Exclusive Golf club
The R32 combined performance with luxury, writes Graham Smith
W CLAIMS responsibility for the hot hatch, which is a fair boast when you remember that the Golf GTi kick-started the movement in the 1970s.
The R32 was VW’s attempt to build the ultimate luxury hot hatch, one that would offer a different, but still exhilarating driving experience to the pacesetting GTi. THOUGH the turbocharged frontwheel-drive GTi retains pole position in the class, and delivers the performance petrolheads lust after, the R32 is a more refined driving experience.
Badges aside, there were few clues to identify an R32 from a distance. VW, however, was of the view the aluminium-look grille, extra air intakes in the front bumper, and twin polished stainless-steel exhaust outlets were enough to make it stand out.
If the skin was little different from the rest of the range, what lay under the skin was quite a different story. The engine was a 3.2-litre V6 that put out 184kW at 6300 revs along with 310Nm between 2500 and 3000 revs. To put that into context a turbocharged GTi had 147kW and 280Nm.
The R32 also differed in the drive it employed.
Though the GTi was conventional front-wheel drive, the R32 used VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. VW also reset the suspension to cope with the extra zip of the R32, which sat lower than a GTi, had uprated springs and shocks, and rolled on larger, 18-inch, alloy wheels.
In line with VW’s pitch that the R32 was a luxury sedan it came with automatic airconditioning, leather seats, rain-sensing wipers and bixenon headlamps.
On the lot
TO DRIVE away in VW’s upmarket sports hatch you’ll need to spend $35,000-$42,000.
In the shop
VW BUILD quality is of a high standard with good fit and finish.
Few issues concern R32 owners. The car’s mechanical package is well proven, including the 4Motion drive system.
The main issue that surfaces on this, and most other Euro cars, is brake wear on discs and pads.
Owners can get quite a shock when presented with a bill that is usually quite substantial, and often at quite low kilometres. Servicing is important so check for a credible service record that confirms regular oil and filter changes.
On the road
THE R32 faced a battle to convince buyers to spend the extra over a GTi when the GTi was such a great car.
That wasn’t to suggest that the R32 couldn’t hold its own on the road; it could do the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5 seconds. But being luxury-focused the R32 did the job with little fuss; it was smooth, refined and comfortable.
In a crash
THE R32’s safety reputation was backed by plenty of safety gear with front, side and curtain airbags for the ultimate protection. There was electronic stability control, anti-skid brakes,
traction control and electronic diff lock to stave off trouble at the wheel.
At the pump
AS WITH all performance cars the fuel consumption of the R32 is highly dependent on the way it’s driven.
Road testers tend to be rather heavy on the throttle, and with that in mind, at the time of the R32’s launch, reported average fuel con-
sumption was 11.5-12.5 litres/100km.
The bottom line
GREAT hatch, but why bother when the GTi delivers more thrill for less money.
Customised club: VWsaw its R32 as a luxurious alternative to the high-performance GTi. An alloylook grille and twin stainless-steel exhausts marked it visually, and inside there were leather seats and auto airconditioning.