The new vRS can be had in a number of flavours. While the 2001 vRS launch with a 180PS (139kW) diesel this generation can be bought with a 245PS petrol, a 245PS petrol hybrid or a 200PS diesel. Depending on which powertrain tickles your fancy you can have a six-speed manual or a seven-speed double-clutch, front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, and then you’ll need to consider whether you’ll go for the estate or the saloon… We went for the all-wheel-drive diesel saloon which only comes with the DSG ‘box.
Does a performance diesel work? In theory it does, because you might be down on power compared to the petrol machines but you’re equal to the petrol car on torque and ahead of the hybrid. The fuel efficiency of a diesel is appealing, too. In practice, however, the diesel vRS isn’t perfect. The engine is smooth and it really does sip fuel (in a day’s filming the fuel gauge dropped by less than a quarter, an Oscar-winning performance frankly), but you can’t plant your foot to the floor without the gearbox kicking down a few cogs. That in turn means you never feel the satisfying, invisible diesel surge you’d experience in a diesel manual with the ‘box kept in fifth. However, when the gearbox does drop down there’s a strong turn of pace: 0-62mph is over in 6.8 seconds, just 0.1 seconds slower than petrol vRS (admittedly without all-wheel-drive – the front-wheel-drive diesel vRS manages the same sprint in 7.4 seconds) and the top speed is 147mph.
Hurry the vRS and the gearbox is quick and smooth, and with the pace dialled back it’s pleasantly unnoticeable. Use the paddles and the response, if you’re pushing, is quick, slowing down and you reduce your pressure on the throttle pedal.
The chassis is fantastic, with a pleasant, well-judged ride and good body and wheel control; passive dampers come as standard but electronically controlled dampers are optional. The all-wheel-drive system is seemingly unflustered in any situation, and unlike some of its Volkswagen Group compatriots the system manages to find grip without feeling like it’s clawing at the road searching for it. The brakes are decent, too, as is the steering, which can be tweaked with a selection of drive modes that also adjust the throttle response, engine noise and electronic dampers, if you have them. There are four modes, namely Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. Eco is very, very relaxed, Normal is a nice middle-ground, while Sport is the most enjoyable, although Individual does have its benefits, which we shall come to.
Let us take a moment, though, to circle back to something I mentioned only in passing before: engine noise. In Normal mode there’s a hint of synthesised engine noise and in Sport you have a virtual orchestra, while in Eco there’s the sound of the actual engine itself. It isn’t a bad noise per se, and it certainly adds some theatre, but it really isn’t my cup of tea. Mercifully Individual mode allows you to create your own set-up for the car, so you can have everything as sporty as it can be but turn the fake noise off.