Japanese equivalent, the Golf/Scirocco are both quite under speced.  Not power and performance, but for things that are extras on the VW combo – reversing camera, leather interior, heated seats (OK, you do get that last bit in the Scirocco-R by default in the NZ model).   Even having to pay to get a cable to the USB ports works with an iPod – VERY standard in many cars around $50,000, but not in the VWs.  But when compared to  say the Audi in NZ, it’s about right. So what does that tell us?  We are getting ripped off – coz both are WAY to expensive in NZ!   I have blogged about this before, but basically in NZ the too many times are WAY more expensive than they are overseas.  And the whole “economy of scale” thing.  The short version is that just doesn’t cut it, not at the level we are talking about (a 20% loading in many cases).  And as it is the Golf-R in particular is rather pricey already, even overseas.

Update 1 (24 May 2010): The Bluetooth kit ($NZ 750 – which is VERY pricey IMHO) is GSM only!  This means it won’t work on Telecom’s XT network, and will also not probably work when Vodafone rolls out their next generation network (whenever that might be).  It also reads nos in from the sim card – rather limiting since if you have an advanced phone like an iPhone, Blackberry etc you store numbers in the phone, not sim.  Anyway, means an aftermarket kit would need to be fitted, you have be warned!

Update 2 (Nov 2010): The issue with Bluetooth has been fixed – it now works with all NZ carriers.  However the issue of price isn’t – its not $999 RRP.    I think this should be a standard feature on a $70K+ car.

Conclusion

In short, both are great cars.  The Golf-R gives an AWESOME drive and feel, although many may like the way the Scirocco-R feels more like a standard car (and I gues if you wanna treat it like one it will act like it too!).

Both are pricey, so in terms of value for money, they rate less highly.  The Golf-R also has a more polished finish (in my opinion), but that could just be me, and I have to admit thinking I would actually prefer the Scirocco-R when I started, so it wasn’t pre-bias that lead me here, it was the experience with the car.

Summary Table (all results out of 5)

Scirocco-R Golf-R
Build Quality 4 4.5
Performance 4.5 4.5
Drive / feel 4 5
Features* 3.5 3.5
Value for Money 3 3
Will I buy one? Probably not** Probably

* For cars of this type

** Only coz I am buying the Golf-R instead!

Black and White Version: Scirocco-R and Golf-R are both great cars, but pricey.  Value for money they are average, but the Golf-R is one hell of a car (in a good way), and the Scirocco-R a nice 2 door sports hatch.

Update 3 November 2010: I have ordered one (in July).  Golf-R, Blue, 19″ Mags, Reserving Camera, Bluetooth kit, winter package and iPod connector (all extras).   Was due to be here mid Nov, but now delayed till late Jan 2011.  Will update more when I get it with some full driving reviews.  (Update Feb 2011: Now complete, full Golf-R review here)

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