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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 15, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

ÃœBER POCKET ROCKET By Harvey Schwartz

The VW R32 performance three-door hatchback returns to the U.S. market with more power, performance and racing styling cues, while retaining its responsive driving and dynamic performance characteristics. The R32's muscle is generated by its namesake, a race-inspired 3.2-liter naturally aspirated VR6 engine which pumps out 250 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. This potent engine is combined with VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) which allows for seamless gear changes and enables the R32 to accelerate to 60 mph in just a hair over 6 seconds.

The R32 was first introduced into the U.S. market in 2004, and quickly sold its allotment of 5,000 limited edition vehicles. Again, VW is only making 5,000 units and they have already sold the first 2,000 units. The powerful, race-bred VR6 engine and its unique 15-degree narrow angle design have a bore and stroke of 84 mm and 95.9 mm, respectively, and are capped with a single aluminum-alloy cylinder head. The engine features chain-drive, dual-overhead cams, variable-valve timing, four valves per cylinder, maintenance-free lifters, and a compression ratio of 10.85:1. The incredibly quick-shifting and fun-to-use DSG transmission gives you a choice of fully-automatic operation or an automated manual shift with VW's Tiptronic that lets you shift gears up and down with a tap of the gearshift selector or finger-operated shift-paddles mounted to the steering wheel. The dual-clutch transmission utilizes direct shifting that automatically engages and disengages gears without a clutch pedal. A computer engages one clutch on the next gear needed, just as it releases the other clutch from the previous gear. The shifts are seamless and happen with the power lost during traditional clutched shifts.

The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system can transfer up to 100 percent of the torque to the rear wheels for increased traction and grip that really comes into play during a hard launch, when cornering at high speeds, and when driving on slick pavement. The unitized frame and chassis are very rigid and torsional using high-strength steel and aluminum. Underpinning the chassis is a fully independent suspension that sits wider and lower than its GTI sibling for more precise handling. Never harsh, it gives a comfortable ride when traveling over poorly paved roads. Up front is a MacPherson strut setup with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and stabilizer bar, while the rear features a four-link setup with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement, subframe, and a tubular anti-roll bar to keep body lean to a minimum. The electromechanical power-assisted steering provides increased steering precision with good on-center feel, but seems a little bit over-boosted; but it does the job of going where you point the R32 to go.

Quickly slowing the R32 down from speed are large four-wheel disc brakes, 13.6-inch vented discs up front, and 12.6-inch vented discs in the rear. The dual-front calipers and rear single-piston calipers are powder-coated blue, and feature ABS to help control your direction on slick surfaces, Brake Assist to boost brake pressure in emergency braking situations, and Electronic Brake Force Distribution which automatically varies the amount of force applied to each of the R32's brakes based on road and driving conditions. These big brakes help give you the confidence to go into corners at higher than posted speeds. The standard Electronic Stabilization Program also helps to keep you on your intended path by working with these high-tech braking systems. The R32 rides on 18X7.5, 20-spoke, aluminum-alloy wheels that are wrapped with 225/40R18 summer performance tires enhancing grip and traction. Sporty exterior design cues let other drivers know that the R32 means performance and they are highlighted with the uniquely shaped chrome center grille flanked by Bi-Xenon headlamps, deep front spoiler, lower rocker panels on the sides, body-colored bumpers, side bump strips, door handles and door mirrors. The rear shows the R32 badge, chrome, dual exhaust tips centered under the bumper, and the top mounted spoiler distinguishes the R32 from anything else on the road.

Inside, the R32 features race-inspired style-three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel with a race-type blunt bottom, instrument panel with 180 mph speedometer and 8,000 rpm tachometer. dual climate control with air filtration, power up/down express windows, power door locks, floor mats, dual map lamps, grab handles, ten-speaker AM-FM-CD radio, rain-sensing wipers, self-dimming rearview mirrors, heated front seats and washer nozzles, anti-theft alarm, cruise control, trip computer, all standard. Race cues are further in evidence with the silver carbon fiber trim on the dashboard, doors, and center console. The race-inspired foot pedals are aluminum alloy. The leather trimmed sport buckets seats are deeply cut to keep you in place during hard cornering. The rear seats are really intended for children and feature a pull-down center armrest, and the back is 60/40 split folding to add to the storage capacity. Options include power sunroof and VW Navigation system. Standard safety features include front and side front airbags, side-curtain airbags, three-point safety belts with pretensioners/load limiters up front, daytime running lamps, side protection steel beams, front/rear crush zones, and a tire pressure monitoring system. I really enjoyed my seven-day test drive as the R32 showed to be very nimble when zipping around slower city traffic and when challenging tough curving mountain roads. I would only ask for more power and torque to really get my heart pumping but that would only increase the base price of $32,990.00.

© Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz SUMMARY JUDGMENT The ultimate GTI. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2008 VW R32 Price: $32,990.00 base/$35.430.00 as tested EPA mileage: 18 mpg in the city 23 mpg on the highway Engine type: 3.2 liter DOHC, VVT, V6 Horsepower: 250 at 6,300 rpm Torque: 326 at 2,500-3,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/all-wheel-drive Transmission: 6-speed Tiptronic Front suspension: Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic shocks, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent, four-link with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement, subframe, tubular anti-roll bar Wheels/tires: 18X7.5 aluminum alloy wheels/225/40R18 summer low-profile performance tires Brakes: 13.6-inch vented rotors, dual-piston calipers 12.6-inch vented rotors, single-piston calipers ABS, BA, EBFD Overall length: 167.2 inches Overall width: 69.2 inches Overall height: 57.7 inches

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