Today, brands like Lamborghini and Bugatti help Volkswagen experiment on high-performance technology and engineering. However, the German automaker has a history of doing so all on its own, though not always successfully. The XL1, for example, was an attempt to make a 235+ mpg car. The Phaeton was arguably a preview of the first Bentley Continental GT. And then there’s VW’s attempt to take on Porsche: the Volkswagen Corrado.
The Volkswagen Corrado is way more than a re-bodied Mk2 GTI
In the mid-to-late 1980s, Volkswagen didn’t offer much in the way of performance cars, Motor Trend reports. There was the Mk2 GTI, the angular Scirocco—which was a Mk2 Golf underneath, Hagerty reports—and that’s about it. And to make matters worse, not only did Porsche have the entry-level 944, but the Scirocco was on its way out.
So, in a bid to create a ‘halo car’ and replace the Scirocco, Volkswagen released the 1988 Corrado. Designed to be “’ a kind of new Karmann Ghia, only with more power,’” Automobile reports, the Corrado also has a few Mk2 Golf underpinnings. However, while it was Volkswagen’s first coupe, it’s not exactly just another GTI, Hemmings explains.
When it debuted in the US in 1990, the Volkswagen Corrado offered two 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines: one naturally-aspirated, and one supercharged. The supercharged G60 model’s engine makes 158 hp and 156 lb-ft, sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual. While the 944 is more powerful, the Corrado G60 has a better drag coefficient. And it has a better 0-60 mph time than the 944, Hagerty reports.
The Volkswagen Corrado was an important car for the brand
However, a supercharged engine isn’t the only thing the Volkswagen Corrado offers.
It has 4-wheel disc brakes with optional ABS, Hagerty reports. You can roll up the power windows from the outside when the car’s stopped. Later models offered BBS wheels and electronic traction control, Hemmings reports.
But one of the Corrado’s most innovative features is its active rear spoiler, which automatically deploys above 45 mph. The Corrado is widely-considered the first production car to offer the feature, which is commonly found in performance cars today, Automobile reports.
But the active rear wing isn’t the Volkswagen Corrado’s only claim to fame. In 1992, VW replaced the G60 engine with a 178-hp 2.8-liter V6. As a result, its 0-60 mph time dropped from 7.5 to 6.5 seconds.
But this isn’t an ordinary V6. It’s the first VR6, VW’s now-iconic narrow-angle V6, Road & Track explains. It’s the same engine found in the Golf R32 and Beetle RSI. Plus, it’s the basis for the modern Bentley W12, R&T reports. In a very real sense, without the Corrado, many important Volkswagen technologies and features may not have been introduced.
Does the driving experience deliver on the Porsche promise?
The VR6-powered Volkswagen Corrado was good enough to snag an Automobile All-Star Award back in the day, Hemmings reports. And even today, it’s still a fun car to drive.
The steering is well-weighted, Evo reports, and remarkably sharp for its age. There is body roll, but it’s well-controlled, and the Corrado turns into corners surprisingly quickly, Jalopnik reports. The 5-speed transmission (a 4-speed automatic later became an option), though, is geared a little long; the throws are also fairly long. And weirdly, reverse is up and to the left of 1st. However, it serves the driver well on both back roads and long interstate drives. It helps that the ride and seats are fairly comfortable.
The Volkswagen Corrado isn’t quite a FWD Porsche, nor is it precisely a hot hatch. But it is an interesting and fun FWD sports car. Especially with the VR6 engine.
Buying and owning one today can be tricky
Unfortunately, several factors limited the Volkswagen Corrado’s appeal in the US. And at least one of those factors continues to be a problem today.
Firstly, while the supercharged G60 gave respectable contemporary acceleration, it’s also a famously unreliable engine. The supercharger in particular is notorious for grenading itself. And while it can be rebuilt to prevent this, it’s often cheaper just to swap in a VR6. As a result, many Corrado G60s are now VR6-powered.
Secondly, while the Corrado’s tech made it advanced, it also made it more expensive than the contemporary GTI. And today, it can be difficult to find Corrado-specific parts, though the fan community is fairly robust, Hagerty reports.
However, as a result of its rarity, its features, and its rad 80s design, Volkswagen Corrado values are starting to appreciate. A few years ago, it was possible to find one for under $10k, Bring a Trailer reports. And while some examples still sell for similar values, well-maintained low-mileage models can go for 2-3 times that, Hagerty and BaT report.
Looks like the Porsche wannabe managed to one-up the real thing.
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