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2004 Volkswagen R32
The R32 VR6 is a 2-Door, awd CS with seating for 5. It comes standard with a 6 speed manual transmission and a 3.2L V6, 24-Valve, DOHC, SEFI engine with a horsepower rating of 240@6250 and a torque rating of 236@2800. It has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 city/26 highway miles per gallon
2 Reviews from Epinions.com
Apr 24, 2006
R32: Volkswagen Throws One Heck Of A Going-Away Party.
Pros: Torquey V6, assured AWD chassis, serious sport seats, pretense-free packaging.
Cons: Marked engine vibration, used examples still selling for their original MSRP.
The Bottom Line:
S4 flavor and Passat pricing make this one of my favorite vehicles on the road.
Time was not particularly kind to Volkswagens fourth-generation Golf GTI. When it debuted in the spring of 2001, expectations were low in the sport-compact class, and the GTIs 180-horsepower 1.8T engine and impeccably-trimmed cabin made it one of the more alluring cars in its segment. In 2002, however, competition in the sport-compact segment got serious. With the arrival of Acura's RSX Type-S, Nissan's SE-R Spec V, Ford's SVT Focus, and Subaru's legendary WRX, the GTI became a soft, overweight has-been, only one year into its model run.
Volkswagen has since released a fifth-generation GTI to better compete with these new arrivals. But before dropping the fourth-generation car, VW created a V6-powered, all-wheel-drive, low-production special to allow the old GTI to go out with a bang. That car, of course, was the R32.
Since car dealerships arent keen on loaning out $30,000 limited-run vehicles to Epinions joyriders, I didnt expect to ever take the wheel of an R32 myself. But a friend of mine recently purchased one used, and suggested that I have some fun with it. Wonderful thing, generosity.
In 2004, the R32's powertrain represented a mix-and-match combo of some of the best components in VW/Audi's parts bin. Its 3.2-liter, 240-horsepower V6 was borrowed from the Audi TT, but mated to a six-speed manual transmission instead of the TTs paddle-shifted DSG box.
The result? Despite the R32s 3,300 lb curb weight, the V6 feels deliciously powerful. Step into the throttle from a standstill, and the R32's response feels crisp, immediate, and laden with torque--a combination that recalls Nissan's VQ V6. Pin your foot to the floor, and the V6's broad, fat powerband delivers an instant sucker punch, surging effortlessly through the tachs 6,500 rpm redline. Shift up, foot down, and--bam!--repeat as desired.
Actually, on second thought, don't. A couple of full-throttle shifts sling the R32 well into ticket territory. But fortunately, unlike some fast cars, the R32 isn't boring to drive at legal speeds. Its V6 is sufficiently relaxed to avoid that tugging-at-the-leash feeling, and the twin tailpipes boomy, baritone warble entertains even at dull velocities.
Just so you don't get the impression that I'm being overly complimentary, though, the R32's V6 does deliver one unpleasant surprise: it is not smooth. Most likely due to a stiff set of engine-mounts bushings, the V6 sends a buzzy deep-tissue massage through the cabin at idle, and doesn't improve much on the move. Of course, this does make you feel more intimately connected to the engine than in most VW/Audi products--there's certainly none of the remoteness or throttle lag that you'll experience in a GTI 1.8T.
The R32's six-speed manual transmission isn't as satisfying as its engine, but it exhibits Volkswagen's typical weaknesses to a lesser degree than usual. The shifter still has that trademark VW slackness, slotting from gear to gear with a notchy, hard-plastic feel. But its throws are quite short, and its gates are tight and well-defined.
The R32's clutch is similarly easy to use, if short on tactile feedback. Its weighting is over-light, as in most VW/Audi products, and take-up is too uncommunicative to allow smooth shifts your first time out. But the clutch pedal's travel has been nicely reduced--it's now only moderate in length--so gearchanges require far less leg movement than in a standard GTI.
While the R32's beefy engine might seem like its biggest advantage over the regular GTI, its handling prowess is an even more remarkable improvement. Where the stock GTI feels soft and lazy at turn-inand not just relative to other hot-hatchesthe R32 is grippy, decisive, and alert.
Chalk this progress up to a firmer suspensionwith a multlink setup at the rear, instead of the GTIs torsion beamsassisted by stickier 18-inch tires, and of course, VWs 4Motion all-wheel-drive. Hammering the R32 through some of Monterey's lightly-traveled back roads, I found that despite its initial roll softness, the suspension is superbly controlledI could cut deep into corners with no undue body motion. Equally impressive was the chassis' neutral balance. I felt a bit of nose-heaviness when entering turns too fast, but that posed no problem--I'd just nail the throttle at the apex, all four tires would hook up, and the R32 would hurl itself onto the next straight.
Better yet, in spite the R32's stability, this car can still be playful and reactive when the mood strikes you. Charge into a sweeper and jump off the gas, and the tail will drift out just enough to give you a thrill. Roll back on the throttle, and grip is restored. And what makes this horseplay especially fun is that you're never worried about bump steer. The R32's suspension shrugs off midcorner bumps with impressive maturity, allowing you to tear over rough spots with confidence.
Steering response is often an issue for me in VW/Audi cars, and as I first pulled the R32 onto city streets, I was disappointed to find the same light, watery on-center feel that Ive experienced in other GTIs. But wIth more time, I found that the R32's steering actually has a nice heft to it. Path accuracy is excellent, and the ratio is very quick, so only modest angles are required to dart the nose this way and that. The only thing missing is genuine feedback--you can feel some useful vibes knocking around in the suspension, but the thickly-stuffed wheelrim transmits only a distant echo of contact-patch information.
Considering the high caliber of the R32's handling, its ride is really quite civilized. Shock damping isn't perfectthe suspension feels stiff, yet gets into the bump stops when taking wavy roads at high speedsbut the cabin is remarkably well-isolated from gritty road textures, and ride motions never feel as busy as in, say, a Nissan 350Z. Plus, unlike the standard GTI, the R32 feels structurally stout. It transmits some very minor tingles through the floorpan and steering column over sharp impacts, but then, so does a Mazda RX-8.
Noise levels are also relatively reasonable. The R32s exhaust note is loudI noticed that pedestrians occasionally turn and look for its sourcebut wind rush and tire rumble are surprisingly well-muted. With about 35,000 miles on the odometer, the car I drove was free of squeaks and rattles, too.
The R32 is similar to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru WRX STi in that its essentially an econocar package beefed up for high-performance duty. And while that helps keep costs down, it also means that you sit behind the same instrument panel as commuters in their Golf GLs.
Fortunately, unlike the Lancer and Impreza, the Golfs cabin doesnt seem conspicuously cheap when the price tag is doubled. In fact, its highish cowl, thick surfaces, and sturdy materials lend it an air of substance thats satisfying even in the $30,000 range. Plus, the R32 throws in two extras that you won't get in a garden-variety Golf or GTIa pair of very serious sport seats. They're big, well-padded, and bolstered with wings so substantial that you must lift yourself over them as you slide into the car.
Not all is perfection in the R32's cabin, however. The Monsoon stereo pumps out muddy sound quality, and the garish blue gauges are all wrong for night driving. Moreover, as in the standard GTI, the tall, upright driving position detracts from the sporting mood, and the pedals aren't ideally positioned for high-speed work. Because of the significant height difference between the throttle and brake pedals, I found it nearly impossible to execute a clean heel-and-toe downshift.
Of course, I imagine some people might like the elevated eyepoint and airy spaciousness more than they dislike the dinner-table driving posture. Im just not one of them. And even with this bias, I found the R32s cabin a nice place to log miles. It didnt hurt that the R32s feature content exceeded my expectations: leather and aluminum cabin trim, automatic climate control, heated seats, and a power sunroof are all on the standard equipment list, and those are just the highlights.
It doesnt take much study of the R32s boxy profile to guess that it excels in this area. Like the standard GTI, the R32 offers a deep, broad cargo holdthough its fractionally shallower here, due to the all-wheel-drive componentry underneathand a wide, low hatch opening for strain-free loading. Need to haul a guitar case or three? No problem. Just drop the rear seatbacks and slide em in.
Those rear seats are useful for passengers, tooeven more so than the hyped rear chairs in the four-door Mazda RX-8. The R32s breadbox bodywork allows for ample headroom in back, and legroom is tolerable for two limber adults. Of course, if people hauling is your need, an Evo or STi will serve better than anything else in this class.
This has been a touchy subject for Volkswagen over the past few years, as the fourth-generation Golf, Jetta, and GTI all received notably poor scores in consumer reliability surveys. Its possible, however, that R32 buyers have less to worry about. Unlike its lesser stablemates, the R32 was built in Germany and imported to the States, so it may not suffer as many quality glitches as its siblings.
I entered this test-drive wondering if the R32 would be the GTI Volkswagen should have built from the get-go. The answer, I found, is "no"--the R32 is far better than that. This car's driving experience is so superior to that of the standard GTI, I found it almost comical to be sitting behind the same dashboard, and to see the same two-box exterior reflected in roadside windows. The R32 is, quite simply, one of the most entertaining cars I've ever driven.
At this point, you might be making the logical leap that this R32 makes a perfect Lancer Evolution or WRX STi alternative, slotting neatly into the "all-wheel-drive econocars on steriods" class. On paper, this certainly seems like a fair comparison. But if you run the numbers from various car-mag tests, the R32 shapes up to be the softy of the class, with the slowest 0-60 times and the least lateral grip. So why would anyone buy an R32 over the Evo or STi?
Well, I havent driven an Evo or STi, so Im not qualified to say. But here's an equally relevant question: would you buy an Audi S4 over one of the Rally Twins? Because that's the kind of car the R32 seems to emulate. It's achingly fast and fun, yes, but its not a single-minded track specialit has a uniquely mature, European feel, and aims to cosset as it exhilarates. For street driving, I find that combination just about ideal.
Thinking of getting into an R32 yourself? Unfortunately, it's difficult to offer buying advice for a car thats no longer in production, as many more variables come into play in the used market. That said, here's an idea of what to expect. R32s were priced right around the $30,000 mark when new, but due to their rarity, used R32s are often sold for more than their original MSRP. If you get lucky, you could pick up a low-mileage example for as little as $26,000but realistically, you should plan on spending anywhere between $29,000 and $32,000 to take an R32 home.
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