December 19, 2007 > Auto Review
Volkswagen's legendary R32 has once again hit US soil. Five thousand of these hot hatchbacks were first imported to the USA in 2004, and they sold out quickly. VW did not bring them in again until now, as a 2008 model.
Thank goodness they are back. The R32 delivers everything you could want in a hot hatchback and more. Unfortunately, only another 5,000 will be brought in, and they are selling quickly.
Here is the short list of the R32's technical features:
- 3.2-liter normally aspirated, 24 valves, V-6 developing 250 HP and 236 foot pounds of torque.
- 6-speed DSG automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
- VW's 4-Motion all wheel drive system.
- 18" wheels with 40 series high performance tires.
- Big, ventilated, ABS disk brakes.
What else do you need? The R32 will go, stop, and turn with some of the most expensive sports cars in world, yet its base price is only $32,990.
The R32 uses the 2-door VW Rabbit as its jumping off point. The Rabbit starts at $15,490 with its base 170 HP motor. The next performance level up is the GTI with 200 HP for a base of $22,730. Both of these cars are front-wheel drive. Visually, it is hard to tell whether the car sitting in front of you is a Rabbit, GTI or R32. When the stop light goes green, it becomes apparent which one it was. R32s usually disappear into the sunset very quickly.
VW gives the R32 a 4-year, 50,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty and roadside assistance package. The powertrain gets a 5-year, 60,000 mile warranty.
R32s only come in four colors. Deep Blue Metallic is the signature color. Our white test car had the only available option, a $1,800 navigation system with upgraded sound system. The other two color choices are red and grey.
The interior comes with lots of leather. First, there is the flat-bottomed leather steering wheel with audio system controls. Then the leather sports seats grip your backside better than most leather seats during those high g-load maneuvers. A host of airbags are ready to deploy in case you make a mistake. The R32's doors open extremely wide so entry and exit is very easy.
The DSG (direct shift gearbox) transmission is a jewel of engineering. The same design is used on some Audi models. It has two electronic clutches that control the shifting process. You can select Drive and the transmission picks economical shift points to save gas. Or you can select Sport and the shift points jump way up to wring performance out of the R32. Your third choice is to move the shift lever to the right and do your own shifting with the lever or the paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
The R32 is definitely a driver's car. It reacts to your inputs quickly and confidently. There is no torque steer (remember it is 4-wheel drive). Full throttle acceleration is a pleasure and the sound is just as it should be. The R32 seemed to honker down and really grip the tight turns. My twisty road test run froze a silly smile on my face that lasted for hours.
By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists