Volkswagen green-lights 'go-fast' Golf
2003 Volkswagen Golf R32
The best looking and most powerful Golf ever
Three gaping air dams add menace
18-inch wheels are good; low stance is better
Twin exhaust system tuned for more power
VW V6 powerplant makes 177kW @ 6250rpm
Interior styling is more than pleasing
The hot hatch heirachy in Australia is somewhat limp at the
moment. Unless you count the WRX
hatch, which is more of wagon, there aren't too many hatches
that will make you grin like a kid long after you've exited
There's the Renault Clio Sport, which is extremely good value
for money, and the Barina SRi offers enjoyable handling, hindered
somewhat by sub-par performance.
But for those wanting something to put the V8 brigade to
shame, there aren't a lot of choices, save for warranty-voiding
But 2003 is shaping up well for lovers of the small-but-nimble
pocket rockets and herein we'll look at what Volkswagen will
be bringing to the table in 2004.
Before we touch on VW's exciting new R32 Golf, other notable
entries into the market later this year will be the juiced-up
which swaps its raspy 100kW 1.8-litre mill for the (Yamaha-built)
Celica's 140kW engine.
Alfa Romeo will also weigh in with its aspirational 147 GTA
(click here for
a full rundown), which is looking like the hatch to beat,
yet the front-wheel drive transmission may be a moot point
for many enthusiasts.
While the Japanese and Italian hatches are due for sale in
May and June respectively, VW will weigh in with its golf
R32 in early 2004. Better late than never...
But will buyers be able to wait - perhaps they'll be tempted
by other models?
Only time will tell, but it would be fair to say that the
most powerful Golf yet produced is no shrinking violet.
To begin with, the Golf R32, which was launched in Europe
last year as a 2002 model, gets a number of styling mods.
These not only fit in with the more agressive driving dynamics,
but also to help reduce drag and better supply the engine
The front bumper is much bigger than any other model, lower
to the ground and incorporating three large air dams to supply
the engine with ample amounts of air.
Combined with side skirts and a much larger and lower rear
bumper, they also help to reduce turbulent airflow underneath
The R32 also gets a nice little roof spoiler, and at the
rear the larger bumper incorporates two rather intense chrome-plated
The 'agro' image is bolstered by 18-inch multi-spoke "OZ
Aristo" alloy rims, shod with low-profile 225/40ZR18
tyres, and it even gets subtle blue window tinting - though
whether this passes Australian design rules is unknown.
The R32's suspension has been given the once over in order
to keep things competitive with stronger anti-roll bars making
the cut. Sitting 20mm lower than the stock Golf, body roll
is claimed to have been significantly reduced, which is most
likely due to rebound and compression damping tweaks.
Braking is provided by larger 334mm ventilated discs up front
and 256mm discs at the rear, also ventilated. The brake calipers
are painted blue - to match the paint job - and are hooked
up to ABS, EBD and even an electronic stability program for
linear braking characteristics in all conditions.
One of the more interesting features of the upcoming hi-po
Golf is its 4Motion all-wheel drive transmission. Coupled
with improved steering response (just 2.25 turns lock-to-lock),
the new Golf is expected to offer a seriously capable and
Sure, the 147 GTA will pull killer - albeit FWD - burnouts,
but the Golf won't be plagued by torque steer, though Alfa
reckons it's got this well under control.
Providing the VW hot hatch with movement is a front-mounted
naturally aspirated 3.2-litre V6, and combined with a custom
exhaust system - reported to have a lovely burble from idle
to redline - it puts out some 177kW of power.
This figure may be adjusted for the Australian-spec R32
for fuel issues, but if it does, rest assured it won't be
The narrow angle, DOHC, 3189cc 24-valve V6 is quite the piece
of work, it's heady 11.3:1 compression ratio and continuously
variable intake and exhaust camshaft adjustment helping to
provide one helluva fat power band.
Peak torque of 320Nm kicks in @ 2800rpm, while peak power
of 177kW doesn't arrive until 6250rpm. This equates to a hefty
3450rpm power band - the distance between peak torque and
But even with such a wide spread of acceleration and all-wheel
drive, the R32 posts a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds and can
reach 247km/h using the six-speed manual transmission.
While this is bloody quick in anyone's book, the R32s potential
is hampered by its excess of bulk. At 1477kg, it's one fat
little hatch - but on the flip-side, you do get the upmarket
While the Golf R32 is available in only one colour at present
(metallic deep blue pearl), the matching interior upholstery
gives the car more flamboyance; an almost show-car look.
The front sports seats were developed by a German specialist
and for the first time in a Golf the head restraints are integrated
with the rest of the seat. With pronounced side bolsters,
for improved lateral support during high-gee manoeuvres, the
R32's heated seats are suited to touring, as well.
There's lots of brushed aluminium adding a prestige air to
the interior, though the drilled metal pedal cluster and three-spoke
leather steering wheel hint at its performance potential.
While the two-door R32 is currently only available, a four-door
model will release in the EU mid-2003, and Volkswagen is also
talking up a DSG model, which is their semi-manual gearbox
that uses clutches instead of a torque convertor, like traditional
Expected to arrive on Australian shores in February 2004,
for around $65,000, the Volkswagen Golf R32 is just what the
doctor ordered - an all-wheel drive high performance Golf
that will really shake up the hot hatch segment.
It's a shame cars like the ultra-light Honda
Civic Type R and others never made it here, but perhaps
2003 will renew interest in the segment. Skoda and Fiat are
also looking at bringing in their own pocket rockets later
in the year, and who knows, maybe the genre will be limp no