2004 and 2008 Volkswagen R32 and 2013 Volkswagen Golf-R

The R32 drives like a stiffly sprung GTI both on the racetrack and on the road. While the GTI's XDS programming does a remarkable job of imitating a limited-slip differential and minimizing wheel spin, the Golf R needs no such intervention. The R32's Haldex 4Motion four-wheel-drive system is back for an encore appearance, this time with programming that can send power rearward before front wheel spin occurs. A center clutch pack continuously varies the share of torque sent rearward, so the Golf R rarely overwhelms its front tires.

It doesn't overwhelm its rears, either. 4Motion is a simple, unobtrusive system that's very effective at putting power to the ground, but its only effect on chassis balance is to encourage understeer. Like the GTI, the R is delightfully neutral if you throw it into corners, but only for a split second before the electronics intervene. Yup, as in the GTI, stability control can't be switched off. If that inability is criminal in a GTI, it's just plain asinine in a car with an R badge and track intentions. Let's hope for an aftermarket fix.

There will be ample time to work on it -- the Golf R doesn't go on sale until early 2012 as a 2013 model. To help all 5000 units find homes, it'll be available with either two or four doors and with or without an option package that includes a sunroof, a Dynaudio sound system, navigation, and a push-button ignition. Pricing will start at $34,760; two extra rear doors will cost $600 more, and the most expensive, fully loaded Rs will sticker at just over $36,000.

There's little question that the R takes the GTI's personality and cranks it up a few notches -- but will it be an instant classic like the Mark 4 R32 or a dealership dud like the Mark 5? Well, the best people to ask are those who bought R32s -- and their responses were unanimously positive. Every R32 owner we spoke with loved their Golf's power and all-wheel-drive grip but wasn't thrilled with the VR6's fuel consumption.

Lee is "kinda sad" that the Golf R doesn't have a VR6 but consoles herself with the knowledge that "the gas mileage won't suck." Seki, too, grew weary of her R32's thirst for premium unleaded, so she purchased a Golf TDI for everyday driving. She still loves her R32, though. "I get a kick out of driving it, and I'd only replace it with another R." EPA numbers won't be available for quite some time, but it's a safe bet that the Golf R will post far better numbers than the R32s managed.

In 2004, no one would have guessed that fuel economy would matter to R32 buyers. Times are definitely changing -- and nowhere more so than at the reinvented Volkswagen. While VW chases volume with perfectly nice cars to appeal to perfectly normal people, it's reassuring that the people's car company isn't abandoning the people who made it what it is today.

The Specs

2004 Volkswagen R32

Base price: $29,675

Powertrain
Engine 24-valve DOHC VR6
Displacement 3.2 liters (195 cu in)
Horsepower 240 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque 236 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Drive 4-wheel

Measurements
L x W x H
164.4 x 68.3 x 56.1 in
Wheelbase 99.1 in
Track F/R 59.5/58.7 in
Weight 3400 lb

Performance
0-60 mph
6.4 sec
EPA mileage 17/24 mpg


2008 Volkswagen R32

Base price: $33,630

Powertrain
Engine
24-valve DOHC VR6
Displacement 3.2 liters (195 cu in)
Horsepower 250 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque 236 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
Transmission 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive 4-wheel

Measurements
L x W x H
167.2 x 69.3 x 57.7 in
Wheelbase 101.5 in
Track F/R 60.3/59.7 in
Weight 3560 lb

Performance
0-60 mph
6.2 sec
EPA mileage 18/23 mpg


2013 Volkswagen Golf-R

Base price: $34,760

Powertrain
Engine
16-valve DOHC turbo I-4
Displacement 2.0 liters (121 cu in)
Horsepower 252 hp @ 6000 rpm (est.)
Torque 243 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Drive 4-wheel

Measurements
L x W x H
165.8 x 70.3 x 57.5 in
Wheelbase 101.5 in
Track F/R 60.4/59.6 in
Weight 3400 lb (est.)

Performance
0-60 mph
5.9 sec
EPA mileage 19/27 mpg (est.)

3 of 3
ikswognal
while i agree that the turbo 4 is a pretty sweet engine, but everyone makes a turbo four, im bored of them, the VR6 was unique. they should have just continued upgrading kind of like gm did with their 3.6l V6, it started with a humble 260hp, but now with redesigned heads and direct injection it cranks out 323hp in the camaro and pulls off 29mpg on the highway. if gm can do it VW can do it better, i bet they could have sqeezed 300hp out of 3.2 liters and gotten just under 30mpg and it would be considerably quicker than the camaro cause its much lighter, oh and they could have gone to an aluminum block to save weight. VW, why have you forsaken the VR6?
2xR32andW8
Glad to see VW bringing in the Golf R. Glad to see an event in SoCal, where these cars tend to go. Looking forward to test-driving one. May buy one to replace an aging 2004 R32. Looking at the crowd pix and getting the vibe of the comments, I doubt many of this group will buy $35k Golfs. VW needs to also reach out to older buyers.
H8NDiscontent
Dear Auto makers, Stop teasing us Americans with wanna be hot cars. So tired of FWD NA slushboxes! Give me RWD, high BHP, a proper gear box and a choice of how many doors. Oh yeah and I don't wanna sell my house to get one!

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