Volkswagen is changing its products to appeal to a more mainstream audience -- but thanks to the undying efforts of one in-house enthusiast, a very un-mainstream Golf is coming to America. We watched as the 2013 Golf R
made its U.S. debut to a group of its likeliest fans.
One of the first people we meet is Vivian Seki, who owns a 2004 R32. This was the first R32, based on the fourth-generation GTI and, to us, also the coolest. It was launched at a time when the regular GTI was a bit lost, having traded a lot of sportiness for a little luxury. Neither of the
Mark 4 GTI's two available engines was a perfect fit -- the 180-hp turbo was quick but lacked satisfying high-rpm power, and the 200-hp VR6 was a heavyweight that hampered the GTI's handling.
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.