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VW Golf R32
Spinning Wheels: VW Golf R32 - absolute power
Originally printed 10/21/04 (Issue 1243 )


The old saying "absolute power corrupts absolutely" has been manifested in this rocketship from VW. It will take over your life. It is an automotive intoxicant so powerful that it will keep you away from your family; it will make you take the long way to work - or distract you from going altogether. Your family's only hope will become the - very likely - prospect that through police helicopter pursuit you get pulled over and lose your license.

Simply put, it is the single most enjoyable driving experience I've had since I was 16 and was new to the joys of driving anything (which, incidentally, was a VW Golf - white with lovely orange seats!).

Now, I'm partial to VW anyway. In addition to my first drive, my first new car was a VW, and in total I've owned six of them through the years. I strayed from the path because I thought I'd "achieved success" - which really means I'd just become insecure enough that I wanted other people to think I had a "nice" car. So I switched to another German brand, one that many people aspire to and that does produce really lovely product (and that I've previously lauded on these pages).

The R32 is in a class of its own, however. It is an M3 with all-wheel-drive and a better ride quality. It out-drives the (somewhat nose-heavy) Audi S4. It is leagues ahead of the "boy racers" (Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) in ride quality, fit and finish and power delivery (no turbo lag). It has become the car I must have.

I can't even fit my butt (OK, so it has gotten a bit big lately) into the unique Konig sport seats. And I sit a bit too high - and have to struggle with manual seat adjusters to try and ameliorate the discomfort of my butt falling asleep (power adjustment not available). And I have to strain my eyes at night because the xenon HID lights offered in Europe aren't available here. And it is a dark little cave in that all-black cabin, with even a black headliner, because VW didn't offer us heathens an opportunity to choose the lighter grey interior option available in Europe.

But I don't care. I'll take it anyway. One run through a twisty back road is enough to make me hooked. Now I want more. I need another hit. That ramp from I-94 W to I-75 N - you know the one, with the tightening radius and the uneven surface quality - try that at 75 MPH in this car and then try to deny its call. You'll hear it from the driveway at night - "come drive me."

The 240 HP six cylinder engine won't even have time to cool down from run to run. With 236 ft lbs of torque available from a very accessible 2800 RPM, the car just calls out to be run hard and fast. And that intoxicating exhaust note - it sounds sexier than an Irish lilt (which I've always found incredibly sexy). All glued to the road - even our horrible Michigan roads - with an all-wheel-drive system that provides awe inspiring grip in either dry or wet conditions. (You'll need to spring for snow tires, however, as it comes standard with summer-only performance rubber.)

As icing on the cake, the untrained eye will just see a little hatchback. Of course, they'll only see it as a blur, so they'll miss the bits added to butch-up this car - like deep front and rear sills and massive 18 inch alloy wheels - but that's all the better help me continue getting away with it. I've always appreciated "stealth performance" and considering the American market's attitude to hatchbacks, what better package to wrap up the awesome potential that is an R32 than in a Golf body.

I'm reticent even to mention this next bit because it should not be a consideration in evaluating how great this car is - but it is also an incredible value-for-money. Starting at under $30,000, the Golf R32 puts shame to anything you can buy for less than $40,000. And even in the $40 - $50K range, most alternatives are only just competitive with the R32, or lack its AWD certainty. You'd have to step up even more to find something that betters it.

So sorry to Tim for the neglect he's going to suffer, and advance apologies to my parents for the shame I'll bring on our family name when hauled into court. I've been corrupted, and it is only a short matter of time until it is absolute. No dawdling, however, as VW has only made 5000 R32's available in North America and only for the 2004 model year. Fortunately, this column won't appear until I've got mine.

© 2003,2004 Pride Source, Inc


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