Guest contributor: Steven Moy on his 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6
Who doesn’t love the Volkswagen Corrado? Certainly not the automotive press. Tiff Needell once said, “Handling-wise, the Corrado is classic front-wheel drive, and it’s really very, very good indeed,” while Richard Hammond praised it as “a kind of classic waiting in the wings”, “really rather special”, and “fantastic” (source). But don’t take an aging British motoring presenter’s word for it* — we invited Corrado owner Steven Moy to talk about his.
MCB: Why the Corrado?
SM: The Corrado’s relative rarity is its main selling point. Only about 2000 were made each year of its existence, which in the US was from 1990 to 1994 (and only from 1992 to 1994 for the VR6 model). But not only is it rare, there are also many things that make it unique, especially when compared to other cars of its era. For example, it has a motorized rear spoiler, it’s a compact car with a six-cylinder engine, it has a luxurious interior, and there is a unique camaraderie of its owners that make it a joy to own. I’ve made some lifelong friends who drive Corrados!
MCB: What are they like to own?
SM: I think it takes the right kind of person to own a Corrado. Owners should be mechanically inclined and willing to work on them. They aren’t complicated and they’re relatively easy to work on. I learned a lot about car repair from owning one! But that’s not to say it’s unreliable. Treat it well and it will treat you well. My point is that the Corrado is a car that just begs to be tinkered with. Own one and you will understand!
MCB: What are they like to drive?
SM: The best thing about the Corrado is that its VR6 motor has a wide power band with gobs of low-end torque (not to mention a spine-tingling sound —Ed.). Power feels direct and instantaneous. That’s why they are such great street cars. Its small size makes it easy to maneuver and navigate through traffic. You sit low in it like a sports car. Finally, you’ll never get tired of watching the rear spoiler go up once you hit 45 mph!
MCB: What makes you love them?
SM: There are three major reasons why I love them. First, I love cars that aren’t common, which you’ll see from some of the other cars that I have owned. My belief is that rare, limited production cars get special attention from their manufacturers, and the Corrado got special attention from VW. Some shared parts/components with other VWs notwithstanding, I can feel the extra care VW put into the Corrado whenever I’m in the driver’s seat!
Second, the Corrado is a small car with a big engine. If it didn’t come with a VR6 motor, I probably wouldn’t be such a big fan. I grew up in Long Island, NY where the most popular cars were muscle cars. I like muscle cars myself because of their big engines. But muscle cars are also big and I like smaller cars. So that led me to the VR6 Corrado. The VR6 makes it feel a bit like a compact muscle car.
Finally, I think VW got the design perfect. It looks sleek yet powerful. Since you don’t see too many on the road, the design hasn’t gotten old. You can say that its design is timeless. I’m also a big fan of fender flares and the Corrado has those. And of course I love its motorized spoiler!
MCB: Having owned a couple of these now, you are obviously no stranger to buying these cars. What should a person look out for when buying one?
SM: The best thing about buying a Corrado is that most of its owners are Corrado enthusiasts. Many, like me, have even owned more than one and have an intimate knowledge of every part of the car. So the most important thing you should look at is the owner! Find one owned by a Corrado enthusiast and you’ll be confident that you’ve found a good example. My current Corrado came from a good owner with whom I still keep in touch. I know I bought a great car!
MCB: Among car enthusiasts, FWD cars tend to get a bad rap. You’ve owned front, rear, and all wheel drive cars but still have a soft spot for the FWD Corrado. Do you agree with that reputation?
SM: Maybe in a track car, but for a street car, no— so my choice in cars haven’t been based on their drivetrain. In fact, my choices seemingly go against logic! I live in the Northeast where AWD or FWD would be beneficial in snow or winter conditions. Yet most of my daily drivers have been RWD!
The real reason why I have such an affinity for the Corrado, in spite of its FWD, is that it is a great car that few people know about. Although there are other rare cars out there, I love how many people – car enthusiasts included – have never even heard of the Corrado. If anything, they think it’s a Scirocco! Other cars, like the Mercedes C43 AMG I currently own, are also rare (500 made), but they are really just a special edition of the standard C-Class. And some of the other cars I’ve owned may likewise be uncommon, but they are well-known. The Corrado is its own, unique car.
MCB: In addition to the Corrado, you have been fortunate enough to own or have owned a number of interesting, desirable cars. Your brief impressions of each?
1993 Mazda RX-7
The good: This car was gorgeous. I actually loved washing it because the curves were so sexy. What an amazing engine when it was working. The rotary engine could’ve been the best engine in the world. If only it was more reliable!
The bad: You guessed it— unreliable. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy this for too long because the rear main bearing seal (a common issue) went and therefore the turbos became unusable. This car would receive the most idiotic or annoying comments. The most popular question I got was “Is it fast?” (Uh, of course it’s fast!) I also got a lot of comments about its unreliability and penchant for blowing up. Not a good reputation! Lastly, the cockpit is tiny. I couldn’t even buy a car cover because the box for the car cover was too big to fit in the trunk. My passenger had to hold it in his lap. If I bought this car again I would strictly use it as a track day weapon, not a street car. Overall, I would stay away from this car.
1988 Porsche 944 Turbo (951)
The good: I loved my 951. This car got the most compliments, and deservedly so. The one I had was in great shape and looked great in white. I think this was a great touring car because it had a comfortable ride. Even though it was old, the quality felt great and I could tell it was worth a lot of money when it first launched.
The bad: Lots of turbo lag. But hold on when the turbo kicked in! I also got the least feedback and help from the Porsche community, especially at shows. I think the combination of a young kid and a Porsche didn’t go well together. The car is really old and the interior really showed its age. I was always afraid of something going wrong, especially since maintenance costs a lot on this car. If you can deal with these issues, I would recommend this car in a heartbeat.
2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS (GC8)
The good: AWD. Go kart-like handling. Probably the most fun car I’ve owned. It has overdoses of personality. I would’ve loved to have done an STi engine/tranny/interior swap. If I didn’t love the Corrado so much, this would be the car I would still own. I miss this one the most out of all the cars that I’ve owned that wasn’t a Corrado.
The bad: Small powerband. It really lost its breath from 4000 rpm and up. Swap in that STi engine and the problem disappears. But the real reason I sold it was the low quality interior and the need for something with four doors. Sadly, I got to an age where a more upscale interior and sturdier build feel became important to me!
1998 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG
The good: I’ve owned this car the longest. It mixes rarity, a big and powerful engine, four doors, an upscale interior, usable trunk space, and the right price range all in one package. While a bit of a sleeper since it’s de-badged, it still gets its share of props from those in the know.
The bad: Gas mileage. For an eight-cylinder motor it’s actually not bad at around 17 mpg but overall that’s still not good. Small issues here and there, but considering its age and mileage (150,000 miles and counting), it’s been reliable overall.
MCB: What else would you like to own in the future?
SM: If I was single and younger, I could see myself getting a Scion FR-S. If I could afford it, I would want to get the new Porsche Cayman S as my weekend car. For a daily, I would actually love to get a Chrysler 300C SRT8! It would be the perfect replacement for the C43 AMG I currently own. But, realistically and practically speaking, a four-door Mk7 VW GTI is probably in my future.
MCB: Do you see yourself keeping your current cars for awhile?
SM: I owned my first Corrado for ten years and I hope to own my current one for many more years than that. The previous owner had already modified it to my liking so I’m not planning on modifying it any further. With the turbocharger it already makes 250 hp to the wheels! My plan is to drive it and enjoy it, and to resist the urge to tinker with it! The C43 is getting up there in mileage so I’m forecasting that I’ll probably keep it another four years tops before I sell it.
MCB: Any concluding thoughts?
SM: This was a lot of fun. Thanks for the honor of being featured!
Images © Steven Moy