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03 volkswagen golf specs
Volkswagen wants to turn R into VW's equivalent of BMW's M, Mercedes' AMG, and Audi's Quattro. It's a tough call for a volume producer, but on the evidence of the Golf R32—the first in a raft of R models—don't underestimate VW's prowess.
Forget GTI, think R32. VW conjured up a new label for the most sporting of all Golfs, and rightly so. This is the hottest Golf since the first 16-valve GTI of more than two decades ago. In middle age, the GTI grew soft and flabby, whereas the R32 driving experience delivers on the promise of real substance as the fastest and most powerful Golf ever.
The R32's styling includes a reworked nose with three prominent lower grilles that ape those of the Porsche 911 Turbo and Audi RSs. Notice how the 18-inch, 15-spoke O-Z alloys fill the wheel arches, and the way two oversize chrome exhaust pipes protrude from the rear valance panel. You will want to snuggle down into the deep, grippy König bucket before firing up the 237-hp V-6 to see if the driving lives up to the bluster of the exterior treatment. The body modifications reduce the drag co-efficient from 0.34 to 0.32.
The exhaust note delivers. It snarls and crackles and matures to a belting sonorous woofle when the V-6 runs out to the 6500-rpm redline. First seen in the European-market Phaeton luxury sedan (it's destined to appear in VW's Touareg SUV), this narrow-angle V-6 is stretched to 3.2 liters (from the standard 2.8) and gets variable intake and exhaust camshaft timing, a plastic intake manifold to improve airflow, and a more efficient cylinder-head design. It peaks at 237 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque at 2800 rpm, and it feels strong and responsive from the moment you tickle the accelerator. It's happy to rev, but massively energetic low-end and midrange response mean there are times when you short-shift, skip a gear or two, and let the torque do the work. Only a mildly annoying resonance between 1800 and 2300 rpm undermines the impact.
At 3350 pounds, the R32 is no lightweight special, but that's still 1200 pounds less than the Phaeton, so it's quick. There's no wheelspin, thanks to the Haldex all-wheel-drive system—the same system as in the Audi TT—no drama, no waiting for the engine to get on the cam. It hits 62 mph in 6.6 seconds and tops out at 153 mph, according to VW.
Compared with the V-6 4MOTION Golf—an all-wheel-drive car available in Europe—the clutch is heavier and sharper, and the short-throw shifter feels more precise. The steering, too, is surprisingly heavy at parking speeds but becomes quicker and sharper as your speed increases, although it still lacks the sensitivity of its Japanese rivals. Turns out the engineers swapped the Golf's rack for the Audi TT's, reducing turns from 3.0 to 2.6.