Gone but not Forgotten
Hands up if you remember the VW Corrado? You could be forgiven if you kept your hand down since when you hear ‘sporty Volkswagen’, you instantly think Golf GTi, the King of the Hot Hatches. You may also have considered in passing the Scirocco but the Corrado, as fleeting as it was in our consciousness, is a cult classic that we genuinely miss.
History of the VW Corrado
The Corrado was based on the floorplan of the Mk2 Golf and Jetta and used most of the common parts (suspension, steering, subframes and brakes) and was built at the famous Karmann factory in Osnabrück, responsible for the magnificent Karmann Ghia. Even though it started out with the 136bhp 1.8-litre 16v DOHC inline-four from the Golf GTi, the 2.9-litre VR6 version is the one the real enthusiasts hark on about. Car magazine described the VR6 as ‘one of the 25 cars you must drive before you die’ and Auto Express called it ‘one of VW’s best ever driver’s cars’.
Built between 1988 and 1995, the original 1.8-litre Corrado – derived from the Spanish verb ‘correr’ which means to run or sprint – had a top speed of 132mph with a 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds and the first iteration of the car was also offered as a supercharged 140mph G60 model banging out 160bhp hitting 60 in 7.3 seconds. The VR6, the model that has become a real future classic had a 187bhp, 2.9-litre engine with a top end of 143mph and a fast-by-today’s-standards 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds.
The Corrado was originally conceived – unlikely as it sounds– as a possible successor or even a competitor to the Porsche 944, although it’s likely that this was just lazy journalism on a slow news day. It was never going to compete at that level but the forward-thinking styling (the VR6 was described as a ‘chunky coupe’ and a ‘capable muscle car’) coupled with the fact that it was a serious driver’s car that could seat four and had a boot just big enough for proper family use was a brave departure from the zillion-selling Golf GTi.
In an article written in 1993, motoring journalist John Fordham said ‘the Corrado VR6 is not simply a piece of exotica made by an otherwise sober manufacturer, but a safe and practical performance car – once you accept that it’s a true sports car coupe and not a sleek facsimile’ but it’s possible (or even ironic) that this was the car’s fundamental downfall. It was a jack of all trades that excelled in some areas – magnificent engines, superb handling capability, world-class engineering – but was found wanting in others – instrumentation and interior quality weren’t great, it was purposely over-quirky, mpg wasn’t brilliant and the running costs were similar to models higher up the motoring ladder like the BMW 3-Series, the Lancia Delta Integrale and the Porsche 968.
The Corrado wasn’t made in massive numbers (VW made a shade under 100,000 cars) and they introduced a series of additional engine specs including a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre 16v inline-four for Europe and a 2.8-litre 12 valve VR6 version for the North Americans. They also gave us a limited-production model (500) in 1995 called the Corrado Storm with classic BBS alloys and heated leather front seats.
Somewhat unfairly perhaps, the VW Corrado slipped into the same category as the Ford Probe and the Vauxhall Calibra, but while these two lemons are long forgotten the Corrado remains a late 80s/early 90s coupe that was cool and is still cool. It was a car – especially the VR6 – that was bought and driven by actual drivers rather than yuppie show-offs who preferred the M3 or the Porsche 944 simply because of the badge on the front.