By Stuart Schwartzapfel
At the upcoming Paris Motor Show (opening Sept. 30), Volkswagen will offer attendees a preview of the 2008/2009 Scirocco coupe. Dubbed the IROC (as in, "sc-IROC-co"), the concept represents the first look at the reincarnated coupe since VW officially announced Setubal, Portugal, as the production site of a new Scirocco model back in June.
Named after the North African desert wind, the Scirocco is the sporty little hatchback that VW sold between 1974 and 1992 (1975-1988 in the States). Built to replace the Karmann-Ghia, the Scirocco was originally designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (of Italdesign) and rode the same A1 chassis as the Golf/Jetta. It was conceived as a performer -- a fun-to-drive, water-cooled model with front-wheel drive and great road manners, thanks to its independent front suspension.
UPDATED DESIGN.The IROC concept is the original Scirocco with a modern twist. The sharp edges of the original have been rounded, but many of the key design principals remain, including the low roof line, wide stance, short overhangs, and a steeply raked windshield. The concept also integrates styling elements from the low-slung VW Eco-Racer concept and Concept A, and there's an obvious likeness to the latest-generation Golf (aka Rabbit).
The Character line that runs from the rear flank to the A-Pillar is certainly attractive, but seems to mimic BMW Design Chief Chris Bangle and his flame surfacing design style. (Look to the Z4 Roadster or newest 3-Series sedan for examples.) The mean-looking dual exhaust fitted into the rear valence is also a very cool touch. To put the vehicle size into perspective, expect the new Scirocco to be only slightly longer than the current Golf.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT? Built on the Golf platform, the Scirocco will go into production in early 2008 with the 2009 model year hitting Europe's car lots first and North America's by the first of the year. A range of motors and transmissions will be available with a top-of-the-line model fitted with all-wheel drive, a 3.6-liter V6, and 280 HP. Production estimates are speculative at this point, but talk of Scirocco as an image booster rather than volume seller seems to be most realistic.
The Verdict: VW's marketing department could have done more homework on the name -- IROC is usually associated with the Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z— but the concept hints at an exciting rebirth for Scirocco. The deal breaker will be whether or not VW can keep the pricing at GTI levels. If the base price comes too close to $30K, buyers will question why the badge doesn't read Audi.
Schwartzapfel, a certified car freak, writes BusinessWeek.com's Concept of the Week column. He has studied the automotive marketplace and worked as an advertising/marketing strategist for major manufacturers. He does not write about any car brands for which he currently works.