VW R32 Test Drive

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As you probably know by now, this kind of overpowered compact car isn’t really my cup of tea.

But i could refuse the opportunity to drive the new R32.
I wasn’t expecting that much. I never really liked the Jetta I test drove a couple of times before.
Where I found the interior well made but borderline depressing. And never thought the 2.5 Liter engine was that good.
But I do like the shape of the Golf/Rabbit much more.

So imagine my surprise when I first sat inside the R32 and really enjoyed the interior.
I tried to figure out what was different looking from the Jetta. all I could see was the more upscale radio and climate control. And the great looking metalic trim.
I don’t like black interiors (too hot in L.A), but this also looked great. The steering wheel looks and feels as good as anything. And the DSG shifter does look also more upscale.

When you first start driving, the combination of a super smooth engine and comfortable suspension really remind you of a luxury car. The German way, not like a Lexus.
The car is very quiet, except for a little bit more wind noise I would like. The 6 speed auto is invisible and very responsive.
And the whole thing feels as solid as a tank.

But put it in the Sport or manual mode, and the car becomes a rocket.
You barely need to push the pedal down to feel the car taking off and you quickly become the fastest driver around.
It is quite an experience. And the best part is that the car always feels and sounds very refined.
The steering is very quick and could be a bit abrupt if you don’t watch what you’re doing.
But that’s what you’re supposed to do…

Everything about the car is almost perfect to me.
The interior is actually luxurious and includes everything. The only option being the navigation system.
And the car has really 2 personalities. You can drive it every day and it feels like an expensive, comfortable and practical German car.
Push and it becomes as much funs as you can imagine having driving.

I must say I was really blown away by the R32.
I would have never thought so.
it is not cheap at $33000 if you compare it with other Rabbit models. But to get that kind of driving experience anywhere else, you’d have to spend quite a bit more.

The only sore point is the mostly horrible VW reliability. Maybe it is better for 2008.
But if you’re willing to take a chance, the R32 will surely put a smile on your face every time you turn the key.
Very few cars are that memorable to drive.
To me, this is worth some kind of compromise.

I hear also great things about the regular GTI. Same body and transmission, but with the 2.0 Liter Turbo instead of the 3.2 Liter V6. And FWD instead of AWD.
And thousands less.
So the GTI might turn out to be a much better buy. But I sure would miss the ultra smoothness of the 3.2.

I guess I must drive a GTI next….

Conversation 15 comments

  1. Hey everybody, let’s save up and buy Vince a decent digital camera. It looks like he’s taking pics with his phone.

  2. You’re right.
    These pictures were taken with my phone. I didn’t have my regular (and good ) camera that day.

    But I am also getting a new phone, with a better camera.

    You can still send me some cash if you want…

  3. Hey vince i would just like to congratulate you on some great reporting and overall blogging. Rather than have your prior attitutdes of VW impose on your review you took in an open perspective and did a great subjective review. It’s good to see that you’re not a brand snob.


  4. I would love to drive an R32 one day, much like I would love to track any of the spin happy Renault V6 hatchbacks that have never seen our shores.

    Still I would never ever buy one. Not because of reliability in truth or badge, no hot hatch well over $30k is getting my money. The R32 is not a FWD 4 beater like too many of VW other expensive creations, but just tooo expensive to be driving around it what is a Rabbit’s shell.

    Also from all the Fanboys snapping these up on shakey credit, dealer price will shoot up far closer to $40k no doubt. Well into the territory of super econos (STi, Evo) and Coupes (G37) that could run circles around it and the latter out pose/refine it.

  5. “you took in an open perspective”

    Thanks a lot for noticing.

    That’s what I’ve been trying to do. I really don’t care who makes the car. Hyundai or BMW, as long as I like it I’ll say so.

    I think people should have a more open mind.
    But I must say, minds are more open in the US market. That’s why Lexus has been such a hit over here.
    They are struggling in Europe where it is very hard to get luxury buyers out of their Mercedes and BMWs.
    All other European car makers have failed in the segment. Ask Renault, Citroen, Opel or Lancia how they’re doing in the over $50 000 market.
    They either failed or finally gave up.

    I think the American consumer is more open. That’s why there is hope for GM and even Ford to come back.

  6. Very informative review, I can’t wait for the regular GTI review, that’s what I am considering to replace my aging Prelude, but that VW reliability stigma and the Long term test in Car & Driver is not very promising.

  7. Great review. I have owned three VW/Audis totalling nearly 300,000 miles and been fortunate not to have had any real quality issues. Aside from the massive ignition coil failures in their 4cyl cars a few years back, VW are actually quite bulletproof. They handled that poorly and their reputation needs a lot of work as a result.

    I don’t think VW will ever be a mass brand in the US like it is everywhere else in the world. I see that as a good thing.

  8. The few people I know who own VW/Audi products all have problems with them. One of my friend is at the dealer every month (literally) for some “under warranty ” work on his 2005 model.
    I realize this is just a small sample of people. But all surveys do show VW at or near the bottom as far as reliability is concerned.

    I large VW dealer in the L.A area even told me he would only lease them. Not keep them long term.
    So they know.

    But still. I think a car that brings you joy every time you drive it priceless. And if the “price” is some electrical problems, it’s a choice you might have to make.
    Nothing in this world is perfect. It’s just a matter of choice about what you are willing to compromise on.

    I guess I would still lease a Passat instead of buying an Accord. And make sure my dealer is a really nice guy….

  9. My main problem is that $33,000 also buys you the VW dealer experience. Not worth it at $13,000, totally unjustifiable at $23,000. $33,000? Just plain laughable.


  10. I find it hard to justify the R32 when you can get the same motor, same transmission and same build quality in the Audi a3 S-Line for essentially the same price

  11. For 3 or 4 thousand more you can get a real car – a G37 Coupe. Why in the world would anyone pay 33,000 for a gussied up “Wabbit”.
    And for the guy who claims the coil problems was the only one, who does he think he’s kidding? VW problems are endless.
    Don’t get suckered in by an interior.
    Other cars out there will give you the same or better driving experiences without having to pay for it with the poor reliability and poor service VW provides to all its customers.

  12. I bought one of these back in September, in Deep Blue Pearl with the Satellite Navigation option (which takes the price plus destination to 35,430). Gotta say, i absolutely adore the thing because of how dynamic it is. Ride quality is good, tons of grip, great engine note (something you don’t get in the audi, cause the a3’s engine is the aluminum block, while this is the cast iron block. Heavier engine, but more character). Its crazy when you want to be, but when you just want a car it plays that game too. A 2008 Mercedes C350 (probably the car I’d compare it to) will run you about 46k loaded, so you save 11 grand and you don’t get the stuck up image problem of a merc. Its been bulletproof reliable since i got it, and i’ve used it every single day. I’m honestly just thrilled with the purchase.

  13. “And for the guy who claims the coil problems was the only one, who does he think he’s kidding? VW problems are endless.”

    Actually, I didn’t say that they were the “only” problems VW has had. But that was the only systemic problem in recent memory that I consider over and above the general problems of any other manufacturer. I also think that there is a lot of hyperbole on these boards that suggests VWs are falling apart on the streets. Luckily, I had two great experiences with VWs so that I wasn’t reluctant to spend $63k on an Audi. The reality is, the resale value of VWs are very high for a reason and, in Europe, VW reliability is ranked very high.

  14. The R32 is a great looking car. It obviously performs extremely well too. I’d much rather get one of these than a lightly optioned 3 series or C class.

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