- Tons of naturally-aspirated power and torque.
- Seats four full-size adults.
- Sports car suspension tuning.
- Very German build quality.
- All-wheel-drive handling.
- Dated styling.
- Not the best chassis for a sports car.
- As heavy as some mid-size sedans.
- Quite pricey.
- Looks like a dressed-up Golf.
Press Coverage :
The most powerful Golf ever is coming to America: Its name: R32. Its output: 177 kW / 240 hp: Its engine: An extremely agile 3.2 liter V6 - which is also installed in the new Phaeton. This compact four-wheel drive sports car from Volkswagen allows a top speed of 247 km/h (153 mph) wherever this is permitted. However, this value only reveals one of the Golf R32's dynamic sides. The manner in which this sports car exhibits a high level of agility, superiority and safety in all speed ranges and in all conceivable situations is equally as fascinating.
V6 with an output of 177 kW / 240 hp: In technical terms, the compact six-cylinder engine is characterized, amongst other aspects, by the continuously adjustable inlet and exhaust camshaft, cylinder-selective knock control and variable intake manifold geometry. The engine's power (a maximum of 320 Newtonmeters) is transferred to the standard 4MOTION four-wheel drive via a six-speed gearbox with tightly graduated shifting travel. A twin-branch exhaust system with two chrome-plated tailpipes ensures that the R32 emits an appropriately throaty roar.
The optical appearance of this new, top Golf model is characterized by its sports running gear which - in comparison with the standard model - has been lowered by 20 millimeters, 18" alloy wheels with 225/40 ZR 18 tires and extensive modifications at the front and rear.
In the passenger compartment, brushed aluminum trim (pedals, center console, gearshift lever, etc.) underlines the dynamic orientation of the most successful car ever built in Germany. The newly-designed front sports seats with integrated headrests and a leather-covered steering wheel exclusive to the R32 have been designed for sporty driving.
The extensive standard equipment fitted in the R32, which will initially be available as a two-door model, includes: Electronically-controlled automatic air conditioner, a high-quality radio system with eight loudspeakers, multi-function display, rain sensor, a rear-view mirror with automatic anti-dazzle setting, heated seats and xenon headlights including a headlight washer system.
As the new top model in the Golf model series, all of the R32's drive characteristics impressively demonstrate the dynamic potential of this compact class best-seller. However, the R32 also shows what is possible when luxury class technology is transferred to another, smaller vehicle class. Because the combination of such a powerful, naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine with standard four-wheel drive is currently unique in this segment.
Firing up the 3.2l sounds like any other VR6 engine until you dip into the throttle which unleashes a very healthy and low growl from the dual exhaust system. Volkswagen takes pride in mentioning the special exhaust "tuning" that went into this system and we're here to tell you that it sounds simply awesome. In fact if we didn't know any better we would have thought the exhaust was a straight aftermarket piece - it was that noticeable.
Clutch take up was lighter than expected, but the new six-speed is smooth and fairly precise making it easy to get going. You can tell that the R32 is a heavy car getting under way, yet it didn't feel too ponderous. The 236 lb-ft. of torque pulls the car out of the hole rather nicely and when you keep your foot planted past 4000 rpms things start to really move with both mechanical engine noises and exhaust tones fighting for attention - this is something we could definitely get used to.
Volkswagen had previously laid out a cone course for us earlier in the day which included a slalom section right out of the gate. This was the most telling part of the whole course and where the R32 truly separated itself from every other Golf and GTI we've driven. In to the first cone the first thing you notice is the very sharp and precise turn-in, but also the fact that the rear of the car is actively part of the program not just being tugged along for the ride like the regular beam axle GTI. By the third cone I found myself needing to correct for oversteer as I hadn't expected any cooperation from the rear of the car, nor any sort of neutrality. Once accustomed to the completely different handling characteristics, the R32 was easy to dice between the cones and provided a great balance all the way up to about 9/10ths when, in typical iron-block-completely-in-front-of-the-strut-towers VR6 fashion the car plowed hard at the limit driving wide of the line. Simply backing off the throttle part-way and scrubbing some speed helped correct the problem, but there is little anyone can do when it comes to the pure physics of placing that much weight in front of the wheels. Just below that threshold though, Volkswagen did a phenomenal job of bringing neutral handling back into the Golf platform and making the car feel completely different than any Golf or GTI to date.
Does it feel fast? Quick and fun absolutely... fast, well.... The R32 tips the scales at a heavy 3,256 lb. which conspires to intrude on any light and nimble feeling one might have in a regular GTI. It is still an aggressive car in so many other ways, with a wonderful engine, wonderful sounds and great handling up to a point that you are willing to forget about the weight. The brakes are easily up to the task and provided fade-free solid braking every time we touched the pedal.
Launching the R32 is an exhilarating experience, and getting the right amount of clutch-slip will net a 5.9-second 0-to-60 time on the way to the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at 97.6 mph. While these times don't beat the more powerful Evo or STi, the R32's smooth and snarling V-6 doesn't tousle the driver with the lag 'n' boost of those turbocharged cars, and the R32's suspension isn't as firm or punishing, either. The new MQ350 six-speed offers hugely improved shift feel over previous manual VW transmissions, which have been vague and rubbery. There's no automatic available in the R32, and only Europeans can option the magic DSG auto-dual-clutch manual found in the Audi TT 3.2 quattro. And whoever is responsible for tuning this car's dual exhaust system deserves a pat on the back.
R-spec blue-powder-coated four-piston brake calipers grab large (13.1-inch front, 10.1-inch rear) vented discs so well that this hatchback stops better from 60 mph than all but the most-expensive supercars--in a mere 108 feet. Smooth-riding and true, independent-rear multilink suspension is another first (versus a GTI's torsion-beam), which complements the car's 22mm-lower sport-tuned suspension and steering. Rounding out the hardware are O*Z Aristo 18-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 summer performance tires, sized 225/40R18 at all four corners.
Put it all together, and the R32's handling is both entertaining and compromised. The chassis is so communicative, predictable, and controllable that the tires are easily overwhelmed. As soon as things start to get fun, the Goodyears give up long before the driver or the chassis do. Just over $30K gets everything on the docket from heated seats to Monsoon audio and moonroof.
2002-2003 Volkswagen GTI VR6
2,792 cc / 200 hp / 195 lb-ft / 3036 lbs / 0-60 mph 6.5 sec.