WITH the runaway success of the Golf GTI in the UK (the car’s largest market in the world), it’s easy to forget about its faster, meaner big brother.
The R32 is the flagship of the Golf range and packs a 250bhp punch thanks to a 3.2-litre V6 engine – that’s 50bhp more than the GTI can manage, and the R32 has Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel drive as standard.
The only problem is the R32’s price – at £24,240 for the three-door model (a five-door costs £500 more), it costs nearly £4,000 more than the GTI.
That’s a hefty premium over an already very accomplished car, so what does the R32 offer for the extra outlay?
Well, noise, for a start. As good an engine as the turbocharged 2.0-litre FSI four-cylinder unit in the GTI, it sounds flat and characterless. Start up the R32 and you’re under no illusion that it has a V6 under the bonnet.
And things get so much better as you accelerate, with the V6 becoming more sonorous as the revs climb towards the 6,300rpm red line, ending in a hard-edged metallic bark as you dip the clutch to find the next gear.
But for all the lovely noise, the R32 doesn’t feel much quicker than the GTI. Perhaps it’s the extra 250kg of weight of the R32’s four-wheel drive system, or the more lazy power delivery from the V6, but point-to-point there isn’t much between the two cars.
Both feel utterly composed on twisty roads and both have more than enough power to have fun.
But at least the R32 looks the part, with its deep front air dam, chrome grille and gorgeous multi-vaned 18-inch alloy wheels – something that the more sobre GTI can’t manage.
Volkswagen sells 1,500 R32s a year compared to around 5,000 GTIs, making it a niche choice – key rivals include the BMW 130i M Sport at £26,540 and the Audi A3 3.2 V6 quattro Sport at £24,920. The R32 undercuts both on price, although its biggest challenge comes from its Volkswagen stablemate.
Model: Golf R32
Max power (bhp/rpm): 250/6,300
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 236/2,800
Max speed (mph): 155 (limited)
0-62mph (secs): 6.5
Fuel consumption (mpg): 26.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 259
On sale: Now
Price (OTR): £24,240