What it's about
VW's R32 nomenclature immediately sparks memories of the VR6 glory days enjoyed by Golf aficionados. Quite a few things have changed since then and this heritage takes on new meaning with a 3.2-litre V6 shoehorned into the compact body of the current Golf 5.
For one, this version is the most powerful production Golf to date. However, this fire-eating Golfie is about as unassuming as the next Golf 5 and the GTI has a lot more presence. Until you floor the accelerator and take off, that is.
Until then, you have to be satisfied with the R32's Jetta grille with extended aluminium bits and multi-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels that obscure the car's signature blue brake calipers.
The differences are not easy to spot at first, although having the good fortune of a GTI driver parking alongside you could afford adequate comparisons.
On inspection, the R32's arches are more pronounced, and the diffusers and fog lamps are altered. Of course, at the rear the R32 is immediately distinguished by its centrally-mounted twin exhausts and larger tailgate spoiler. That's important too, since once the R32 is on the charge, it's probably the lasting view other road users will be able to enjoy.
However, as important as the car's appearances may be to some, the actual body merely appears to be a glorified housing for the potent powertrain.
Even the car's interior lacks a certain degree of oomph. Neat and orderly, it could have been lifted from the GTI with only its shimmering aluminium trim setting it apart from the car's more sedate siblings.
It does come with a full complement of safety and comfort equipment, including six airbags, and the list of available options is brief. However, at the price, VWSA could at the very least have thrown in one of the optional six-disc changers.
Leather and aluminium is plentiful in the cabin, which has a metal pedal cluster and gearshift knob bearing the R logo. Even the leather sport seats, though they bear the R32 logo, could have been jacked from the GTI. The blue-needled instrument panel is a neat trick, though.
Bucket seats are a R25 000 option, but the standard seats fitted in our test unit allowed adequate levels of support.
Be that as it may, this then leads us back to the real reason for the R32 - a home in which to store VW's 3.2-litre V6. The engine, which produces 184 kW and torque of 320 Nm from 2 800 r/min, contributes heavily to a machine that is almost instantly responsive.
Equipped as it is with a burly six-cylinder motor and rather weighty 4Motion all-wheel drive system, this Golf tips the scales at a hefty 1.6 ton. All this extra weight, on paper, may suggest some lumpiness, but not so in practice.
Push the R32 and it rewards with precise handling even if it tends to feel somewhat nose-heavy in the bends. Speed-sensitive steering, if a bit dull at the centre, weights up nicely as the car gains momentum, providing confidence-inspiring accuracy.
Grip levels are astounding though, and the sports suspension conveys a reassuringly firm ride to the cabin. Punching the DSG's gearshift into Sport mode guarantees even more fun as the setting adjusts the throttle response and allows the heart of this monster to race more readily to the red line.
However, it's perfectly well behaved in regular conditions too and purring along in peak-hour traffic reveals just another of the car's well-practiced guises. Extracting hooliganism from this poised machine isn't easy, though its ability to unleash its driver's wild side is legendary.
It's a super hot hatch
Sonorous V6 note...
...but rest of the car is nothing too special
Perhaps a bit too clinical
Still can't get my head around that price
Considering the immense popularity of the GTI, VWSA had to do something special to ensure its halo model remained, well, special.
This could have been achieved with the R344 000 base price having many balking at how paying that amount "for a Golf" is completely unjustifiable. As polished as the R32 is, whether it is worth a R75 000 price premium over the base GTI (with DSG) is debatable.
But the mere sound of that burbling V6 is enough to produce a teary fit of girly giggles... It's frightening to even consider how capable the 223-kW R36 will be at scorching the blacktop.
For more hot hatch action, check out our road test of the Audi S3 lined up for tomorrow.
Test figures provided by TopCar