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The Volkswagen Scirocco R is the coolest car we can’t get in the States

This week I’m in Napa driving some 2014 Volkswagens. Volkswagen, without anything really new to show off, flew a few of us down to drive its entire 2014 model year lineup. This included, as you might expect, the Jetta, the Passat, the Beetle, and the Touareg.

As I wandered through the lot full of silver, navy blue, and beige German eco sedans, something caught my eye tucked away in the back. As I got closer I realized VW had snuck in a very rare beast indeed: the 2013 Scirocco R.

While I came there to drive the U.S.-bound fleet, I was immediately attracted to the bright blue wedge of German pride, taken in by its streamlined bodylines and gaping front air intakes. I was determined to drive it.

This, the third-gen Scirocco was unveiled in 2008 and is based on the – now – old PQ35 platform shared with the current Beetle, the Eos, and the Mk5 Golf. This was a fine platform but certainly getting on in years. On the interior, the Scirocco has room for four passengers with a little room left in the backend for a bag or two. If you’ve never heard of this Scirocco R, don’t feel bad. We didn’t get it here in the States.

Remember, though. This isn’t the standard run of the mill Scirocco. No, this is the R. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine making 265 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The R is the most powerful Scirocco ever built.

Yes, saying the words “fastest Scirocco ever” is a fun, spine tingling concept, sure. But considering the last one went out of production in 1992, it’s not much of an achievement.

Then take into consideration other “R” models we’ve seen in the U.S. The first R32 – the intellectual predecessor to the current R models – was a kick. The second was less fun. And now the current Golf R is pretty darn disappointing. It has a good amount of horsepower at 256 but its permanent all-wheel drive system sucks a lot of power. The manual gearbox is loose and imprecise. And the suspension is squishy and uninspiring.

Even though I very much wanted to drive the Scirocco R, I – before even climbing behind the wheel – I felt the Scirocco R had the odds stacked against it. I was very, very wrong.

The Scirocco R fires up with a loud roar. Not loud enough to wake the neighbors but loud enough to get your heart pounding a little harder. Then you put the suspension in sport mode, drop the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission into Sport and take off. 60 mph is achieved in 5.5 seconds and 100 mph is reached in 14 seconds.

Straight on acceleration will push you back into your seat and let off only for a millisecond between shifts of the the seven-speed transmission as hits the next gear. Cornering, though, is where the Scirocco really shines. You can go into corners far, far faster than you’d ever feel comfortable in any other front-wheel drive competitor.

Under steer – the feeling you get in front-wheel drive cars when you turn the wheel, punch the gas, and the car still goes straight – is virtually non-existent on the Scirocco. How is this possible? Well, the Scirocco has been fitted with a locking front differential. So all those ponies get pushed to the road with great conviction. This allows you to immediately lose yourself in the growl of the engine, the feeling of the well-weighted steering, and the open road.

If the Scirocco R were to come to the U.S. it’d be priced around $38,000, which isn’t bad considering the car is more fun than most any car under $56,000. Don’t get too excited, though. We won’t get it. Back in 2006, Volkswagen decided the U.S. market wasn’t right for the Scirocco and therefore didn’t design it to meet U.S. safety standards. Even though VW would like to bring it Stateside now, it can’t.

The next-gen Scirocco, though, will be coming late next year based upon the mk7 Golf. And that one very well could be crossing the pond…

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