January 7, 2013 5:28 PM |
Posted By: Stephen Dobie
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Random car stuff
Would you buy a diesel performance car? It’s a genre that’s growing by the month, with turbodiesels even powering cars with BMW M and Audi S badges nowadays.
Being honest, I’ve never championed diesel cars. Unless you cover monster miles every year, many are a false economy. And I’ve driven none that are as fun, involving or emotional as their petrol-powered equivalents.
There’s one diesel car that has impressed me in recent years, though: the Volkswagen Scirocco BlueMotion. The VW group makes some of the best small diesel engines out there, and the Scirocco’s sharp looks and polished dynamics are a great home for one capable of a real-world 50mpg.
Still, taking a car home for the night and covering less than 100 miles might be enough to conjure up some Twitter-length opinions or over-exposed Instagram snaps (if you follow me on either medium, you’ll know I over-use both) but it’s not enough to really suss something out. And so I twisted VW’s arm into giving me a diesel ‘Rocco for the Christmas break…
…cue obligatory ‘boot full of presents’ shot
My 138bhp BlueMotion R-line may have been specced to bursting point (check out its Scirocco R-inspired bodykit and sizeable 19in alloys) but it was a relevant car to borrow: in 2012 VW sold nearly 5200 Sciroccos in the UK, and out of the 11 possible engine and gearbox combinations, a staggering 46 per cent of them were six-speed manual BlueMotions like this (with diesels accounting for nearly three quarters of sales overall). The next most popular model, the entry-level 120bhp petrol TSI, accounted for a much titchier 12 per cent slice.
This Scirocco isn’t a full-strength BlueMotion model, so forgoes low-rolling-resistance tyres and any aero tweaks, but its 2-litre TDI engine is helped to a claimed 62.8mpg by stop/start and energy recuperation under braking. I didn’t get close to that figure, but an indicated 49.9mpg still hugely impressed: my 1019 miles were a mix of urban driving, ‘typical’ motorway cruising speeds and the odd cross-country blat, while at least half of them were with several passengers or a boot filled with festive paraphernalia.
Not too much standing around in the cold necessary
But is it a performance car? Well, it surrenders to understeer far earlier than if a lighter 2-litre TSI petrol sat up front and the exceedingly narrow band of maximum torque (236lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm) will curb your enthusiasm somewhat. Like all Sciroccos, though, it possesses slick, precise controls and is a satisfying car to hustle along an interesting road. Put some thought into your gears (the involving upside of spurning DSG) and it’s easy enough to stay near its peak power and make respectably quick progress.
This well-trimmed R-line model costs £26,485. An equivalent 2-litre TSI petrol is nearly a grand pricier and, over 12,000 miles, will use nearly £600 more in fuel. And away from undulating B-roads, the diesel will barely be any less fun to drive.
But… as accomplished, frugal and all-round talented my Christmas chariot was, I fear I’m too much of a car enthusiast to be able to own one as my only car. I’d need something sportier and – crucially – petrol-powered to satisfy my need for a truly thrilling drive or trackday every now and then.
Scour the price lists and a similarly stylish Renaultsport Megane starts at £24k and is 123bhp more powerful, not to mention more dynamically able. The saving made against the Scirocco’s steeper RRP would pay for a couple of years of extra fuel and higher tax bills. Hugely likeable the Scirocco may have been, but unless my annual mileage was sky-high, I couldn’t ignore that comparison.
It poses some interesting questions, though. Would you drive a diesel performance car? And perhaps more debatably, can you call something TDI-powered a performance car?
Sunrise and fuel pics: Adam Shorrock/Action pic: Otis Clay