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Oettinger Volkswagen Scirocco - Return To The Wild

New Meets Old

Nick Hall
Apr 2, 2010 SHARE

VW might just be getting out of control. Not content with world domination in terms of sales, it seems to be abusing its power. How the hell can it make a stunning car like the Scirocco and then tell the U.S. en masse we'll never get it? Especially when the likes of Oettinger can turn it into this front-drive supercar.

Epcp_1005_02_o+oettinger_volkswagen_scirocco+engine Photo 2/11   |   Oettinger Volkswagen Scirocco - Return To The Wild

I wasn't even born when the original hit the shelves in 1974, the time of swinging bell bottoms and sexual boundaries, but while the clothes have gone, come again and hopefully now gone forever, the Scirocco remained throughout an ice-cool car and the name retained such power that VW brought it back with a huge fanfare through the IROC concept that morphed into the new Scirocco in 2008.

Once again this is the Golf that gets you laid. Even in R trim it is a good-looking coupe with a turn of speed rather than a real force to be reckoned with. But that's what tuners are for and Oettinger's simple addition of a new turbo, intercooler, and software remap it perfected on the Golf has resulted in a 300-hp front-driver that once again lets the Scirocco punch well above its weight.

Small cars have gotten steadily bigger and more expensive. The Scirocco is the smart executive's car now, rather than the rebellious teenager's, and it wouldn't be caught dead sharing a bong at a music festival. I could kind of see that happening with the bottle green MkII we bought along for the ride.

Epcp_1005_03_o+oettinger_volkswagen_scirocco+taillight Photo 3/11   |   Oettinger Volkswagen Scirocco - Return To The Wild

It's not as cool as the MkI, but at least it shows how far the Scirocco has come. Just look at the older car and you're conjured back to a blocky, square, straight-edged world of Pacman, Casio digital watches, and Brat Pack films. Duran Duran and glam rock topped the charts and long hair and neon seemed reasonable attire for both sexes.

There are some lasting travesties of the '80s. But even with its '80s angles and straight edges, though, the Karmann-produced Scirocco still looks well proportioned and more than a touch stronger than it really is. Inside, it's a mass of square plastic instrument panels and tartan seats that betray its age, and with a turn of the flat key the rasping, coarse, 140-hp powerplant rattles the single-pipe exhaust.

The pedals feel loose and there's an inch or two of dead play in the throttle before the cable takes the strain. Around town it's tough, the steering is heavy, and it doesn't feel quite as sporting as its image suggests. Chasing after the car in front takes a changedown, screaming revs and ramming the loud pedal through the bulkhead.

The brakes, meanwhile, are wooden, unhelpful, and a reminder of how far technology has come. But despite all of this, it's fun, and it takes me back to my teenage years thrashing the guts out of random cheap econobox hatches.

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Crash protection, sound insulation and refinement weren't so big in the '80s. The older Scirocco weighs 2,160 pounds, 700 less than the modern car, so you can throw it into bends and feel for the grip transmitted through the skinny tires. It's a return to actual driving.

If it's a car, not a tank, it shouldn't need massive power, and this intimacy, this closeness to the road, just can't happen in today's cars outside of the Caterham class. Old VWs have a massive following for a reason and though the car isn't fast by any credible yardstick, it puts a smile on your face. And it's only the starter; the ice white main course is waiting and warm.

First you just have to drink in the new Scirocco's smooth curves, aided and abetted by Oettinger's stylists. This is modern-day car porn, a stunning basic shape that screams feelgood factor and sporting intent, as well as looking just a little like a Stormtrooper's helmet. It's Gran Turismo 5 next to the MkII's Outrun.

It's a tight, compact shape, yet muscular, and the Oettinger skirts, front and rear lips, together with the 19-inch matte black wheels, add just a finishing touch of muscular definition.

Inside, it's the VW Group at its best: demure, stylish, yet racey. That flat-bottomed wheel sits perfectly in the hands and there's enough color on the screen and dials, as well as the lacquered vent surrounds, to stave off the accusations that it's dull.

Epcp_1005_06_o+oettinger_volkswagen_scirocco+rear Photo 8/11   |   Oettinger Volkswagen Scirocco - Return To The Wild

The level of equipment onboard makes even '80s science fiction look horribly dated, so Oettinger hasn't bothered with bling. This car is all about the driving experience and a four-cylinder, two-liter turbo engine with 300 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque coursing through the wrong wheels.

This engine is absolutely immense. There was even talk of a 350-hp variant, but common sense prevailed in the end. There's no limited-slip diff here; Oettinger wanted to show what you can do without that expensive addition to the arsenal, but that creates a certain type of drive as this car has almost 50 percent more power than VW planned.

Just floor the throttle and it'll light up the fronts and tug from side to side before finding grip and bolting down the road. Get it right and the Scirocco breaks through the 60-mph mark in 5.6 seconds, 1.6 faster than the standard machine, and it will keep going all the way to 168 mph.

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This is a car that will seriously take the fight to supposedly more grown-up sports cars and it's a laugh riot to drive wrong and a real challenge to drive right. Under the hood, it was the usual story of a much larger turbo, and Oettinger can also fit a ram-air system to squeeze a few more horses at the top end. They upgrade the intercooler, too, and fit new intakes and their own exhaust with four exit pipes.

Kept well away from its limits it's also an easy ride, with the manual 'box and a typically light VW clutch making this the perfect town cruiser. It's harder than the Golf, and more sporting; it's that much better looking and more fun. It's almost inconceivable that the Golf outsells its sporting brother, in face.

And then we get to the deserted stretch of country B-road that we can really attack and the dual personality of this modern car shines through in an instant. The Scirocco always had fire burning in its soul and now Oettinger has thrown petrol on it.

Epcp_1005_08_o+oettinger_volkswagen_scirocco+interior Photo 10/11   |   Oettinger Volkswagen Scirocco - Return To The Wild

It takes self control, measured throttle inputs and an economic style with the wheel to stop the steering and drive fighting with each other and pulling the car off-line. But driven with a hint of mechanical sympathy, the Scirocco hangs on admirably to the corner. It takes thought and technique to get the best from this kind of car, so although it's not rear-drive, this is now every bit the junior sports car.

The German firm dropped the chassis 20mm, so it digs into corners hard and fast. The base Scirocco already sits low to the ground, so this is a serious setup that rattles off big bumps, but pays for itself again and again in each and every bend.

The original Scirocco was one of the great affordable small coupes. It was a wildchild. And though the new car comes with a veneer of respectability, tuners like Oettinger can punch a hole through that veneer with disarming ease. Now VW just needs to stop it abusing its power, so that we can start.

Oettinger Scirocco

Layout
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

Epcp_1005_09_o+oettinger_volkswagen_scirocco+passenger_side Photo 11/11   |   Oettinger Volkswagen Scirocco - Return To The Wild

Engine
2.0-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve. Oettinger turbocharger and exhaust manifold, intercooler, ECU remap

Transmission
Six-speed manual

Suspension
Oettinger lowering springs

Wheels & Tires
Oettinger alloys, 8.5x19, 255/35

Exterior
Front and rear lips, side skirts

Performance
Peak Power: 300 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.6 sec.
Top Speed: 168 mph (est.)

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By Nick Hall
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