VW Golf R32
26 January 2006
VW has done a pretty good job of differentiating its range-topping, four-wheel drive 250PS Golf R32 from more standard models. On the inside, chrome detailing around the good-quality cabin is joined by R32 badging on the steering wheel, gear lever and sills, while the dials are adorned with eyecatching blue needles that add a touch of sporting class.
Turning the key provides further evidence that this is no ordinary Golf. The noise coming from the twin pipes is one of the best this side of automotive exotica.
If you can afford it, the £1330 DSG auto gearbox is undoubtedly the market leader. It's as smooth and quicker changing than anything else on sale, which makes cruising around town easy, while manual 'paddleshift' mode suits the R32's sporting nature on twisty B-roads, as does the steering, which gives good feedback. The harsh suspension means the R32 is well behaved at higher speed, though it can become a little wearing around town where every bump is amplified.
It's quick, especially pulling from mid-range, but it doesn't feel super-rapid from a standing start. The car is heavy, too, thanks to that big 3.2-litre engine and the weight of the four-wheel drive system that also eats into boot space. At 275 litres, the R32 has 20% less boot capacity than the rest of the Golf range.
The R32 is a worthy halo car, but there's a question mark over whether it's significantly better than the excellent GTi version. For an extra £3750 you're getting a car that, though slightly quicker, doesn't handle as well thanks to that extra weight. As an everyday proposition, the GTi would certainly be easier to live with, and bearing in mind the P11D, BIK and fuel savings, could be the better bet.