Volkswagen R32 Research & Reviews

Overview & Reviews

Average Score

4.78/5 Average
199 Total Reviews
Model Overview:

The Volkswagen R32 two-door hatchback was introduced to the U.S. market in 2004 as a range-topping model for VW's performance cars. Starting with the Golf and GTI platform of the time, VW's engineers shoehorned in enough upgraded parts to make the R32 a standout performer in its class. Along with the expected boost in power, courtesy of a narrow-angle V6, the R32 also included VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, more aggressive suspension tuning and a sporty interior. These upgrades enabled the R32 to generate fairly impressive performance statistics and earned it an almost cultlike following. The car's limited availability added to its appeal -- just 5,000 examples were sold stateside in that first and only year.

VW enthusiasts in the U.S. would have to wait four more years for the second-generation R32. Again available in limited numbers, the Volkswagen R32 was based on the latest Golf, or Rabbit in the U.S. The exterior changes between the first- and second-generation R32s were subtle, and they pretty much shared the same engine, but the new R32 boasted a stiffer body structure as well as a restyled interior and more cabin space. Sadly for enthusiasts, the second-generation R32 was limited to a single year of stateside availability (2008), just like its predecessor.

Most Recent Volkswagen R32

The second-generation Volkswagen R32 came as a two-door hatchback in 2008, its sole year of availability, and was powered by a 3.2-liter V6. The V6 produced 250 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque and was paired with a six-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission (VW's direct-shift gearbox, or DSG) featuring steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. All-wheel drive was standard, and one could expect a 0-60 time of 6.0 seconds.

Distinguishing between the first- and second-generation Volkswagen R32 is best accomplished by comparing the nose and tail of each. Headlight designs differ noticeably, and the second-generation grille is surrounded by a brushed-metallic accent that extends below the bumper into the front airdam, while its predecessor has a more traditional body-colored plastic fascia. From the rear, the most discernible differences are the distinct taillight designs and the placement of the exhaust -- the second generation has its twin polished pipes mounted centrally, while the first generation's trumpets are located farther apart.

The second-generation R32's upmarket standard amenities included xenon headlights, heated leather seats, iPod connectivity and high-quality interior materials. As far as options were concerned for the second-generation R32, there were only two -- a navigation system and a no-cost choice of either all-season or aggressive summer tires.

In reviews, our editors praised the R32's cool and composed driving character. Hardly anything fazed this car, whether it was a midcorner bump, a stop-and-go morning commute or a wide-open stretch of highway. Cabin appointments were top-notch -- other hot hatches didn't come close to the sense of quality that the R32's interior exuded. One of our few complaints concerned the V6, which didn't sound or feel as urgent as it should in a performance-oriented car at this price point.

Past Volkswagen R32 Models

The first-generation R32 was a short-lived model produced only for 2004. Initially, Volkswagen wasn't convinced buyers in the U.S. would be interested in an enthusiast-oriented compact like the R32. It had been eight years since the company ceased production on the Corrado, its top-level performance coupe. When the two-door R32 finally arrived on our shores, it was made available with only one option -- leather seats.

Power was generated by Volkswagen's venerable VR6 engine, which had been pumped up to 3.2 liters for this application, resulting in 240 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual was the only available transmission. Knowing full well that this amount of power would be excessive if channeled solely through the front wheels, VW endowed the R32 with standard AWD.

While the Volkswagen R32 was never meant to take on rally-inspired models from Japan, the comparisons to these all-wheel-drive pocket rockets were unavoidable. All were at home on a racetrack or in autocross, with abundant power and grip. And while the R32 lacked the all-out turbocharged thrust of the Japanese models, it made up for this shortcoming with its everyday livability, which put those high-strung rivals to shame. The R32's absence of turbo lag and its ability to carve predatory lines through canyon roads while maintaining a civilized demeanor on long highway straights made it an all-purpose Swiss Army knife compared to the more specialized scalpels from Asia.

User Reviews:

Showing 1 through 10 of 199.00
  • Nice car - 2004 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    I really love this car

  • Blue 08 R32 - 2008 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    If slot cars could be full scale this might be it. Steering is right on, just point where you want it to go. Suspension is firm but does not beat you up. Transmission is a blast with the engine being eager all the time. Relaxed when you want it to be, fun when you need it to be. Roomier inside than you'd think.

  • Mature fun - 2008 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    After taking three long test drives comparing the new EVO, STI, and R32, I decided to purchase the VW. While both the EVO and STI will out perform the R32, I felt the VW was the best overall blend of performance and comfort.

  • R32 #2 - 2008 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    Just picked up my Mk V R32 today! This is my second as I had an Mk IV since new in 04. 20k miles later I'm ready for my new car. A lot more refinement and still that great VR6 motor. Worth the extra money over the 2.0T motor for the sound alone. Road trip to PDX tomorrow (with the radar detector).

  • I made a big mistake. - 2008 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    I paid too much for a Over Steroid GTI. Not a bad vehicle but not what I expected for the price. I only have 901 miles on it and it sits in the garage. When I do take it out I pray that someone will steal it or total it out. I can't even give away as a cheap trade in. Basically, I did not do my homework.

  • Volkswagen R32 - 2004 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    The Volkswagen R32 is the perfect car for me to take out the clients and get compliments from any age group and sex. It has been fun to drive and the seats are sporty, comfortable and attractive. The steering wheel is the best that I have felt.

  • VW R32: Great bang for the buck - 2004 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    The VW R32 cant be beat when it comes to $:options. The cars it competes against may be faster, but do not come close to the fit and finish and standard options of the R32.

  • R32 Racing - 2004 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    I owned a 2003 Mazdaspeed Protégé with 20k prior to the R32. The Mazda was a total "piece" which forced me to sell it after less than a year of ownership. I purchased the R32 in March '03 and have loved every minute since. It's my first 6cyl AWD vehicle and I will never go back to anything less. This car performs, looks, sounds and handles amazing. The Pipes with the baffle mode turned off sound sweet!!! German engineering kicks ass.

  • love my .:R - 2004 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    I've never had so much fun on road trips (even the 2 mile jaunt to work). The power band is wide, suspension is tight, and seats are supportive. The downside, I wouldn't call it a steal at $30k, but you just can't understand until you drive it. It's also a bit heavy, so a few more HP or less weight would be appreciated. I have an AWD five- seater with a powerful, silky-smooth VR6, (mini) SUV storage capacity, and compact car fuel economy.

  • Best All - Rounder - 2004 Volkswagen R32
    By -

    VW didn't just focus on the engine like other cars in the segment. The car is very well rounded, great engine, superb handling and the best stock interior I've been in. The car doesn't feel as fast as it is, but that's because of the level of refinement... A quick look at your speedo will remind you how fast it is. You get all the performance of an Audi TT 3.2 Quatro for 10K less plus room for 3 more and even enough cargo room for your luggage.

Volkswagen R32 Reviews By Year:
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