Why you’d want a Volkswagen Corrado
Widely lauded as one of VW’s best driver’s cars for its handling and driving position, the Corrado is well on the way to classic status, aided by the exclusivity of a relatively high price when it was new, thanks to its specialist construction by Karmann.
Spec is important, though: there’s a big difference between the 11.5 secs 0-60mph time of a 2.0 8v auto and the 6.4 secs of a manual VR6, so decide which model will meet your needs best before you start hunting.
For many, there’s no substitute for the beefy V6 – though there’s also a strong following for the model pictured here, the supercharged G60 that preceded the VR6 and comes with a distinctive (if subdued) supercharger whine as standard.
The VR6 was a neat way to fit six cylinders into the length of a four-pot engine, without excessive width: the vee was just 15º and a single cylinder head could be used.
VW tweaked the suspension settings and fitted wider, lower-profile tyres for the heavier engine.
It was extremely effective: Autocar in 1992 declared it the fastest front-drive production car it had yet seen, with even better handling than the already exceptional four-cylinder Corrados.
With huge mid-range punch and effective traction control, it demolished most opposition on the road.
Presciently, Autocar declared it a modern classic at launch, even venturing: ‘If in 20 years’ time, it appeared on the cover of some classic car magazine with a headline saying “One of the all-time greats”, we wouldn’t be surprised.’
Designed by Herbert Schäfer, the Corrado did not immediately replace the Scirocco but supplemented it at first.
Built on the VW Group A2 platform initially, it was upgraded to the A3’s suspension set-up for the VR6 that, with its wider front track, got new, more macho front wings and bumper to match.
Flush-mounted windows added to the sleek looks and an active rear spoiler, rising at 100kph then dropping below 25kph (also manually controllable), gave an element of mini-supercar sophistication.
Some parts are beginning to get tricky to find and neglected cars can be rusty, despite being galvanised. Many have been modified and thrashed, too.
There are still cared-for cars out there, so try to find one – and be prepared to address common issues such as sunroof guides or the dash-out heater matrix replacement.
Images: James Mann
Volkswagen Corrado: what to look for
See above for what to check when looking at Volkswagen Corrados for sale.
Engine and supercharger
Volkswagen is famous for the durability of its engines and the Corrado’s four- and six-cylinder units are no exception.
Look after them, with regular servicing and cambelt or timing chain replacements, and they should go on to very high mileages. Performance tuning will shorten the lifespan if it’s driven to the limit.
Low boost, a smoky exhaust or oil in the intercooler pipe can indicate worn supercharger seals. A rebuild is at least £350, so check if it’s been done.
Worn seat bolsters are common; leather lasts best.
Check the doorhandles work, and watch for a damaged rear parcel shelf or a sagging headlining.
The Corrado is all about the driving experience: its combination of ride comfort, nimble handling and impressive performance left road testers in awe in its day.
It’s important to keep dampers and bushes in good order to maintain that, and not to be tempted to modify it too much otherwise the finesse may be lost.
Spoiler and sunroof
A dashboard switch gives a manual override on the electric lifting spoiler, but it’s a common fail point so check it rises automatically on the road.
Volkswagen Corrado: on the road
The supercharged G60 is thirstier and more highly strung than the VR6.
Power is often wound up to 100bhp above standard, but be wary of highly tuned cars that will inevitably have a shorter engine life than standard. Budget for a supercharger rebuild if it hasn’t been done.
The 1.8 16v and 2.0 8v have enough power to be fun with excellent reliability, while the 2.0 16v has more top-end go.
The VR6 (check for an ABV engine code, some get swapped with 2.8 Golf units) has a superb spread of power and can also be tuned way above standard output, at the expense of durability.
In factory form it should do well over 200,000 miles without problems, given basic maintenance.
Four-cylinder timing belts should be changed every 60,000 miles or six years; valve-guide wear shows up as blue smoke.
The VR6 timing chain, guides and tensioner are best changed at 100,000 – or earlier if servicing has been neglected or noises can be heard.
As a rule of thumb, if there’s more space between the top of the tyre and the wheelarch than around the back and front, then the ride height is standard – most Corrados have been lowered. This certainly improves the looks and, if it’s done properly, shouldn’t ruin the ride and handling (though it often does).
The standard brakes should be excellent, though rear calipers can seize and ABS warning lights are a common MoT failure.
Soggy dampers may not cause a car to fail the MoT but will ruin the driving experience, and play in the steering can indicate a worn rack.
Volkswagen Corrado price guide
- 1.8 & 2.0 8v £2000/4500/7500
- 2.0 16v £2250/5500/10,000
- G60 £2500/8000/15,000
- VR6 £3000/10,000/21,000
- Storm £4000/14,000/24,000
Volkswagen Corrado history
1988 Corrado launched with 1.8 16v engine (134bhp, 119lb ft, 9.1 secs 0-60mph) or 8v supercharged G60 (160bhp, 165lb ft, 8.5 secs 0-60mph, UK sales in LHD only)
1990 Oct G60 available in right-hand drive
1992 Feb Facelift (four-slat grille replaces seven-slat, humped bonnet, new wheels), 2.0 16v engine (134bhp, 133lb ft), auto option
1992 Jul 188bhp 2.9-litre VR6 (176bhp 2.8 in North America) replaces G60 (UK RHD from Aug)
1994 Apr 2.0 8v added (113bhp, 122lb ft, 10.6/11.5 secs 0-60mph, Europe only)
1995 Limited-edition Storm for UK only – 500 built – before Corrado production ends (but sales continue into 1996)
The owner’s view
“I always wanted one when I was younger,” explains Laurence Pritchard. “I had an M100 Lotus Elan, but I sold that and six years ago I bought this G60.
“It had a bit of damage so I had it fully resprayed – it’s lasted well except for a bit of bubbling on the bonnet, which I’m getting sorted soon.
“I’ve changed the supercharger, replaced the heater matrix and had the sunroof runners rebuilt – but it’s done 170,000 miles so I have no complaints!
“It has a small-diameter supercharger pulley for more oomph, and I had a stainless exhaust made by a local fabricator because originals are unobtainable.
“It’s a good all-rounder: it’ll still do day trips with the kids, it’s great to drive and looks cool. I like my cars to be different and it’s the complete package. I’ve Dinitrolled it and have no plans to get rid of it – my son would kill me!”
The base 8v 2-litre and 2.5 V6 are robust, but the 16v blows gaskets and 4x4 turbos are costly to run. Aerodynamic and stylish, but lacks the VW’shandling prowess. Beware rust and water ingress.
Sold 1989-’99 • No. built 239,118 • Price now £2-14,000*
BMW 3 SERIES (E36)
Sold in the UK initially as the 318is, 320i and 325i, later from four-cylinder 316 to straight-six M3, the rear-drive E36 coupé was highly capable but still outperformed by the VR6 in 325i form.
Sold 1990-’99 • No. built 487,249 • Price now £1-20,000*
*Prices correct at date of original publication
Volkswagen Corrado: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
As with any modern classic, there’s a lot more that can go wrong than you’ll find on a Morris Minor.
It’s more difficult to fix, too, and parts, if unavailable, can’t be made at home. So it’s more important than ever to hunt out a good example that’s been garaged and pampered.
Look after it and it should prove to be bombproof, brilliant fun to drive and very practical to own.
- Great looks and a superb drive
- Most running gear is shared across the vast VW empire, so there’s good used parts supply with fair prices
- There is plenty to go wrong
- Parts that aren’t common to other models are becoming scarce and expensive
Volkswagen Corrado specifications
- Sold/number built 1988-’95/97,521
- Construction steel monocoque
- Engine iron-block, alloy-head, dohc 1781cc 16v ‘four’,or all-alloy 1984cc, or 8v sohc 1781cc with intercooled supercharger, or ohc-per-bank 2781/2861cc V6, electronic injection
- Max power 113bhp @ 5400rpm-190bhp @ 5800rpm
- Max torque 119lb ft @ 4800rpm-181lb ft @ 4200rpm
- Transmission five-speed manual or four-speed auto, FWD
- Suspension: front MacPherson struts rear trailing arms, torsion beam, coil springs, telescopic dampers; anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering power-assisted rack and pinion
- Brakes vented front, solid rear discs, with servo and anti-lock (except 16v to ’92)
- Length 13ft 3in (4048mm)
- Width 5ft 6in-11in (1674-1796mm)
- Height 4ft 3½in-4in (1310-1318mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft 1½in (2470mm)
- Weight 2398-2728lb (1090-1240kg)
- 0-60mph 11.5-6.4 secs
- Top speed 122-145mph
- Mpg 22-35
- Price new £17,193/19,895 (16v/VR6, 1992)