|Grand Prix - Volkswagen
From the opposite end of VW's portfolio,
this muscular Golf is everything enthusiasts of the
marque desire. Few VWs to have reached the U.S. better
exemplify Wolfsburg's technological acumen and connect
more clearly with periods in its past when performance
was as important as affordable lease rates. Is it too
little, too late, for too much money?
Divide the 2004 Grand Prix between two of
Volkswagen AG's older models? What were we thinking?
Have we been afflicted with "J Mays Syndrome," which
causes one to obsess with the past? Has our longtime
loyalty to VW and Audi caused us to choose familiar cars
to the exclusion of the new?
Not a chance. Even though the TT and
Golf have been around since before the turn of the
century, infusions of new technology have made them as
important--to their buyers and their makers--as when
they first appeared in showrooms.
The R32 may have been built around an aged
platform, but time can also bring wisdom, and Volkswagen
has learned a great deal about the world market in the
last several years. The most critical lesson came from
the American market, which began to look to the Far East
for inspiring new automotive design and
Where once the Asians fought VW on
the lower end of the market, they began to prevail in
the "sporty" segments once dominated by the Europeans.
Those looking for a solid, sexy passenger car could
choose from any number of offerings from Japan, usually
at prices that couldn't be matched by the Germans. And
the hard-edged enthusiast, from street racer to weekend
amateur to entry-level professional, abandoned
Volkswagen and took up arms forged by its competitors.
The future looked bleak.
And then came that fateful day at VW's test
facility near Wolfsburg. We had been invited to Germany
to drive prototypes of the Touareg, and during a lunch
break the conversation turned to other VW vehicles. Why,
Editor Brown asked VW boss Bernd Pichetsrieder, had
America been denied the R32, the best Golf of its
generation? Expressing some surprise that we would be
interested in the car, the chairman then asked if we
thought it could be sold in the U.S.
"You could sell 5,000 of them without even
advertising," Ed. said. And so it would be. Despite the
Golf V already being readied for production,
Pichetsrieder ordered the required (and very expensive)
"federalization" of the R32. Now, because of that
decision, the VW R32 is winner of european car's highest
This award can be viewed as both
acknowledgment of current technology and as a not so
gentle prod to VW concerning its future plans for our
market. Bring us more of this stuff, we're demanding.
Follow up your successful Touareg with a reinvigorated
approach to passenger car design. And throw some funds
at the enthusiasts who want to race your products. Fill
your dealers' parts departments with uprated
suspensions, authorized electronic modifications,
factory-fit aero kits...go wild!
Making this strategy a success is, of
course, hugely dependent on cost. Our R32 test car
carried an MSRP of $29,100, which to most Americans is a
shocking price for a small hatchback. To those who have
attempted to modify their Golfs to anything approaching
the R32's specs, the 30 grand is something of a bargain.
Consider: a bulletproof 240-bhp engine, all-wheel drive,
18-in. running gear, an interior that elegantly combines
luxury and performance, and the confidence that comes
from buying the best of the breed, from the
Congratulations to Volkswagen for
having the courage to bring in the R32, and for winning
our 2004 Grand Prix.
"The R32 reinforces
why we love cars: driving something alive and
"Far better than anything from
'The Fast and The Furious.'"
"An exhaust note that trumpets
joyously with every blip of throttle."
"The R32 is to the Golf what the
GT 350 is to the Mustang."
"Gearbox ratios are good for
performance but could use a taller top gear for freeway
"Brakes seem indefatigable. The
chassis is so damn good you could put 150 more hp into
the engine without upsetting the car's balance."
"Excellent clutch engagement and
super crisp shift throws help keep the wealth of torque
always ready to go."
"Even though it's still a box, it
looks cool right out of the box."
"Expensive? Sure. Worth it?