By on October 8, 2007

003.jpgWhen the Volkswagen R32 first arrived stateside, enthusiasts gave the hot hatch a hero’s welcome. The all wheel-drive, VR6-powered Alpha rabbit made its pre-GTI siblings look like a bunch of ectomorphic accountants at a supermodel slumber party. The R32 was rare, fast, agile, sharp-looking and tighter than the Osmond family at Thanksgiving dinner. The latest version is all that, again, with the notable addition of the world’s best gearbox. And yet the R32’s suddenly become a deeply unloved (if not unlovable) automobile. So who shot JR? 

If I had a life, I wouldn’t be writing this review; I would have walked straight past the R32. Other than 10-spoke alloy wheels and a chromed Billy the Big Mouth Bass snout mit R32 logo, there’s nothing to distinguish the top Golf from a flanking GTI. Oh sure, VW cultists will tell you the R32’s tail pipes sit center instead of flush left, it’s got blue brake calipers instead of red, etc. Anyone else would have an easier time choosing a date from a pair of identical twins than distinguishing between the two uber-Golfs.

005.jpgSo, aside from dangerously anal brand fans, status conscious drivers need not apply. Inside, same deal. The R32 is a GTI with all options ticked plus the letter “R” embossed on the leather headrests and Engine Spin trim. While it’s backwards-facing baseball caps off to VW for eschewing faux carbon fiber, Spin trim does my head in. I have enough trouble with grained wood that feels like plastic; the same tactile transmogrification on milled aluminum causes serious synaptic distress.

Otherwise and in any case, the R32/GTI’s cabin is immaculate. The front chairs’ total body embrace and the perfectly formed steering wheel are to ergonomic satisfaction what a baked potato is to a Texas T-Bone. The R32's switchgear performs with the requisite Old School snickery, and the gauges are models of electroluminescent lucidity. There’s plenty of room for four adults and a bit of kit. My only gripe: the steeply raked windscreen (with an odd lip at its base) combines with stout A-pillars to eliminate the old model’s widescreen visibility.

001.jpgIt’s no small point, given the potency of the overall package. Twist the key, blip the throttle and the R32’s twin pipes issue a raspy rattle that’s soon drowned-out by a basso profundo bellow. Slot the autobox into D, mash the gas and the 250-horse VR6 walks the talk. Did I say walk? An adrenal driver can no more amble about in the R32 than a toddler's parent can resist singing along with the Wiggles. The German hot hatch is a genuine license loser.

It’s not the R32’s prodigious grunt, which swells with orchestral intensity as the needle swings past 3000rpm; acceleration whose seamless nature propels its master forward with all the urgency of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (I love the sound of a narrow-angle V6 in the morning). Nor is it the DSG paddleshift transmission: a pair of ridged batons that give the conductor total control over the six’ sick symphonies; a gearbox to end all gearboxes (especially manuals). No, it’s the R32’s ride quality that imperils your driving privileges.

zoom.jpgThe previous R32 was as hard-riding as a wooden roller coaster. I’m not saying G-force jockeys needed a mouth guard to cane the car, but Boniva buyers were not well served. VW did such a good job tuning the next gen’s front McPherson and rear multi-link suspension for comfort there's no longer any penalty (save criminal) for exploring the R32’s full forward-going capabilities. In other words, you find yourself going stupid speeds without any apparent effort. 

Until, that is, you throw her into a series of tight bends. The R32’s newfound civility has given the naturally-aspirated Golf a tendency to nosedive under hard braking and a bad case of body roll. (It's an Audi family trait: lean and hold.) At seven tenths and above, the R32 requires a lot more care and attention than its completely neutral/flat predecessor. While the new car's limits are entirely predictable, the last gen’s ability to drift and pirouette has been replaced by all the understeer God can provide. VW’s replaced Safe! with safe.

010.jpgBut the R32's steering is the car's ultimate offense against the spirit of unbridled hoonery that's supposed to inform the top Golf's gestalt. The R32's rack is so lugubrious it renders the helm’s squashed crown design a cruel joke. All of which make the fractionally slower, significantly less expensive Golf GTI the more entertaining steer– in anything other than driving rain or snow. Seen in that light, it’s easy to understand why many (if not most) of the 5000 R32s imported into the US since August are languishing on dealer lots.

Despite talk of a 300-horse R36, the new R32 is what we got– two years after its Eurozone debut. No question: the new R32 arrived D.O.A. Its killer? The Golf GTI Mk V– which is a better driver's car, for a lot less money. 

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80 Comments on “Volkswagen R32 Review...”


  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    RF–
    Would you think that the uber-Golf would be better off with the 2.0T engine out of the European Audi S3, which makes 260 horsepower (and still has Quattro)? Or does the R32 really need that musclecar feel and honking V6?

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    No question: the new R32 arrived D.O.A. Its killer? The Golf GTI Mk V– which is a better driver’s car, for less money.
    ..and with a proper manual transmission…

  • avatar

    Justin The R32 is between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, it needs enough power and performance to distance itself from the GTI. On the other, there's a limit to how much anyone will pay for a Golf. The question is: how important is all wheel-drive to performance? As a GTI driver, is there ever a time when you think, man, I REALLY wish this thing had quattro? If so, I reckon you should be looking at a [used?] Audi S4. So, there's really no need for an R32. As sales indicate. The S3's smaller engine would certainly be a hoot, but are we talking with or without 4MOTION? As others here have indicated, it's heavy kit.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    first?

    I have the new R32 for two reasons:

    -it doesn’t move the game on at all from the MKIV R32
    -Mandatory DSG, which i hate. Sure it’s a great gearbox. It’s absolutely no fun for people who really like to drive

    well and it’s quite ugly.

    and this is coming from one of the VW nuts you mentioned.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Actually, there’s just no need for Quattro in a car this small. If someone insists on 400 hp, then it’s time to put the engine in the back a la Renault Clio V6.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Although I haven’t driven the R32, I would tend to agree. I’ve seen a few in the twisties, and they do struggle indeed.
    Not to mention that even a narrow-angle V6 puts quite a bit of extra weight on the front wheels. All-wheel drive is nice, but in that category, not essential. Only the WRX and Evo have it, and those 2 cars really aren’t in the hot hatch category anymore.
    All in all, it just reinforced my resolve to buy a GTI next, or perhaps an Audi A3, as my wife argues that its better looks, upgraded interior, and extra rarity is well worth the $2-3k premium.

    Oh, one last thing: the R32′s center tailpipes DO look waay hotter than the GTi’s left-sided ones.

  • avatar

    ejacobs: …and with a proper manual transmission… Have you tried the DSG? When Porsche fits the Boxster S with one, it's trade-in time. AKM: …as my wife argues that its better looks, upgraded interior, and extra rarity is well worth the $2-3k premium. Forget all that. The Audi dealer experience is 10X better. 

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    and there’s the fact that while the R32 may feel (or sound) faster, in reality… it’s not. the 0-60 times for both cars is about 6.5 seconds. the R32 is one heavy car.

    like i said, not a fan.

    I agree with J. Berkowitz – it would be a GREAT car with the S3′s K04-powered 265 horsepower 2.0T.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    AKM:

    Only the WRX and Evo have it, and those 2 cars really aren’t in the hot hatch category anymore.

    the WRX isn’t a hot hatch? I’d say this is the first time in history is HAS been both hot, and a hatch. As it now has a hatch.

    Yes, i know, it’s not so hot. And i’m arguing semantics.

  • avatar

    Have you tried the DSG? When Porsche fits the Boxster S with one, it’s trade-in time.

    I have (Audi TT 3.2) and I’ll be right behind you on that line.

    As near as I can figure out the R32 is simply an Audi A3/3.2Q with a different body. For a few thousand more I’d rather deal with an Audi dealer
    and sit behind the four rings.

    There’s no sense in criticizing the anonymous styling of the R32. For some people that’s part of the appeal others will choose the prettier Audi.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    Sad. The original R32 was such a breath of fresh air, a viable alternative hot-hatch for those who were put off by the faster but uglier and Pep-Boys-cheap hack jobs represented by the STI and Evo. Better interior, VR6 torque, fantastic engine and exhaust notes, and an exponential step up in refinement from its similarly priced competitors (even if it was a little down on power and straight line performance).

    Of course, it was also a breath of fresh air becasue the last R32 really was what the GTI should have been, instead of the slovenly mess that the MkIV GTI represented. With the MkV GTI such a stunning car, this new car is lost. Whoever said one should get the A3 3.2 instead was exactly, 100% right.

  • avatar

    Don’t forget

    A simple chip will bring the 2.0T up to 252 hp/303 lb-ft of torque – and with its lighter weight and gobs of torque, the chipped GTI will demolish an R32 once they get rolling.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris

      Dont forget
      a simple $200-500 chip will bring the 2.0T warrenty up to VOID. Like I said before (look up) Im in a vdub club and EVERYONE with a GTI wants to drive my car EVERYONE with a GTI backs down when I ask them to run me AND when we walked out of our meeting last week and a light snow had fallen EVERYONE said “I want to ride home with him” and pointed at me. SO lets be honest the ONLY person that dosent want an R32 over a GTI is someone who cant afford the extra money FLAT OUT !

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    cretinx –

    My only concern is voiding my warranty. My GTI is totally stock, and I’ve been back to the dealer with the check engine light on 4 times in the past year. One time required some moderate surgery, too.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    MSRP: $33,000 for the ultimate VW Golf? The thing costs more than a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or Mini Cooper S, and just as much as a Subaru WRX ST, and any of those cars would easily outhandle and suck its doors clean off in any, any performance comparison!. 250 horsepower? If that statistic was attached to an American car or truck, it would be ridiculed out of existence on this page. 250 horses: That's embarassing for a $33,000 car! A zero-to-60 time in the 6-second range? Hahahahahah. But it has nice seats.

  • avatar
    AKM

    AKM:

    …as my wife argues that its better looks, upgraded interior, and extra rarity is well worth the $2-3k premium.

    Forget all that. The Audi dealer experience is 10X better.

    I guess that’s why the VW dealer next to my house closed but its Audi twin stayed open!!
    Although I liked the VW salesguys (not aggressive, let me test-drive through my favorite twisties), the dealership itself was ugly, and the service department sucked.

    the WRX isn’t a hot hatch? I’d say this is the first time in history is HAS been both hot, and a hatch. As it now has a hatch.

    Yes, i know, it’s not so hot. And i’m arguing semantics.

    True, true. I meant more the WRX STi than the “base” model. That and the Evo are beyond your “classic” hot htaches (or trunks) such as Civic, GTI, MS3…

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I’m with Larry P2, there’s not enough juice here for that much coin. Sure its got a nice interior, but I’d rather have a WRX…not to mention the stupid-easy tuning potential of a boosted motor over more involved N/A modifications.

  • avatar
    mxrz

    I enjoy rowing my own gears and heal’n\'toe’ing as much as the next guy, but I do share the author’s opinion concerning the DSG… If only they could make it lighter.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Also, as much as we’re all driving enthusiasts, man is it nice to set the car in “D” and forget about shifting when necessary. Since I have a 45-60 minute commute in traffic each way, it’s such a pleasure to not have to be on the clutch all the time. The DSG is what sold me on the GTI over the Honda Civic Si. Well, the DSG, and the fact that the GTI has torque.

  • avatar
    BigChiefMuffin

    I know everyone here’s main concern is more power, but 250 BHP in a relatively small car can be plenty enough.

    The problem with this car is that, as a small car, it also has a small petrol tank, which, combined with a relatively lousy 25 mpg, means you have a really small range on the car. The GTI does far better and has to be the better package…

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    If you get *any* options in a GTI, you’re looking at about a $25,000+ car. It almost seems like the $27K 350Z would be the better bet–gives up some cargo space though (and AWD compared to R32)

    Only a VW fanatic would pay $33K for this car, and anyone who loves this limited run machine that much will never use it in a salty winter or haul dogs.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    What is the point of sticking the VR6 engine into this thing in the first place? Every VW I have seen and/or driven with a v6 engine handled like a dog with the exception of a 4-motion equiped Passat wagon (last gen). I have driven both Carrados and GTIs fitted with the VR6 and they understeer to no end.

    The VR6 is a wonderful engine and worked great in the 1st generation Passat, a large family car. In every other application it unbalances the car. VW already has the perfect engine for this car and it is the 2.0T. The 2.0T has all the potential needed for this application and could have been tuned to the exact same power and torque figures. It would have made for a better handling and balanced ride.

    With all of that said this is still a pointless car that serves as a glaring example of just how out of whack VW is today. Come on, a $33,000 golf that competes directly with the audi A3 and is easily out-performed by many lesser and less-expensive cars. More importantly the R32 offers up very little over the basic GTI for close to whopping $8,000 to $10,000 more so what is the point?

    What is happening to the Germans? There was once a time when they would have arrogantly told us that the heavier engine has just not appropiate for type of car when the lighter turbo engine would work just fine. I guess the marketers think a bigger engine is a better/easier sell?

    My only concern is voiding my warranty. My GTI is totally stock, and I’ve been back to the dealer with the check engine light on 4 times in the past year. One time required some moderate surgery, too.

    Jason,
    Four trips to the dealer for a check engine light, plus moderate surgery in less than a year on a new car?????????? I think you need to be a bit more concerned than just worrying about voiding your warranty! I wouldn’t even think of chipping this thing inside or outside of your warranty.
    Thank you for the heads-up! You just broke my heart, Ive been having thoghts of taking the VW plunge and once again my fears are being justified.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    I don’t really get the manual and traffic thing. When I’m in traffic, I get to shift more. That’s why I bought a manual, I want to shift. It’s stimulating.

    On the other hand, the DSG is appealing because of the speed and alleged smoothness. You could also buy a used one without worrying if the previous owner smoked the synchros and clutch. I haven’t driven one so I don’t know just how good it really is, although I’m a little skeptical. Can you just tap the down paddle 4 times to go from 6 to 2 instantly? An auto-manual would take aprox. 2 weeks to perform this task. If I were in the market I’d probably hold off until more information comes in on the long term reliability of it as well.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    Killer review RF. Now I remember why I keep coming back here.

    Unfortunately, it seems like the best thing the R32 seems to have over the GTI this time is that you can get it in blue.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I almost purchased a GTI last year, but the dealership vibe was a turn off for me. In my area, VW dealerships have a “Mom and Pop” atmosphere. To some it’s charming, but I was uncomfortable with my bearded, pipe smoking sales manger.

  • avatar
    CeeDragon

    There are plenty of other vehicles that can outperform the R32, so what is the allure of this car? I think they are:

    - cheaper than an A3, using many of the same drivetrain components (as many have pointed out)
    - all wheel drive, since 250 hp in a front-drive car can cause some serious wheel wiggle
    - DSG
    - Good interior, somewhere between Acura and Audi.

    These attributes don’t seem very compelling since it’s barely faster than a stock GTI and it’s $10,000 more in base price.

    For what it’s worth, my daily driver is a Mk V GTI and there’s only 2-3 days out of the year that I wish it had 4Motion.

  • avatar

    CeeDragon :

    For what it’s worth, my daily driver is a Mk V GTI and there’s only 2-3 days out of the year that I wish it had 4Motion.

    What size wheels, and do you use snow tires in the winter?

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    I don’t really get the manual and traffic thing. When I’m in traffic, I get to shift more. That’s why I bought a manual, I want to shift. It’s stimulating.

    Well sir, what is your definition of traffic because I have never in my life heard of anyone that enjoys clutching and shifting in bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic! Trust me, NYC Tri-state area traffic sucks and this is the reason I do not own a manual anymore, I spent close to 15 years dealing with traffic and hills, (try bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic on a steep upgrade in a low-end gruntless Honda for fun) for my left leg to say ENOUGH!

    Don’t sleep that DSG is a wonderful invention!

  • avatar
    shoes

    I just picked up an R32 and I also owned a GTI. I understand that many people feel that the performance or appearance doesn’t justify the extra cost of the R32. I even agree that the GTI is more fun, but I would defend the R32 on the basis of its greater sophistication. The added weight makes the car feel more solid. The exhaust note and torque are addictive, much improved over the GTI, particularly from rest where the GTI suffers from some turbo lag. The R32 feels like it was modified in Affalterbach rather than Wolfsburg and this easily justifies the higher price for me. Last point, the 24 month residual value is 71%, best of the entire VW line.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The R32 not only got killed by the GTI but also by the WRX, Evo, 350Z, RX-8 and not to mention the way classier Audi TT. The $33K price tag is simply not competitive in this segment.

    I also very much doubt the residual values quoted by Edmund’s – these look like they are based on the previous generation R32 which enjoyed high demand and thus good resale value. Since the new R32s are not moving from dealer lots you can also expect lower demand for used examples of the current model.

  • avatar
    CeeDragon


    Robert Farago :
    October 8th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    What size wheels, and do you use snow tires in the winter?

    I have the stock 17″ all season tires (not the summer performance ones). I was considering getting snow tires but we got an early snow last winter (in the Chicagoland area) and I was suprised how well the stock tires performed in the slush. I kept them on all winter and I’ll probaby do it again this winter. A small bonus for having a front-heavy car, I guess.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    RF:

    FINALLY someone with the either the you know what or the lack of bias to state the obvious: the R32 isn’t worth the money and EVERYONE should have expected this. The automotive press, including TTAC, has been pretty unanimous that the A3 3.2 isn’t worth the premium over the A3 2.0. How could the verdict on the R32′s value over the GTI be any different??? These are the same cars!!! The biggest difference between the R32 and the A3 3.2 is that the R32 has 2 doors and the 3.2 has four doors!!!

  • avatar

    Justin Berkowitz: My GTI is totally stock, and I’ve been back to the dealer with the check engine light on 4 times in the past year. – & – The DSG is what sold me on the GTI over the Honda Civic Si. Well, the DSG, and the fact that the GTI has torque.

    Torqueless as it may be, my 2006 Civic coupe has been back to the dealer zero times in 21K miles (to date). Well, except for oil changes. That and its 32 MPG average keep me solidily in the Honda camp.

    Much as I admire the GTI’s performance factor, the reliability issue is worrisome when you’re logging a minimum of 40 miles per day x 10 years.

  • avatar
    CeeDragon


    shoes :
    October 8th, 2007 at 12:35 pm


    I even agree that the GTI is more fun, but I would defend the R32 on the basis of its greater sophistication.

    Agreed. As shown in the “unpimp my ride” and “low ego emissions” commercials from VW, there’s a different demographic of people who are shopping the GTIs and R32s than the STIs, EVOs, Mazdaspeed3s. It may be a turnoff for some who want/need to advertise they spent $33,000, but subtlity has its virtues too.

    I can’t get my head around it costing $33,000 (or more), though. That’s approaching G35 and 1-series territory. If you need an AWD hatch/wagon, then a well-equiped Outback XT lives in this price range as well.

  • avatar
    CeeDragon


    Glenn Swanson :
    October 8th, 2007 at 1:13 pm


    Much as I admire the GTI’s performance factor, the reliability issue is worrisome when you’re logging a minimum of 40 miles per day x 10 years.

    One day I came home and my wife repainted our bathroom in bright lime green. She goes to the emergency room a bit more frequently than she should. I get much less reliable sleep.

    Your milage may vary. :)

  • avatar
    Drew

    “As near as I can figure out the R32 is simply an Audi A3/3.2Q with a different body.”

    That was my thought as well, which makes this review all the more puzzling. A friend of mine has a A3 3.2 Quattro and that’s a hell of a little car. I’ve driven it and thought that the handling was surprisingly good – although I wasn’t really pushing it.

    Even the TTAC review of the A3 3.2 was pretty glowing: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1418

    So, is the R32 actually less of a drivers car than the Audi? Weird.

    While we won’t get the hatch I’m waiting on the BMW 135 – questionable aesthetics and all. Knowing BMW, it will probably be priced way too high though.

  • avatar
    Drew

    This review motivated me to take a trip to Audi’s website.

    Have any of you seen the A5 that will be out in the spring? If that car is half as good looking in person as the pictures it will be drop-dead gorgeous. Of course, being a luxury coupe it probably won’t be a drivers car, but still. Those lines…

    http://www.audiusa.com/audi/us/en2/new_cars/Audi_A5.html

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @Drew
    The A5 is reputed to be a true driver’s car, and according to some folks whose opinions I value, it is the first Audi in a long time to be truly fun to drive. RS4 notwithstanding, of course.

    @Glenn Swanson
    Yeah, I have done about 15k miles this year and fortunately am on a flexible schedule so dealer trips aren’t extraordinarily disruptive. Even still, I’ve been considering dumping the GTI because as fun as it is to drive, the frequent check engine light is insane. I can tell you I would never ever own one of these out of warranty.

    I had a Honda Accord for 3 years. Oil changes. That’s it. Never ever had a mechanical problem. Unfortunately, I found it “fun for a family car” which is to say boring for a guy with no kids, and it was way too big for my taste.

    Nemphre
    Yep, you just tap it 4 times quickly. The transmission is extremely quick, not just in engaging the next gear but in shifting around between them. I have never had a problem with waiting for it to change gears. It even blips the throttle on downshifts.

    @CeeDragon
    I actually went through last winter on the 18 inch wheels and summer performance tires. Not sure why I did this, though I never ordered them in the first place (I took delivery of a car that was stocked by the dealer because it was cheaper). Even that was fine for getting around in bad weather. Short wheelbase + engine over the front wheels = winter bliss. This year I bought some cheapo 17s on TireRack and a set of all-season Bridgestones. I assume they’ll be much better in the winter but so far am appreciating the smoother ride quality.

    @whatdoiknow1
    You said it. Driving stick on empty roads is fun. Even in a little traffic it’s okay. On the Long Island Expressway or Grand Central, with 8 miles of stop and go traffic, I think I’d saw my leg off.

  • avatar
    brownie

    +1 on Audi service being worth the price difference. At least so far.

    I haven’t driven the A3 in any trim level, but I saw/heard the 2.0T version pulling (speeding) away from the curb a few days ago, and it looked plenty fast enough from where I was standing…

  • avatar
    AKM

    I haven’t driven the A3 in any trim level, but I saw/heard the 2.0T version pulling (speeding) away from the curb a few days ago, and it looked plenty fast enough from where I was standing…

    That it is. The 2.0T is a very nice little engine, and the FWD config ensures that weight stays reasonably low. The one thing that bugs me most is that in order to get paddle shifters, you need to get the luxury or sports trims, both of which cost a bundle and get you leather seats…and I don’t like leather seats. My wife wears pants instead of short skirts when we ride in a car with leather seats in the summer. Not good.
    Makes sense on the luxury trim, but why on the sports trim?
    I wonder if the R32 does any better in this respect. The GTI trim levels are much more flexible than the A3′s.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    I’ll stick with my built 95 Eagle Talon TSi AWD and buy some better seats for it. I just can’t see paying over 30k for either a Golf or Lancer or Impreza.

    If you do get a DSM be sure to have a good set of tools. Mine has turned me into a mechanic lol.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Well, here is the problem I see with the car: 6-cyl engine and AWD mean the thing is too heavy to be a hot hatch. So, then what is the point? They turned it into an Audi. Between this and a 30K Mugen Civic, I am really trying to figure out what the world is coming to.

    Justin,

    You just broke my heart as well with the new GTI. I was hoping the new ones would be better than the old ones. A week worth of arguing regarding Phil’s editorial about illegitimate biases got me to consider it once again. And you just ended that in a flash (or comment as it were).

  • avatar
    akitadog

    FYI, the interior shot is that of the GTI, not the R32. The manual tranny gives it away.

  • avatar
    kjc117

    I test drove the R32 also, the DSG is amazing even in auto mode and the best part of the car.

    Engine, brakes, suspension, and seats were also good but $33,800 the price was not.

    Still it is a good car and I am happy VW has brought to the U.S.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    akitadog–
    i’m pretty sure that the R32 comes with a stick in Europe.

    As for reliability, don’t be scared guys!
    I know a guy with a Corolla with chronic oil leaks.
    I had a MKIV GTI for 85,000 trouble-free miles, and it was supposed to be at the bottom of the reliability charts.

    So, bad stuff happens to good cars too. if you want a GTI, get a GTI.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    It would seem that whenever you put this much engine up front, you’re going to have some understeer. Admittedly, I haven’t driven the most recent R32, but the last V6 powered Jetta I drove was a handful because of the understeer.

    The original GTI, circa 1983, had a formula that seems to have been lost over the years, as Volkwagen has catered to the American urge to shove the biggest “mill” into the smallest space.

    My vote is for a DOHC four-cylinder up front, with a turbocharger; and simplicity works best: a basic, manual transmission, of six speeds forward, to back it up. God help anyone who has to pay for a rebuild of the transmission that’s currently in the R32.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    I agree with NICKNICK. My Corolla sucks when it comes to reliability. Even if the chances are better that GTI’s will have more problems (all the people I know who own one, which is a lot, all have electronic problems), I say the risk is more than worth it.

    As for the rebuild of the DSG mentioned by Prackhurst, I’m sure it’ll be more expensive than a standard transmission rebuild but transmission rebuilds aren’t standard procedure anyways and although there hasn’t been much reliability info on the DSG so far it hasn’t shown to be less reliable than standard transmissions.

    I’m surprised how many people are ripping the DSG without really giving it a chance. It’s a really really really good transmission, I’d get it over a manual or automatic in any modern car that offered one with a few exceptions for a few very light, lower-power compacts. The DSG isn’t just another run of the mill automatic with a manual shift feature, it’s really something else.

  • avatar
    powdermonkey

    When you buy a VW with the expectation that it “has the same powertrain as an Audi” be carefull. The engine is the same, the transmission and other components are the same. However many of the smaller components are different or left off in the VW. When I bought my Jetta in 2001 one of the main selling points was it had the same engine as the Audi A4 I was looking at with a lower sticker. Imagine my suprise when I started having missfire problems about 3 years later and found out that the wiring harness that runs along the top of the engine block to the coilpacks had in some places melted and or cracked insulation causing (posible, never proven to a dealer) shorts. In the Audi version of the 1.8T this potential problem was mitigated (perhaps eliminated) with a heat shield. In the VW the harness just runs along the top of the engine block with nothing but bare wire. With some research I found that you could buy the Audi heat shield for (IFIRC) $20 or less. Some research on the web turned up a repair for the wireing harness, but it was expensive and involved running back to the ECU all the effected wiring. Estimates were that a dealer shop would have to spend 8 or more hours and remove half the engine to fix this. Seemed like a little penny pinching no one but a mechanic or someone who did their own repairs would notice, but those misfires and other electrical problems are endemic to the MKIV Jetta/Gulf/GTI. I loved my VW and the Audi I used to own, but I will not buy another anytime soon, certanly not outside the warante period.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    R32 is a really weird bird. It’s in a segment where following points are the most important. 1. Handling 2. Performance 3. Street credibility 4. Looks

    Compare the $32.900 R32 to a $29.700 LanEvo and its very hard to reason why would anyone in their right mind choose the R32 over Evo. Both are 4WD, both with 4 doors, both with similar interior space and I feel that both are targeted at the same audience. In first 3 categories Evo steamrolls over the R32, 4th category is ofcourse debateable, but whereas R32 looks like a GTI with bigger wheels, Evo looks like/is a lean-mean tru-JDM-feel street machine. Everybody in the enthusiast crowd knows it and that’s what really matters. That makes the R32 a really sad little veedub :)

  • avatar
    CoffeeJones

    I’ve got 20K on my MKV GTI and my only complaint is electronic noise from the base speaker system, and
    um…
    I’d have liked an LSD for when I’m having to do a hard 90degree turn in traffic. Outside of that, I’m not cone dodging or tracking, it’s just my DD.

    IIRC the 230 HP Fahrenheit editions get their extra power from a different ECU program, and everything else is the same. Maybe the GTI was detuned for warranty reasons?

    Still, the VR6 is just an updated version of the one in the R32 with only a modest gain over the previous gen R32.
    I feel they should have gone straight over to the R36 if they wanted to really justify the price difference over a GTI, if it’s even possible to cram a 3.6 liter engine in that econo-car engine bay.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    The car is great and the way it looks. But I won’t buy it. for the following Reasons

    1.Parts are expensive.
    2. It looks better when a girl is driving it. kind of a girly car like the Beetle.
    3. Is it V6? If yes it will consume a little more gas.
    4. Hard to find a Techincian that is well trained to fix the the VW.

    5. I cannot afford it. :-(

    great review by the way.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    There are no MK V 230HP Fahrenheit editions. The Fahrenheit models share the same engine and HP/torque rating as all other GTI’s… at least in the U.S.

  • avatar
    manbou

    Does anyone have any thoughts about Toyota’s Japan-only Blade Master G, which is sometimes called an R32 challenger? 3.5-liter V6, but front-wheel drive and an automatic transmission (albeit with paddle shifters). Supposedly it’s very powerful and smooth to drive — but dull and not a driver’s car.

  • avatar
    sching

    The R32 is indeed available with the 6-speed manual in Europe and other markets outside of the US.

    It also sports optional Recaro seats, optionally covered in cowhide instead of fabric. It’s even available in a choice of 3 and 5 doors, although only the 3-door is available in its German homeland.

    And all for the tidy sum of US$50K in Germany and about US$53K in the UK. And that’s before the metallic paint, leather, or even the centre armrest. THe price does include taxes though – 17.5% VAT in the UK nnd 19% VAT in Germany (I think).

  • avatar
    cristiana

    I see that Justin had problems with his MKV GTI, but, I also have an MKV GTI with almost 19k miles on it and it has given me zero problems. And, I love the car too, so it has been a great experience for me.

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    when the first R32 came to the states, it was like they’d made a car just for me. I love the “idea” of the sti and the evo, but driving something like that daily does not fit into my reality (I don’t need a table attached to the back of my car to eat cheeseburgers off of at 3am anymore). the R32 was perfect . . . AWD, 250hp, 6sp, beautiful interior, and a sound like the trumpets of God’s own army. But the new “uber-golf” is just not the same: ugly (check), DSG (check), and too expensive for what you get. I agree that the Audis (used S4) is a better proposition for most people.

    regarding the box, i admit to never having driven the DSG (i’ve driven the SMG, ugh), but there’s something about choosing how to let out the clutch that an autobox will never give you. I think . . .

  • avatar
    melllvar

    Unfortunately, it seems like the best thing the R32 seems to have over the GTI this time is that you can get it in blue.

    That’s the only significant advantage the R32 has over the GTI for me. Though I wouldn’t mind having the 6-cylinder’s extra torque.

    My GTI is totally stock, and I’ve been back to the dealer with the check engine light on 4 times in the past year.

    I was close to buying a 2006 Jetta GLI last year until the salesman spent twice as much time selling me on the parts & service department than the car itself. That didn’t say good things about reliability IMO.

    As for the “low ego emissions” aspect. I don’t really buy it. The two VW dealerships in town are “Royal” and “Aristocrat”. The time I spent at Royal I sensed a lot of excess ego from the staff. Sure it’s more smug than brash, but that’s not necessarily better.

    Still, once I’m over my Mustang GT (or gas gets way too expensive) I’d try a GTI or R32 if they had a good lease deal.

    I liked my Civic Si and would like another hatch, but it’s got to have torque this time and I would like to give DSG a try. Maybe by then other manufacturers will have their dual-clutch gearboxes to market.

  • avatar
    ash78

    The previous R32, which Mr. Farago lauded heavily a few years ago, was an outstanding car. Too heavy? Sure. But like many people have noted, it was like having 90% of the performance of the STi or Evo, with twice the refinement and stealth. It was as quiet and smooth (on good roads) as nearly any luxury car, with quality materials the same.

    My old man has a mint ’04 as his daily driver. It’s rough-riding, twitchy on the throttle and brakes, and never ceases to bring a grin to my face in every way. He paid a whopping $25k and change for it, and he has recently been offered over $20k for it from a dealer (you can probably do better privately).

    Here’s a kicker: In his area (Baltimore), the dealer says the requests for used MkIV versions have grown with the intro of the MkV. So the new one is such a letdown, people are clamoring for the old one (better price and true 6-speed).

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    The difference in the UK is only £3k between the GTI and R32, but the GTI is more tuneable so I would probably go that route.

    Apparently the 2.0T is good for up to 350hp without needing to be opened although I suspect I would miss 4WD with that kind of power.

    The 2.0TDi matches the R32 for torque with only 140hp, the 170 beats it.

  • avatar
    fletch

    Robert, a great review, however, I suppose to test your assertion, you need to line ‘em up on a track,stig -wise and see what the real times are. Here in Australia over undulating give and take roads I would rather get out of the MKV R32 after a long trip than the others mentioned – I just bought one. The thing eats up that sort of distance with ease, I suppose it’s almost a GT . I have driven the Subaru and it ain’t the sort of car for that, the MKIV R32 was panned here for suspension that was just too hard and the EVO is apparently the same, although probably faster. You may be right re value over the GTI but there’s nothing like a big engine in a small car! When I was a lad my Dad had a Giulia Super TI sedan, the car had a lot of body roll to say the least, but it was one of the great sports sedans because it could soak it all up and then some and any angle of body roll. Have you driven one?

  • avatar

    fletch :

    Granted: R32 makes a great GT. But wouldn’t you really rather have an Audi?

  • avatar
    fletch

    Robert, Not really frankly speaking ( have not driven it). Here is an interesting video I found – its interesting to watch the GTI through the same corners as the R32 and at the last part the time over the circuit vs the MKIV R32
    Regards

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjtTuBTJYSc

  • avatar
    kichy

    Yikes! 3720 lbs says Road and Track?! 35 grand? No 6 spd? 95 in the quarter? who are they kidding?
    And the black thing in the rear bumper makes it look like it has a load in its pants…

  • avatar
    nozferatu

    The standard GTI I think is overpriced and overweight…this outdoes it by another notch…I mean WTF is VW thinking? This is one FAT PIG of a car…

    And the price…MY GOD..$37K I saw it priced at a dealership…who in their right freaking mind, who is not ingestion mushrooms NOT of the edible garden variety, would pay for this POS?

    Come on…German cars are being seriously overkill and obnoxious.

    I don’t care what people say, but comparing a standard GTI at like $27K to a SENTRA SPEC V at $20K….$7K difference…uhhh…for what? Is it that much better? Not to me after I drove them.

  • avatar
    bosshoss

    Audis are cool but conspicuous and mature compared to R32. R32 has stealth.

    Contrary to comments above The Audi 3.2 is not the same car at all. It’s engine is the refined lightweight aluminium block version. R32 is heavy iron block VR6 and therefore has the engine note that makes this car a superexotic toy.

    For those who dig the R32, price and weight is not everything.

  • avatar
    LouisvilleSteve

    You guys who are griping about this car must not be the market Volkswagen is targeting for the R32. I just purchased one and I love it. Also, I have previously owned a 2002 WRX and a 2004 STI. The WRX was a fun to drive zippy little car. The STI was a brut force performer, which in some ways was not as fun as the WRX. The R32 fits somewhere in between the two.

    1. Some of the prices quoted on here are crazy. I just bought my R32 for invoice which was under 32K. Compare that to the new STI 38K+ with the BBS wheels and fog lamps. I agree that the STI is a better performer, but that would have added $150 to my monthly payment.
    2. A comparably loaded GTI was 28K so to me the R32 was work the extra 3 – 4K for the V6 and the 4Motion. Also, what is all this talk about Audis? The A3 S line last time I looked was 42K so that is not really in the same price range to me. Basically, what I have seen is that for every 5k you are adding about $100 to your monthly payment on a 5 year loan. So $200 more a month is a lot of money to me to pay for the Audi. All though I have to say I like the idea of a 4 door.
    3. I am 44 years old and felt stupid driving my STI with the hood scoop and huge whale tail. I know Subaru has fixed that with the current model, but at a cost. At my age I like the stealth nature of the R32. I don’t feel silly pulling up to the office everyday in this car like I sometimes did with the STI. However, the young guys all lusted over the STI which did feel good.
    4. It’s got a European appeal that the Japanese cars just don’t have. It just feels cool and more sophisticated. The straight forward controls are really a pleasure and easy to use when driving the car.
    5. I’ll take the added comfort over the hard edged performance. This car is plenty fast to get you in trouble with the law. When I had my STI I use to hit 100mph every day and I knew I was just asking for trouble. In the real world do you really need a car that fast?

    For me the R32 is comfortable, sporty, and because it’s a hatchback it has the utility I need for my lifestyle. I couldn’t be happier with the car.

  • avatar

    LouisvilleSteve :

    Glad you like the R32, but the real competitor to this car is the GTI.

    It’s not that much slower, handles beautifully and costs a lot less.

  • avatar
    LouisvilleSteve

    “It’s not that much slower, handles beautifully and costs a lot less.”

    That’s true if you don’t want the DSG and all the other options that come standard on the R32. Personally, I like a fully loaded car. Again, maybe because I am getting old, but I love the DSG!

  • avatar

    LouisvilleSteve :

    The GTI has DSG.

  • avatar
    WindWalker

    I often wonder if the people commenting on the R32 really have ever spent some time with it. I have owned two GTI’s prior to the R32. First his car was purchased after I was hit head on by a Honda Accord while both of us were traveling about 45 MPH The Accord was totally demolished. Never again will I wimper one word about the car being heavy. No one at the scene or who has since seen the pictures has not commented on the strength of that body and the immense difference in damage between the two vehicles. Six weeks after the accident the two occupants of the Honda were still in the hospital and I was home after three days. It may have been 6 weeks before I was back to work
    I love the R32. I have spent time with both a STI and Evo and there is now comparison in the build and comfort when you have to live with the car on a daily drive. I priced and drove a couple of A3’s and they are way overpriced when compared to the R32. Then there is the cost of insurance…the STI and Evo will set you back many car payments.
    On top of that are the boy racer additions to the Subrau and Mitsu that scream “give me a ticket.” Sorry, not for me. I am comfortable and pleased with every aspect of the R32. Yes my GTI with all of its APR goodies was faster but this car is so much better in the “twisties” and not to mention the snow which just doesn’t slow this car down. This car is pleasure to drive day and day out. As for me I could almost buy it for the great sounds it makes.
    As for not handling as well as the previous generation…check out the times when Top Gear compared the R32 to BMW’s little coupe. A fun video on Y-Tube.

  • avatar
    nozferatu

    WINDWALKER:

    To each his own. I’ve owned a VR6 GTI 24v…a total PIG of a car.

    As for your accident comment…there are so many factors involving an accident…just merely stating that you hit an Accord and you walked away doesn’t mean much. What year was the other car? Etc? Weight places a role but I don’t doubt for a minute that Honda’s engineering is far, far, far more competent that VW’s…in anything. There’s a reason why Honda’s look like crap when they get into accidents…because they take the loads of an accident so you don’t take them. I highly doubt you hit a new Honda Accord and if you say you did, I honestly wouldn’t believe you.

    German cars are in general over designed, overweight, inefficient piles. They fool people into thinking they are fast because they have low end torque. They fool people into thinking they are advanced by offering extremely and overly complicated add-ons that turn into complete nightmares a few years down the road.

    I think VW has lost its way anyway…it should be making small, efficient, fun cars that give very good fuel mileage, very simple, very low cost.

    Instead, they make cars for pretentious yuppies who think it’s cool to drive around in a overweight barge.

  • avatar
    damien

    To all those who think the R32 is grossly overpriced, wait it out. I just picked up my R32, loaded w/ nav. Brand new with a VW loyalty incentive they were running last month I got the car I wanted after a couple of weeks of shopping for 28995. Price a GTI for that, or any other car with similar options. I traded in my GTI for the 32. It was an 06-cloth with the sunroof/sirius package, the cost was 24500ish. So, for 4500 bucks I added a 3000 premium package, 1800 nav, 3000 body kit, V6, Haldex AWD. And a sweet ipod dock in the center console, though the integration isn’t so premium.

  • avatar
    LouisvilleSteve

    WindWalker:

    Looks like you and I have the same feelings about the R32. My admiration for the car continues to grow the more I drive it. I still can’t wait to drive it to work everyday. Of course I live in Kentucky so there are lots fun open roads to play on.

    Nozferatu:

    I am not really not sure I follow what you are saying. The car really doesn’t have that much torque. Only 236 ft/lbs. True it does kick in early though. I guess if you think the car feels faster then it is I have a question for you. What is more important, beating teenage boys in drag races or the enjoyment you get from the way a car feels everyday when you drive it? I average about 80 – 90 mph on my way to work everyday and I enjoy every minute of it. That is as fast as I need to go if I want to keep my license.

    Also, what are the overly complicated add-ons you’re referring to? Automatic door locks and climate control?

  • avatar
    mrtrumbe

    —nozferatu

    I don’t care what people say, but comparing a standard GTI at like $27K to a SENTRA SPEC V at $20K….$7K difference…uhhh…for what? Is it that much better? Not to me after I drove them.

    Way off here, dude.

    Just built a standard GTI. Price: $23,300
    Just built a standard Sentra Spec V. Price: $21,130

    Having driven both, I personally think the GTI is much more fun to drive and is generally more of a drivers car. Plus, with its turbo engine, there are many after-market chipping options with the GTI. And don’t forget the option of a DSG on the GTI. Not my bag, personally, but it is incredible technology.

    Finally, this…

    –Torque–
    Sentra Spec V: 180 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
    GTI MkV: 207 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,000

    AND

    –Curb Weight–
    Sentra Spec V: 3,048 lbs
    GTI MkV: 3,213 lbs

    Only 150 lbs difference in weight and the GTI having a lot more “pop” from its extra torque over much broader range than the Sentra.

    I think the Sentra Spec V is a fine car. But the GTI spanks it as a driver’s car, IMO.

    Taft

  • avatar
    soulman016

    I share the same sentimenets as WindWalker and Louisville Steve. I also had a MkV GTI before the R32, and both cars have significantly different characteristics. The GTI felt a little sluggish of the line, while the R32 effortlessly accelerates through the torque band. It is really more of a GT car then the previous gen, but sounds and handles just as well. The best part about this car is it’s stealthiness and the sound – look forward to hearing it every morning.

    The AWD is at home in Iowa winters just as it is on dry summer streets. The GTI had snow tires, but it just wasn’t the same. I picked up mine in January of this year for just a hair above $28,500 – way worth it over a fully loaded GTI or a rather rediculous 40k for a A3 S-line.

    Insurance wise, this is much more reasonable to insure than an Evo or an STi (love em BTW), especially for 25 yr old like me.

  • avatar
    happaulo

    Oh Dear seems you poor Americans got a different Model to Europe and New Zealand.
    We have had the Golf R32 here for over 3 years.
    6 speed manuals are available & it appears we get a firmer & more suitable suspension set-up. Plus better tires. Has your suspension set-up been optimized for smooth highway cruising instead of winding,undulating mountain roads?
    I love my Golf & have spent many a day driving just for the sake of it. The Audi S3 is a different beast all together. And although very quick is rather more ‘civilised’. and $10K more expensive.
    If you have an R32 I’m sure you know how much it can be a high speed cruiser, comfortable roomy hatch, and a thrilling 4wd sprinter. The next level up is the Audi RS4 & thats $60K more.

    Come to NZ & I’ll take you for a drive.
    Paul

  • avatar
    Chris

    PPS- ALOT of you say the R32 is an over priced GTI with AWD ? OK Ill say my R32 is an UNDERPRICED Lambo Galardo with more interior room !

  • avatar
    nozferatu

    It’s an overweight, fat bloated turd made for wannabe’s who think they are driving another fat bloated turd car called a BMW.
     
    Doesn’t anyone these days realize the benefits of driving  a light nimble car?  I guess not….egos trump real driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    nozferatu

    By the way, my point regarding the SENTRA Spec V is that you can get a decent car for alot less money.  Frankly the difference between the two reduces to zero when you consider the outrageous price for the R32.  And the comparison between the R32 and the Sentra Spec V is incorrect as far as numbers go.  The Spec V has 200HP and the R32 isn’t 3200lbs.
     
    There are so many better cars than VW out there…perhaps we don’t get them here but drooling over an R32 is silly IMO.  I don’t like cars that feel heavy, drive like tanks, and guzzle gas for no real reason.  The R32 simply doesn’t offer performance that warrants such poor mileage either.

  • avatar
    swarden

    The reaction people have to the Mk5 R32 is sometimes puzzling. Take the TTAC review here. Seems to like the car but can’t help putting it down and nitpicking it. What’s interesting/puzzling about that is the reaction this same TTAC reviewer had to the Mk4 R32. In that review the car was hailed as the next best thing to a Porsche for sheer driving enjoyment and experience.

    So why are people so down on this Mk5 R32? It baffles the mind because the Mk4 and Mk5 R32s are almost identical, and if anything the Mk5 is incrementally better than the Mk4 R32. it is more powerful, faster round a track, I prefer the styling, and it is a little easier to live with day to day. furthermore it retains all the magic of the Mk4 R32, the amazing exhaust note, the subtle exterior hints at something special under the hood, etc…

    Is the problem simply that the Mk5 GTI is just so much better than the Mk4 GTI? Just because the new GTI is so good how, does that make a car that, when it was in Mk4, was as much a delight to drive as a Porsche suddenly become…not worth it.

    The Mk5 R32 is a great car, and a joy to drive, and it does out perform a MK5 GTI hands down on the track. As far as driving experience goes, we’ll the GTI is a different kind of car and offers a different experience, the R32′s offering is something special.

    As far as modding the cars, ya a GTI can be modded to outperform the R32, but then the R32 can be chipped, and given forced induction as well to up the ante, so I do not think that argument really stands up. Both cars can be modded.

    The new 2012 Golf R will not have the VR6, and that is to bad, because the Mk4s and 5s with that lovely sounding and performing engine really are something special. We are entering an age where V6s are giving way to more economical turbo charged 4 cylinders. Nothing wrong with a great 1.8 or 2.0T, but I for one will miss that great exhaust note out of a Mk4 or 5 R32.

    This is a great car hands down, just as it was in 2003 when it was reviewed in Mk4 form. If you have one hold onto it and enjoy it, cars like these will not be made in the future.


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