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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - R32 3-dr hatch

The Car

1 Jun 2007

WHEN Volkswagen last offered its high-performance R32 Golf back in 2004, just 200 lucky drivers managed to get behind the wheel of the hot-hatch.

A limited run of the 177kW/320Nm Mk4 all-wheel drive R32s were snapped up without hesitation, even though the fifth-generation Golf was just around the corner.

Now, as part of Volkswagen’s concerted brand expansion, the hot 2006 R32 now becomes a regular part of the Golf line-up, in both three and five-door guises and available as either a six-speed manual or DSG automatic.

With an entry price $8000 cheaper than the previous three-door hatch, Volkswagen Group Australia general manager marketing, Peter Dierks, is confident the R32 will have a halo-effect over the Golf brand.

"It’s certainly more of a niche vehicle than the GTI," he said.

Mr Dierks said as a niche vehicle he did not believe the high-performance V6 would enjoy the same demand as the popular turbo-four GTI.

Even so, with prices kicking off at $54,990 for the entry three-door six-speed manual R32, it presents a strong case for GTI buyers looking for more get-up-and-go.

The five-door is just $1500 more than the three-door.

"By establishing the performance brand VW wants to adopt a brand strategy with a high level of image transfer to the standard Golf models," he said.

VGA is currently filling an initial order bank of 300, with many buyers prepared to put their money down months ago before even driving the cars.

Like the previous R32, the newcomer is mated to VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, but the latest model uses a fast-acting electronically controlled Haldex coupling.

Visually the R32 continues the high-performance theme of the old car with twin centre-mounted exhausts, hip-hunging sports seats and a bodykit comprising a deep grille and bumpers with a rear spoiler.

At the front the brushed aluminum grille adds a point of differentiation from the cooking-model Golfs and the GTI, while 20-spoke 18-inch Zolder alloys also leave a distinctive impression.

Standard equipment runs to bi-Xenon headlights, a multi-function leather sports steering wheel, six airbags, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, a six-stacker in-dash CD stereo, aluminum/leather gearknob, aluminum pedals, programmable central locking, trip computer, 60/40-split folding rear seats, ESP stability control, traction control, ABS, brake assist, a tyre-pressure monitor and sports seats with leather upholstery.

At the heart of the R32 is a narrow-angled 3.2-litre V6, which develops 184kW at 6300rpm and 320Nm from 2500rpm.

This endows the car with a claimed zero to 100km/h time of 6.5 seconds (6.2 DSG) and a top speed limited to 250km/h. Combined fuel economy is 10.8L/100km for the six-speed manual and 9.8L/100km for the DSG.

The engine has a narrow V-angle of 15 degrees between the cylinder banks, along with an 84.0mm bore and 95.9mm stroke.

Each of the four overhead camshafts - two for each cylinder bank - use continuous valve timing adjustment.

To cope with the car’s extra performance the brakes have been beefed up via 345mm ventilated front and 310mm ventilated rear discs.

The suspension largely carries over from the Golf but is 20mm lower and beefier.

That means a sophisticated four-link system at the rear, while at the front the strut axle’s performance has been improved and stiffened. The electro-mechanical steering benefits from a more direct ratio.

Volkswagen believes a lot of the initial buyers may move out of the last R32 but VGA managing director Jutta Dierks thinks there may also be conquest buyers from BMW and Audi, and to a lesser degree from potential customers who would have looked at a Mitsubishi Evo IV or Subaru Impreza STi.

VGA expects demand to be split evenly between the three and five-door but, as with the GTI, around 70 per cent of buyers are expected to opt for the DSG gearbox over the manual, which also offers gearshift paddles on the steering wheel.

"Although we don’t position our product against premium brands in the market, a quick look at the BMW 130i Sport and Audi A3 3.2 quattro S Line with similar technical details... the R32 is up to $10,000 cheaper with a better standard of spec," Mr Dierks said.

The R32 is tipped to be more of a niche vehicle for VW and once the initial order bank of 300 cars was filled Mr Dierks did not expect VW to suffer the same availability issues experienced with the GTI which at one point had an order bank out to nine months.

He was unsure how volumes would pan out over the full 12 months but, judging by the GTI’s success, the R32 is destined to follow in its tyre marks.

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Did you know?

The R32 Golf uses an on-demand Haldex four-wheel drive system whereas its otherwise mechanically identical sibling, the Audi A3 3.2 quattro, employs a permanent 4WD system, but is some $9000 more expensive.

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