Monday, June 15, 2009

2004 VW Golf R32

Note: I wrote this piece about 4 months ago. The car I was going to feature sold the night before I was going to publish it, so I put the post in my "saved" folder and forgot about it. Last week a friend of mine sent me a link to a news story about a man in the UK who created a 1979 VW Golf that could hit 60 MPH in 2.63 seconds. (You can see it here). That car is cool, at least from an engineering standpoint, but it's hardly something you could or would want to drive everyday. It got me thinking about the R32 and I resurrected this piece. Hopefully the car I chose this time will still be available when it comes time to post this...

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So here's the problem... You're successful, but not wealthy. You want a high performance European car. A used BMW or an Audi would fit the bill, but they have stigmas attached to them. Your friends, family and total strangers will think that you have money you don't really have (A very nice used BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 is no more expensive than a new Honda Accord - the car they're probably driving - but there's no way in hell you can explain that to them. I know from firsthand experience). The police notice you, too. (You have a high performance car, you must be driving fast, right? Firsthand knowledge here, too)

You can suck it up, pay the tickets, spend a lot of time telling strangers your salary and explaining to your boss that you're not embezzling company funds. Or you can buy a used 2004 VW R32.

The R32 looks like a Golf, which essentially it is. From the exterior it takes someone with a knowing eye to tell the difference between an R32 and any other Golf you see on the road. Like the M3 or S4, there are a few tastefully done - mostly aerodynamic - modifications to the body, but no dumb-as-hell looking rear wing or stupid hood scoops like you see on so many cars these days. The R32 is an adult high performance car.

It's the things underneath that very common exterior that make this car special. The R32 has a 3.2-liter, 240-horsepower VR6 engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and "4Motion" all-wheel drive.

The R32 will hit 60 MPH in 5.9 seconds (To put that in perspective, that's just a second or less slower than a similar vintage BMW M3 or Audi S4 and about a second-and-a-half slower than a 2004 Porsche 911 GT3). The massive brakes bring the car back to 0 from 60 in just 108 feet. The R32 has a independent-rear multilink suspension, as opposed to the standard Golf's torsion bar suspension and lower profile tires. Combine all that with the "4Motion" AWD system and you have a car that can handle all the power the engine puts out. This really is an amazing car.

The nicest R32 I've ever seen belonged to a friend of a friend. They stopped by my business a few years ago and let me prowl around the car for awhile (I don't think the owner of the car, whom I had never met until that night, knew what to make of me. For 15 minutes I was completely monosyllabic.The words "wow", "cool", "neat", "geez" were the only words that came out of my mouth. That's how I get when I'm in awe and I was in awe of his car. I think he just thought I was "slow".) I remember seeing how the AWD system was set up, I remember the huge brake rotors, I remember the engine being stuffed neatly into the engine bay, I remember the racing style seats and I remember the sound as they drove away. I don't remember much else. That's really good. What this guy hadn't done to his R32 was trick it out. It looked pretty much like a stock Golf (If he did any mods, he did them well and subtly) There was nothing "boy racer" about his car. There was nothing done to the car that made me cringe. It was the ultimate sleeper.

I bring that story up because in trying to find a car to feature for this post I came across so many of them that had been tastelessly modified. Why?? An R32 is cool because it's so subtle. Only you and a handful of knowledgeable car people know what you have. In my mind that's the point of an R32. There's no need to pimp it out. Leave the chrome wheels, Lambo door kits, neon lights, giant rear wings and protruding front air dams to the under 25 year olds and their Honda Civics.

It took me awhile, but I finally found a nice, unmodified R32 for sale. Click here to see the eBay listing.

Click here to find the R32 Owners Club website.

4 comments:

Richard said...

Excellent post. I love the MK4 R32, they have held there values very well, a sign of a desirable car. Odd thing, I had the luck of test driving the newer MK5 R32 and again, an amazing car, was not worth the premium over its little brother the MK5 GTI. The new high performance line of Rabbits/Golf will still have the R series badge, but use the same four cylinder turbo in the standard GTI, albeit with a few tweaks with regards to horsepower. So, I would say that its the end of the V6 Rabbit/Golf line, making this car pretty collectible.

Jason said...

I agree with Richard. More than any other VW this car will probably be a collectors car someday.

Great find!!

JayP said...

When new in 2004, dealers were taking $4k off the MSRP. Then they became popular... a pal drove one for 20k miles and sold it for what he paid.

An all-round excellent car. I've driven a few on track in different states of modification and loved them all.

Max Power said...

I have had three GTI's including my current Mk V GTI (I had a Mk III VR6 and Mk IV VR6 as well). When my then wife was shopping for a Touareg in 2004, a red R32 was sitting there in the showroom and I was in love...I literally could not get out of the car. Unfortunately, I was only one year into my lease for my MINI Cooper S so getting it was out of the question. My ex got in the R32 as well and told me that she loved the car...I was in shock since it was so similar to my old Mk IV GTI which she hated. The subtle differences made that car...even discounting the significant mechanical changes