One constant at Volkswagen has been the desire to move upmarket. The manufacturer whose name literally means “The People’s Car” has always set its sights on grander horizons. The Corrado is just one in a string of cars with driving performance that was overshadowed by its lack of showroom performance.

Run like the wind

Volkswagen launched the Corrado in 1988 as a more-premium complement to the Scirocco, not its successor. Still, the new coupe, designed by VW’s own Herbert Schäfer, borrowed styling cues from the Giugiaro-designed Mk 1 Scirocco. Like both generations of Scirocco, the Corrado was built in Osnabrück, Germany, by legendary coachbuilder Karmann.

The Corrado’s U.S. arrival in 1990 coincided with the “big bumper” refresh of the Mk 2 Golf with which it shared its mechanical components. The squat and wide “rounded-wedge” design made the refreshed 16-valve GTI look dated. Low seating and a long roof allowed for plenty of headroom for all four passengers, unlike its primary Japanese rivals, the Toyota Celica, Honda Prelude and Acura Integra.

Speaking of rivals, Volkswagen called out the 944 in advertisements, claiming similar performance and refinement as the 4-cylinder Porsche. Auto writers latched onto the “poor man’s Porsche” narrative and gave the Corrado glowing reviews in that light. The irony being this was the poor man’s version of the poor man’s 911.

A mostly super charger

American Corrados initially offered a single powertrain: a supercharged 8-valve SOHC 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with a 5-speed manual transaxle. The belt-driven supercharger is the now-infamous scroll-type G60. While the engine was anything but silky, its linear delivery of 158 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque put a ’90s Hulk Hogan-style smackdown on the peaky 130-hp Integra GS and Celica GT-S and the 135-hp Prelude Si.

The build quality of Karmann’s body was excellent and in line with VW’s desire to climb the food chain. With a launch price under $18,000, it held less than a 10% price premium over its more-ordinary Japanese rivals. The Corrado’s stocky styling and motorized rear spoiler make it unique on the outside, but the interior stands out for the quality of materials. Still, there were complaints, such as a shifter that felt like a toggle switch filled with rubber cement. The bigger issue is that supercharger.

The G-Lader is so named because the internals resemble a capital G. The supercharger uses one spiral that moves in an eccentric pattern within another, pulling air from outside the housing, squeezing it around the spiral, and pushing it out the center outlet. It’s a simple, quiet and efficient proces. But the G-Lader requires maintenance, including replacing some consumable components. The harder it’s used and the faster it’s spun, the faster the consumables wear. You can expect a lifetime of anywhere from 60k to 120k miles; a supercharger rebuild is currently under $1,000.


For mid-year 1992, Volkswagen debuted a brand-defining technical advancement in the Corrado with the VR6 engine. This 178-horsepower, 2.8-liter 6-cylinder engine had a 15-degree V-angle with a single cylinder head. It fit in platforms originally designed for inline 4-cylinders.

Named SLC, for Sport Luxury Coupe, the VR6-powered Corrado had the silky-smooth engine it always needed. The exterior of the car received wider front fenders to accommodate the wider track width of the Plus Suspension from the Mk 3 GTI. The center-hood indent turned to a bulge to accommodate the big intake manifold and the front bumper was reshaped.

On the inside, switchgear was modernized and surfaces smoothed over. The later the model year of a Corrado, the nicer the cockpit. All this refinement caused SLC prices to soar with an inverse effect on sales. By its final 1994 U.S.-model year, the Corrado had a base price of $25,150.

I want one, now what?

Like so many enthusiast cars from the 1980s and ’90s, Corrado values are on the rise. These are uncommon cars; globally, VW sold fewer than 100,000 and the U.S. saw only about 19,000 of those. It’s hard to estimate how many are still on the road, but there was a time when good examples were in the “disposable car” price range.

From a collector’s standpoint, the G60 is the car to buy due to its rarity. A large number of these cars underwent engine swaps when a salvage yard VR6 or even a Mk 4-sourced 1.8 Turbo was cheaper and easier than a G60 rebuild. The SLC is more common to find today, and given the great sounds, nicer interior and upgraded suspension, is the better choice as a driver’s car.

Interior and exterior trim pieces are nearly impossible to find, while mechanical pieces from suspension, to subframes, to powertrain parts can be sourced from other VW products. Rust issues are rare on Corrados, so its presence is a sign of neglect or poorly repaired body damage.

A nice example of a 3-condition G60 or SLC can be had in the $12k to $20k range. The collectible, low-mileage cars are seeing values in the mid-$30k range. A well-cared-for Corrado is both reliable and comfortable enough to be used as a daily driver, while a nicely preserved example is rare enough to be collectible and will likely continue to appreciate. Suffice to say, after all these years, the Corrado could still be considered a poor man’s Porsche 944.

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