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My Blue Heaven
Subdriven Compares The STi, Evo and R32
by: Travis Kriza

Last edited: 06.03.03
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R32 Overview
Evo Overview
STI Overview
Time to Compare Pt.1
Time to Compare Pt.2
Performance Comparison
The Final Element
Counter Points
Volkswagen Golf R32

Often when a consumer thinks about Volkswagen, they think Beetle. When they think Volkswagen and performance and fun, they normally think the GTI. Well that’s about to change with Volkswagen’s latest model, the Golf R32.

Firstly, the most noticeable difference between the standard Golf and the Golf R32 comes with a quick glance at the exterior. Volkswagen is trying to move upscale which is evident from the easily noticed Porsche 911 Turbo-esque front bumper having 3 large air dams, subtle side skirts and a redesigned rear valence that incorporates two chrome 3" exhaust tips. Other significant features include a 20mm lower stance than in standard GTI and wheel well filling 18 inch alloys wearing 225/40ZR18 rubber. Rounding everything off are subtle R32 badges front and rear.

After admiring the exterior of the nicely put together R32, one immediately wants to see the new 3.2 liter 6 cylinder engine the car contains. Upon opening the hood, one is greeted by a very clean and simple engine bay. In fact, Volkswagen put a lot of effort into the details on the car like the hydraulic hood supports in brushed metal that pop out right away. This version of VW’s VR6 engine is the same found in their new Touareg SUV and forthcoming luxury car the Phaeton. This v6 offers a power output of 241hp (177kw) at 6250rpm and a max output of 236 lb-ft (320Nm) from 2800 – 3200rpm. Definitely not a slouch and with such a nice flat torque curve for the middle powerband, it definitely sounds as though it would please on the street.

  While 241 horsepower may not seem significant in this company, it becomes more apparently when coupled to the 4wd system that is used in the R32. The R32 is the recipient of VW’s 4Motion system which at its core uses a Haldex electonic coupling system. In essence the system actually allows the car to perform like a 2wd vehicle until slippage is detected and the differential is electronically / hydraulically coupled to give 4wd. This allows the R32 to behave like a normal Golf at an average pace, but when pushed to the limits go beyond the call of the standard Golf or GTI by a wide margin.

The R32 doesn't stop with just a powerful engine and a versatile drivetrain to get the power to the ground, but they go the extra mile with a very aggressive brake setup. The R32 receives 334mm front ventilated and 256mm rear ventilated disc brakes. These brakes are far beyond adequate for the street, bordering on pure track ready brakes. The most impressive part of the braking system is the ABS system which allows the braking system to be pushed to the limit. The ABS system shows very little sign of intrusion into your driving and only kicks in at the very limit and keeps it there – that's right, it doesn’t back off significantly like other ABS systems.

The next piece in the puzzle is the R32's suspension. The front consists of MacPherson struts and lower wishbones on the front axle, while the rear consists of a fully independant forged dual-link trailing arm. The struts and springs used are factory sourced from H&R and Bilstein (although they are clearly stamped "Volkswagen Racing") and provide a firm, flat ride for the aggressive driver. In addition, the R32 features much STiffer roll bars to provide an even flatter ride. This suspension is one of the most aggressive offered for a production car from Volkswagen and it is impressive.

When getting ready to drive the R32, you're not just stepping into a performance car, but a luxury one at that. Just say mini Mercedes SL500. The first thing you notice are the most extremely bolstered seats of the group. These nice, leather covered Konigs scream for you to go fast so they can hold you tight in place. Further examination of the interior shows no lack of time or energy spent in providing a luxury sports compact. A nice, plush leather steering wheels gives an at home feel. Fit and Finish of the interior is great and a step beyond what is expected of the car at this price level.

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