Test model: 2006 Volkswagen Golf R32, five-door with DSG
- Electric glass sunroof - $1621.00 – OK, I’d think about it
- Satellite navigation system with CD changer - $2436.00 – No, I’d buy a portable touch screen unit for less than $1000.00
- Electrically adjustable driver’s seat - $725 – No, the manual system works too well
- Parking distance sensors - $644 – Yes, but why aren’t they standard on the R32
Recommended Retail Price: $58,460
On Road Price: $64,061
Where it sits: The top of the tree in the Golf range.
A bit of history: The R32 was first launched in 2002 and was considered one of the hottest cars on the road with its 177kW engine. Worldwide demand was way more than was originally planned, with over 14,000 sold between 2002-2004. In Australia, all 200 imports were sold and after driving this car, I can only hope that Volkswagen have plenty of stock of the new R32, this time round.
HOW IT GOES
It wasn’t easy taking the R32 back to Volkswagen. The most powerful Golf ever built, is a sophisticated, high performance ride, which your Grandmother could drive. Yes, it’s that good.
From the moment you fire up the R32 engine, your ears tell you full well, that there’s something a little angry under the bonnet of this car. What we have here, is a 3.2L V6 which will deliver a respectable 184 kW (250bhp for the older crew) and a peak of 320 Nm of torque, between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm. The problem is, this engine plays such a sweet tune that more often than not, you’ll find yourself driving with the windows down and the CD player off!
No question, this R32 with its 4Motion and DSG set-up, is a quick thing. In the Northern Territory, you’ll hit a scary 250km/h and the benchmark 0 to 100km/h sprint in just 6.2 seconds although, on the road, I reckon it feels a little quicker than this.
It’s not just the speed and acceleration though; the silk smooth delivery of power and the astonishingly quick gear changes via Volkswagen’s Direct Shift Gearbox make this car one of the best performance drives of the year. It’s just so user friendly. There’s nothing like the sensation of driving a six speed manual with a close ratio gearbox, but that’s only true if you haven’t driven with a DSG transmission. It is truly a work of art, which will probably end up in the Louvre, alongside the original Range Rover, once all car makers adopt this technology and bury the old school automatic.
Direct Shift Gearbox is a dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, which shifts gears faster than Michael Schumacher could ever hope to. With two clutches and a two-part transmission shaft operating different gears, the DSG never takes a rest. For example, when you select “D” for drive, first gear is selected by one clutch, and second gear is pre-selected by the other clutch. This produces an almost seamless gear change with little or no loss of power between shifts. The DSG is currently on board the Bugatti Veyron (the world’s fastest car) and is said to feature in the much anticipated Audi Supercar, the R8.
Although you can also change gears manually on the R32 using a set of steering wheel mounted paddles, there’s no point really. Just select “S” for Sport and the DSG will run to almost redline in every gear with a little bonus on the way down. When braking hard on the approach to a corner, the R32 will automatically down shift with a delightful double clutch song, enabling you to power out of the corner in the perfect gear ratio.
What’s even more astonishing (sorry about the use of superlatives) is the way this car lays to the power down in the wet. Quite simply, the R32 has got more grip than a bucket full of starving leeches, no matter what the road conditions are. No doubt, the Haldex four-wheel drive system has a big part to play in the way this car performs in the ‘grip’ department, as it electronically distributes power to all four wheels or wherever it’s needed, thus avoiding any loss of traction or hint of torque steer.
HOW IT HANDLES
One thing Volkswagen has achieved with the new Mark V Golf Chassis, is a very good balance between ride comfort and cornering ability and the R32, applies this and then some. For a car with cornering limits this high, speed bumps and potholes are soaked up without fuss, despite riding on ultra-low profile 225/40 rubber and 18 inch (Zolder) alloys. It doesn’t seem to matter how much throttle you give this car into a corner, it will hold its line and frankly, the only place you could safely and legally explore its limitations, is on a race track.
Compared to the Golf GTI, the steering feels slightly heavier and that seems to work well in the R32 given the additional weight you are carrying with a V6. You’ll notice the blue brake callipers which sit on top of some very large vented brake discs. These units are designed by Volkswagen and provide Brembo-like stopping power with little or no brake fade after heavy use.
In and out of corners, it’s hard to go wrong in the R32, given the technology built into the vehicle. You get: 4Motion all-wheel drive, ABS, ASR, EBA, EBD and ESP, which all come together to make this car, performance friendly.
I’ve driven both the Japanese bad boys, Mitsubishi’s EVO 1X and Subaru’s WRX STI and I’m comfortable in saying that the R32 has the power and agility to at least keep up with these demons on any sort of twisty stretch, whilst providing an infinitely more comfortable ride.
Standing behind the R32 for the first time, you’d be excused for thinking that a reputable after-market performance tuning company had got to work on the standard Golf and produced something a little special. First off, you’ll notice that this car has been lowered (by 20mm over the standard Golf). Secondly, two very large polished stainless exhaust pipes are a giveaway along with the purposeful 18 inch multi-spoked Zolder alloys.
From all other angles, the subtle brush has been applied to the R32, such as the deeper colour coded side skirts and Jetta style front grille, although this is a polished stainless look, rather than chrome. There is no ‘Golf’ badging anywhere just R32 on the front and rear of the car. Noticeably missing, are front driving/fog lights found on lesser Golf models, but don’t worry, they’ve been replaced by a set of Bi-Xenon headlights, which could provide enough light for a night game at the MCG. Incidentally, Bi-Xenon means that both the low beam and high beam lights are Xenon powered.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Inside the R32, it’s familiar territory if you’ve spent some time in the current Golf GTI. However, there are a few features which are unique to this car, such as the milled aluminium strips that you’ll find along the doors panels, dash, and around the centre console, which add a prestige look. Careful attention has been paid to the design and function of the large foot pedals, which are polished alloy with rubber inlays and work a treat, if you’re lucky enough to be behind the wheel of this car. The switchgear and instrumentation is pretty much of the same high quality you’ll find in other Golf models although, you do get some cool blue transparent needles which sweep all dials. Nice.
The standard leather sports seats are from the Golf GTI and are as good as you get in performance cars. However, if you reckon you need even more side bolster than these, and I don’t, then you could go for the optional Recaro Racing Seats which do look sensational, but at over $3,000 you might have second thoughts.
The proper sports steering wheel is also lifted from the GTI, and is a superb three-spoke model with a Formula One style flat bottom incorporating audio and trip functions along with gear shift paddles.
The R32 is a luxury ride, no question. The standard Golf with leather upholstery is a nice place to be, but the R32 comes locked and loaded with a bunch of techno toys that sort this model out from the rest of the range.
The inventory of standard features is way too long to list, but the goodies include; Dual Zone electronic climate control with dust and pollen filter, Automatic dimming rear view mirror, Automatic headlights on - with coming/leaving home function (when you hit the remote unlock or lock button the headlights light up for a set time) 8 Channel 250W amplifier with 10 speakers and 6 disc changer (definitely better than my Yamaha home system) Chillable glove box and rain sensing wipers. All the other creature comforts are there such as front an rear cup holders and 12V sockets, but one thing you don’t get, is electric folding side mirrors, mandatory if you go anywhere near a shopping centre these days.
SPACE, STORAGE AND PRACTICALITY
The five-door R32 in comparison to the three-door version is much more than just a luxury hot hatch. It can comfortably transport 2 adults and 3 kids to the shopping mall or convert to a small station wagon by folding the rear seat backs down. There are heaps of thoughtful storage areas throughout the car and the load space behind the rear seats particularly large. The interior is well lit with individual map reading/games playing lights at both ends, together with foot well illumination up the front. There’s also the little things in the R32 (and much of it in the standard Golf) like proper grab handles all round so you can close the doors with ease and the separate bookshelf in the glove box for the owner’s manual, so you can still fit a couple of cokes in there to chill, that make this car the inspired all rounder it is. You won’t even need a bottle opener, it comes with one!
In days gone by, performance cars were lucky if they came with a seatbelt. These days, there’s a vast array of safety features built in to these cars and the R32 gets the lot. Airbags include; Driver and front passenger airbags, Driver and front passenger side airbags and Curtain airbags, front and rear.
As we all know, airbags might save your life in a crash but it’s the active safety features which can help you avoid the crash in the first place and again, the R32 has these systems in spades. You get Anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution and Brake assist in the stopping department. In the Traction control area, the car is fitted with Anti-Slip regulation, Electronic Stabilisation Program and 4Motion all-wheel drive and that’s about as good as it gets in any price performance car.
Front seatbelts are height adjustable with pre-tensioners and belt force limiters while three-point seatbelts are fitted times three in the rear.
For kids, there are three child seat anchor points along with ISOFIX anchorages which although a standard in Europe due to their ease of fit and added safety benefits, have not been embraced here in Australia for reasons which require some investigation.
COST OF OWNERSHIP
At $58,460 with the DSG, the R32 is a bargain when compared to its closest rival, the rear-wheel-drive BMW 130i Sport with a 6-speed automatic box, which will cost you $65,800.
If you don’t have kids, then the three-door R32 with DSG at $57,238 is a no brainer.
Given the 2006 R32 is quite a few thousand cheaper than the previous Mk 1V edition and loaded with way more wizardry, Volkswagen Australia should sell comfortably higher numbers than the previous model, assuming they have the stock, that is.
If you’re lucky enough to afford one of these beauties, it’s doubtful that you’ll want to coast around without occasionally exploring the many talents this car is blessed with. If that be the case, I’m not sure that the combined fuel consumption figure of 9.8L/100km is all that relevant as is, the fact that the R32 like the good stuff.
There are only four exclusive colours on offer with the R32 (Deep Blue, Black Magic, Reflex Silver and United Grey) and I’d be happy with any one of them.
If you’re looking for a performance car, a luxury car, a family car, and a safe car at the right price, then look no further than the Volkswagen Golf R32.
By Anthony Crawford.