Volkswagen Golf R32 DSG
Distinctive chrome grille marks out R32 from lesser Golfs
- Six-cylinder engine is responsive, powerful and sounds superb
- 4MOTION system is effective and unobtrusive
- DSG gearbox is clever and intuitive
- Little practicality lost despite high performance
- Fuel economy likely to be average in most driving conditions
- Extra weight of drivetrain has a slight impact on agility
- Stiff suspension can give a unsettled ride over sharp bumps
- Running costs will be high thanks in part to thirsty engine
Designed to compete with premium badged cars rather than conventional hot hatches, the VW Golf R32 could be described as a super hatch. Based on the conventional and popular family car, the R32 receives a number of visual and mechanical enhancements, increasing its performance as well as its desirability.
With the capable GTi as a stablemate, VW has worked hard to create a sporty feel with the R32 while giving it a different look to its sibling. The difference is most notable from the front, with the R32 gaining a bold chromed grille, and a deep front bumper housing large air intakes. Unique 18-inch alloy wheels and twin tailpipes poking from the rear bumper are attractive touches.
Inside the R32 is more similar to the conventional Golf, although again there are some distinguishing features. Standard climate control is a useful addition, while the smart flat-bottomed steering wheel first seen on the GTi is also fitted to the R32. Chequered aluminium-effect trim is used on the centre console and the door panels, while metal pedals with grips in the shape of the R32 logo are good to look at and to use.
The biggest differences lie under the surface however, as the R32 has a mechanical configuration used by few of its rivals. Under the bonnet it has a large capacity six-cylinder engine, giving superior performance over its mainly four-cylinder rivals. Harnessing the power is the 4MOTION four-wheel drive system, which remains front-wheel drive unless sensors detect a loss of grip, which results in power being transferred to the rear wheels without any driver intervention.
Available in three and five door specification, the R32 is also available with an innovative DSG (direct shift gearbox) transmission, which uses two clutches to provide seamless gearchanges even under hard acceleration. In this application it also comes with paddles mounted on the back of the steering wheel, allowing the driver to shift manually without touching the gearlever.
Our verdict on the Volkswagen Golf R32 DSG
The Golf R32 manages to combine the usability and practicality of a regular Golf whilst offering all-weather performance and a high level of entertainment when conditions permit, and with little sacrifice in terms of refinement. If the initial purchase price and running costs are not off-putting, the R32 is a highly desirable car with a great deal to offer potential buyers.
The initial purchase price of the R32 could be considered high for a vehicle that is based on a family hatchback, but the amount of standard equipment and the high specification justifies the price. Running costs will be relatively high however, with fuel economy and insurance costs the biggest factors.
Space and practicality
The R32 is just as practical as a regular Golf, with good levels of head, leg and elbow room for front and rear passengers. There are also useful storage areas throughout the cabin. Due to the four-wheel drive layout, the boot floor is higher than on a regular Golf and therefore boot space is slightly reduced, though it remains a good size.
Controls and display
The layout of the R32's cabin is clear and simple, with well-marked buttons and switches. Additionally the R32 gets smart illuminated instruments with blue needles, which look classy and are very clear. The information display between the instruments is also clear and informative.
Excellent standard sports seats give a high level of support, and neither wind nor road noise is likely to disturb passengers. The firm suspension means that the ride quality on broken roads can be a little bumpy, but this never becomes a major discomfort.
As the R32 is such a desirable car, it is fitted as standard with remote central locking and an alarm system, which should deter the most determined thieves.
A considerable safety equipment list including front, side and curtain airbags gives the R32 a high level of passive safety, while the four-wheel drive system improves safety levels in slippery conditions, a useful advantage over two-wheel drive rivals.
With a weight penalty due to the four-wheel drive transmission and large capacity engine, the R32 is not quite as agile as the Golf GTi. However, the trade-off is superior poise and stability, as the 4MOTION system delivers the impressive power to whichever wheels have the most grip. In all conditions it feels planted to the road, and it has huge reserves of grip and balance. The effortless nature of the DSG transmission and the flexibility of the V6 engine makes the R32 a highly enjoyable car to drive, and it covers ground rapidly and with great ease.
Family car appeal
A key strength of the R32 is its ability to combine performance and practicality, and it could easily provide excellent family transport. There is sufficient passenger and luggage room, and it has the ability to cover distances with ease and in comfort.
First car appeal
Although not a challenging or intimidating car to drive, the R32's performance and expense would make it largely unsuitable for new or inexperienced drivers. The high insurance group would also put it beyond most drivers with no driving performance car experience.
Quality and image
VW's reputation for quality is maintained in the R32, with high standards of fit and finish throughout. A strong sense of good design is also evident, giving the R32 an aura of high quality. The R32's image is also elevated above that of the GTi, and the relative rarity and specification of the car gives it an enviable reputation amongst its rivals.
In five-door form the R32 is a simple vehicle to enter and exit from, for both front and rear passengers. Wide door openings and 'suitcase' door handles are a big help, as is the relatively high roofline.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
A standard radio and combined CD player is fitted to the R32, which is simple to operate and provides clear reception and good CD playback, with strong bass and a powerful output. Controls on the steering wheel and a display between the instruments also make the unit easy to operate on the move.
Colours and trim
Although much of the interior is identical to that of a regular Golf, touches like the smart steering wheel, leather trim and flashes of aluminium-effect detailing make the interior feel good. The fabrics and plastics used within are of a high quality and a robustly constructed.
The R32 is no more difficult to park than a regular Golf, with only the thick rear pillars that restrict vision slightly worth noting. Rear parking sensors are also available as an option.
Space saver spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol: 1.4-litre (74bhp); 1.6-litre (113bhp); 2.0-litre (145bhp); 2.0-litre turbocharged (197bhp); 3.2-litre (247bhp). Diesel: 1.9-litre (89bhp, 104bhp); 2.0-litre (138bhp). Five- and six-speed manual transmission standard depending on the model. Six-speed DSG available on 1.9-litre diesel, 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and 3.2-litre petrol. Trim levels are S, SE, Sport, GT, GTi and R32. GTi has 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol as standard, R32 has 3.2-litre petrol as standard.
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