1992 Volkswagen Corrado VR6

1992 Volkswagen Corrado VR6

By the late Eighties, performance-car magazines regularly persisted with rumours that Porsche was collaborating with VW with the intention of building a front-wheel-drive coupé. In reality, covert photographers had snapped the Herbert Schäfer-penned VW Corrado on test. It didn’t actually contain any Porsche parts, but it did mark a corporate sea-change. Given VW’s engineering origins there had always been moments of co-operation between the two companies, and as the Audi-engined Porsche 924 was dropped from Porsche showrooms in 1985, a gap opened up for a sub-Porsche über-VW coupé, something more sparkling than the dated Scirocco. Something a generation of yuppies weaned on Golf GTIs might move up to instead of the ubiquitous BMW E30 3 Series.

As I slide across the leather driver’s seat beneath the low roof of this Corrado VR6, the first thing my eyes clock is the Karmann plaque, larger than any VW badges, next to the gear lever. The next thing is the jutting dashboard strongly reminiscent of a contemporary BMW 6 Series. Karmann built those too. Then my nose registers the reek of high-quality leather. These are the kind of glamorous cues Karmann played up on the Ghia 30 years earlier, updated for an age of wine bars and squash clubs.

Initially the Corrado was essentially a luxury coupé based on the Golf GTI MkII, available with the supercharged engine from VW’s ill-fated Lancia Delta Integrale rival, the G60. Road testers raved about it – performance was on a par with an Audi Quattro or Porsche 944. But in 1992, this VR6 supplemented it, and everyone forgot about the troublesome, fragile G60. The chain-driven, unfussy 190bhp V-Reihenmotor – essentially a V6 of just 15 degrees, combining the Vs rev-happiness with straight-six smoothness in a unit almost as compact as a transverse four – offered 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds and 137mph for less than the £17,000 a BMW 325i cost. In other words, Lotus Esprit performance in something that would still accommodate four plus luggage and return 30mpg.

Turn the key and the VR6 is strangely undramatic and muted. Get it underway though and its breeding shines through as soon as you find a bend. Unlike its four-cylinder brethren, the VR6 had a bespoke chassis which combined the compact rear subframes and suspension of the Golf GTI MkII with a wider front track from the then-new MkIII. The result is a combination of pouncing cornering stance, incredible front-end grip telegraphed through Porsche-talkative steering, yet combined with the nimble body control of a lightweight Eighties hot-hatch at the rear rather than its somewhat leaden Nineties follow-up.

It's a confidence-inspiring setup that encourages me to push its limits harder. Beyond 2500rpm, the VR6 engine wakes up, suddenly taking on the voice of a Lamborghini V12 heard a few rooms away. It’s a searing howl accompanied by a smooth surge of power, aided by one of the slickest gearboxes I’ve ever encountered on a fwd transverse setup. It’s not quite supercar urge, but there’s a strong sense that the car will never lose its composure at the kind of speeds you’d dare attempt on public roads. This results in point-to-point abilities that bear comparison with the likes of the Lancia Delta Integrale and Audi Quattro. And that weak link in the old GTI chain – the brakes – is gone, replaced by stopping power of eyeball-lengthening effectiveness.

And it’s still incredibly good value today. Although the best make £10k-£15k, you can still find well-used VR6s for £4k, bearing in mind that the engine is good for 200,000 miles between rebuilds. Karmann employed some of the best galvanisation in the business for the VR6 – though not for lesser Corrados – so rust tends to either be a sign of accident damage, or minor nibbles on sills, wheelarches and boot lips. Keep an eye on the subframes though. When you consider that an Integrale or Quattro will demand at least £25k for an average example, the Corrado is a bargain; a 944 is cheaper nowadays but still generates Porsche-sized bills. The model also significant to VW – its success gave the firm confidence to push upmarket and try out more unusual engine configurations. Would bizarre creations like the Golf VR5 and TSi, Toureg V10 and, ultimately, the Phaeton, exist if it wasn’t for the Corrado VR6?

Owning a Corrado VR6

‘I love the sound they make!’ says Mark Roberson of his Corrado VR6. ‘I’m a Golf MkII fanatic, and was at a VW club meet when a couple of Corrados showed up. A week later, I bought this – that was 10 years ago. It’s so fast you could lose your licence very quickly in it! ‘I haven’t had any issues in a decade of ownership, but a lot of this is down to history. It had one lady owner before me who looked after it very well, and there has been no corrosion on it anywhere. I had to change the cam chain at 104,000 miles but that’s it. However, I know of owners of modified cars owned by boy-racers who have had no end of problems with them, damaged suspension, rust from crash damage, missing rare parts etc. The G60s are very tricky to look after too – they need specialist maintenance – whereas the VR6 is much easier to live with.’

TECHNICAL DATA 1992 Volkswagen Corrado VR6

  • Engine 2861cc transverse V6, sohc per bank, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection
  • Max Power 190bhp @ 5800rpm
  • Max Torque 180lb ft @ 4200rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Steering Power-assisted rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front: independent, MacPherson struts, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: independent, trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Brakes Discs front and rear, antilock system, servo-assisted
  • Performance Top speed: 137mph
  • Acceleration 0-60mph: 6.8sec
  • Weight 1315kg
  • Fuel consumption 29mpg
  • Cost new £16,255
  • Classic Cars Price Guide £4000-£16,000

1992 Volkswagen Corrado VR6

VR6 more reliable than boosted G60. High-quality interior similar to BMW 6 Series E24. Corrado filled gap vacated by Porsche 924.

‘The VR6 takes on the voice of a Lamborghini V12 heard a few rooms away’
Article type:
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
Drives TODAY use cookie