If the Golf G60 feels as though its chassis could handle more power, the Limited provides that power in the form of 210bhp from a supercharged 16V engine. Wisely, VW elected to pair it with their syncro 4WD system. While the standard G60 unit merely enhances the tractability of the eight-valve engine, the 16-valve version releases the full potential of the supercharger system. Acceleration is vivid, with 60mph coming up in 7.0 seconds. But what is impressive is that the power never seems to tail off until you hit the rev limiter just past 7,000rpm. Get to 100mph…smooth onward urge. 186lb/ft of torque at 5,000rpm is 3-litre pulling power and, with the drive going to all four wheels, once the fronts begin to slip under the strain of the torque, the handling balance of this car is beyond the capabilities of a normal front-wheel-drive GTI. Power-on in a tight corner and the Limited adopts a more neutral stance and full throttle can be applied early once the car is settled. In wet corners, power sliding out on opposite lock is possible, another fun element denied to the FWD Golf enthusiast. For all that, the Limited is a refined and mature vehicle that cossets its 120mph…and it is still pulling hard. Very low down, the engine still does not have the razor-edge response of a good naturally aspirated unit. Frustratingly – because it is so good past 2,500rpm – it does take a fraction of a second to ‘come to the boil’ and really get going. This is probably a function ofthe lower compression ratio (compared to a stock 16V) and/or insufficient gas speed at low rpm, a problem with many multi-valve engines.
Once it starts to build up, though, it is intoxicat-ing and you find yourself using the gears for the sheer exhilaration of feeling the strong and occupants in its leather upholstery and pampers them with luxuries like electric windows, central locking and a sunroof.
Only 70 Motorsport Golf Limited cars were made, lovingly constructed by VW Motorsport personnel during 1990, but this wolf in sheep’s clothing, looking just like any metallic black five-door Golf with a set of BBS wheels, is the ultimate hot-hatchback of its day just as surely as the original Golf GTI was. Advances in technology and in market conditions have created in this car a level of sophistication as telling today as that of the first GTI in 1975. Ironically, this Q-car shares one flaw with that original GTI: in its attempt to remain discreet in appearance, with just two headlamps, its night-driving capabilities are severely hampered.
Just as the Golf GTI spawned many imitators such as the Escort XR3i and the Peugeot 205 GTi , so the success of the Golf Cabriolet pushed rival manufacturers to make open versions of their hot hatches. While the Mk2 Golf has pursued refinement in its chassis and overall deportment, the Carbriolet retains the more raunchy and vibrant feel of the original GTI . Because of this, it remains a better open-air fun car than its direct rivals. The engine of the Cabriolet is smooth, sweet and torquey and, when you have the hood down, the powerful rasp of the exhaust note under hard acceleration adds to the sensation of open-air motoring.
With more weight in the rear, the Cabriolet has a different handling balance from the GTI . Its tuck-in is more pronounced if you lift off the throttle at high cornering speeds and the way to avoid an oversteering situation is to flick the steering wheel straight as you lift off. For an open car converted from a saloon, the VW Cabriolet has good structural rigidity. Scuttle shake is detectable but it is not worrying. Acceleration and top speed are down on the GTI because of the extra weight and the blunter shape, but open-air motoring is not about flat-out driving: it is about enjoying the sights and sounds around you in a car that is tactile, responsive and civilized. The Golf Cabriolet has these attributes in full measure.
While in essence the Corrado has the fioorpan and chassis from the Golf GTI Mk2, its rear axle design benefits from further technical progress made between the launch of Golf 2 in 1983 and the new Passat in 1987. The most significant feature is the passive rear-steer effect given by the special bushes that locate the trailing arms. The dynamic effect of rear wheel steering is better turn-in, better crossvvind stability and more stable cornering. The Golf 2 is already very good when driven on the limit. It is initially hard to believe that the Corrado is significantly better, but those flexible bushings work very well and help to reduce understeer in fast corners. The reduced slip angles enhance cornering power and the Corrado’s poise through corners sets new standards for front-wheel-drive hatchback cars.
The Corrado 16V is about 400lb heavier than the equivalent Golf GTI 16V. Thus you have to use the gears more to get up to speed, but superior aerodynamics mean that the car is quick once you have overcome inertia. The Euro-spec G60 offers performance more in line with the looks and chassis behaviour of the car, but with a penalty at the petrol pump as with any car that uses forced aspiration. The stiffer chassis creates even higher levels of handling and roadholding than the 16V, but the ride is firmer too. On smooth German roads this is fine, but on some broken British A-roads, the ride can become a little jittery.
In terms of build quality and refinement, the Corrado is superb. The car feels hewn from the solid. The driving position will be familiar to those who have owned Sciroccos or even a Porsche 924/944! The difference is that you can get two adults into the back seats of the Corrado and its ability to cruise happily at three-figure speeds makes it a real Grand Touring coupe.