The Golf R32 is the ultimate evolution of the Golf GTI.
AWD, 6-speed manual, 18 in wheels, and sport seats are part of the
performance-oriented features that distinguish the R32 from lesser Golfs.
Comparisons to the Lancer Evo and Impreza WRX STi show that the R32 is a
slightly different animal. While the Evo and STi emphasize frantic
performance from their highly boosted 4-cylinder turbo motors (2.0L/271-bhp
and 2.5L/300-bhp, respectively), the R32 is powered by a robust 3.2L VR6
that cranks out 240-bhp. The VR6 is shared with the new Audi TT DSG6, but
gives up 10-bhp to the Audi.
Like all Golfs, the R32 has the tall boxy profile that
betrays its practical roots. The Tornado Red paint and aggressive front
fascia announce that this is no ordinary Golf. Dual exhaust tips and 18 in.
wheels shod with 225/40R18 performance tires further emphasize the
performance intentions of the R32. Blue painted calipers attract attention
to the huge vented front and rear brake discs.
The 3.2L VR6 now has a 24V cylinder head that allows the
engine to breathe all the way to the 6500 RPM redline. Torque is plentiful
above 1500 RPM, and the VR6 rarely needs to be wound to the redline for
decent acceleration. A throaty rumble from the fat dual exhausts confirms
the potency of the VR6. At full throttle, the engine note is simply
delightful, and is best experienced with the windows down, and the Monsoon
audio system turned off.
A close-ratio 6-speed manual is the only transmission
available. The 6-speed shifts cleanly, with just a hint of notchiness.
Transmission ratios are spaced to keep the VR6 in the fat part of its
torque curve. Fifth gear is perfectly usable at 45 mph, with acceptable
throttle response. The clutch engages abruptly in the last 20% of pedal
travel. This is most noticeable when selecting 1st gear, where the R32 will
lurch about or stall without smooth throttle inputs. In the higher gears,
the engine and clutch engagement characteristics are smoother and less
annoying. The R32 is equipped with VW's 4Motion AWD, which does a superb
job of distributing torque evenly. Only the slightest hint of torque steer
is noticed under acceleration over bumpy roads, where the steering wheel
will twitch slightly when shifting gears.
Leather covered Konig sport seats are heavily bolstered
and eminently suited for performance driving, and long road trips. Although
the seats lack power controls, very few adjustments are needed since they
are so comfortable. However, only the narrow hipped will be happy with
these seats, since the bolsters will squeeze drivers with wider backsides.
Polished stainless steel trim on the doors and console set off the dark
gray hues that predominate the cabin. Gas, brake, and clutch pedals are
rubber tipped stainless steel, and include a large dead pedal. The slick
graphics of the HVAC controls can't disguise its needless complexity. It is
baffling why VW cannot standardize its HVAC controls within the product
The R32 is equipped with low profile performance tires,
and ride motions are predictably firm. Nonetheless, the R32's suspension
damping is comfortable over nearly all surfaces, although large potholes
will make the driver wince at the prospect of expensive wheel and tire
damage. Tire noise is noticeable over concrete highways, but is never objectionable.
Despite the tall Golf body, suspension roll is surprisingly well
controlled. Steering effort is rather high, especially at low speeds. On
the highway, steering becomes reassuringly firm and communicative. Even at
speeds up to 110 mph, the R32 displays remarkable composure, and never
drifts from its intended line.
There is no doubt that the Golf R32 is a superb
enthusiast car. The real question is that if there are 5000 enthusiasts who
are willing to pay for the ultimate Golf. These dedicated fans will
appreciate the R32's performance in a sleeper package.