The Volkswagen Corrado turns 30 this year, and to celebrate, VW is looking back on the innovations introduced by the sporty two-door hatch. Just as it is today, the Volkswagen brand of the 1980s was focused on mainstream products, which at the time included mostly compact sedans and hatchbacks. As such, it didn’t offer a halo sports car like many of its contemporaries. The Corrado was the closest we got to a halo model, and the sharp-looking 2+2 hatch served as a technology showcase for the brand. What kind of technology did it showcase? For starters, one of the first active rear spoilers on a production car.
Introduced in 1988 as a replacement for the equally sexy Scirocco, the Corrado was built in Onsabruck, Germany, by long-time VW-allied coachbuilder Karmann. According to Volkswagen, the name comes from the Spanish word “correr,” which means “to sprint.” The Corrado was originally available with one of two 1.8-liter I-4 engines, one naturally aspirated and one supercharged. The latter, called the Corrado G60, used a scroll-type supercharger to produce 158 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque, a respectable amount for the day that allowed for an estimated top speed of 140 mph.
To help accommodate that high speed, VW fitted the Corrado with a flush-mounted rear wing that automatically deployed above 75 mph (or 45 mph in the U.S.) to increase high-speed stability and reduce rear end lift by 64 percent. Though technically the 1984 Lancia Thema was the first production car to use an electrically retractable rear spoiler, the Corrado was one of the first road cars in the U.S. to offer active aero. Volkswagen claims its system even predates the one on the 964-generation Porsche 911, but Porsche representatives argue that the two cars debuted around the same time and that the Stuttgart-based automaker had been experimenting with active aero on race cars since the 1960s.
In addition to the Corrado’s slick “aero blade,” the hatch also received an interior derived from the B3-generation Passat that is said to be inspired by the Bauhaus style of German modernist design. The Corrado also marked the first use of Computer-Aided Design at the VW brand, as the car’s fenders were the first production parts designed using CAD. Meanwhile, the chassis inherited bits from the Mk 2 Golf GTI 16V to give the Corrado handling to match its sporty good looks.
Dr. Carl H. Hahn, chairman of the VW board of directors from 1982-1993, reportedly wanted the Corrado to be “a kind of new Karmann Ghia, only with more power.” The car was relatively sprightly in G60 trim, but even more power came later in the Corrado’s product cycle when VW endowed it with its 2.9-liter VR6 narrow-angle V-6 engine, which produced up to 188 hp and 181 lb-ft.
VW contends that many of the innovations ushered in by the Corrado can be seen in its current product lineup, including the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon, which also features an active rear spoiler. Not many cars can claim to have influence over an automaker’s lineup 30 years after launch, so it’s pretty cool that the Corrado has such an enduring legacy.
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