When it went on sale in the UK in November 2005, the Volkswagen Golf R32 became the most powerful and fastest production Golf to date. It followed the successful formula laid down by the previous R32, and, in doing so, established itself at the top of the Golf range, above the already highly acclaimed GTI.
The formula is a simple one: performance provided by a 3.2-litre 250 PS V6 engine; 0 to 62 mph in 6.2 seconds; a top speed (limited) of 155 mph and 4MOTION intelligent four-wheel drive combine with the Golf's traditional values of interior space, comfort, refinement, driver enjoyment and highly competitive front-end price and running costs.
The Volkswagen Golf R32 is available in three and five-door guises, with a choice of six-speed manual or DSG automatic transmission. Volkswagen's innovative DSG gearbox combines the convenience of an automatic with the efficiency and driving qualities of a manual. Unlike most automatics it can produce even better performance than a manual as can be seen from the acceleration figures: 6.2 seconds to 62 mph for the DSG against 6.5 seconds for the manual.
With the UK firmly established as the world's leading market for the Golf GTI, it comes as little surprise that the R32 is highly sought-after. The UK's original allocation of 450 cars sold out shortly after the car went on sale; while continued heavy demand for the vehicle means residual values remain high.
The Volkswagen Golf R32 is based on the standard Golf, meaning its design and dimensions are very similar. However its new nose design and lowered suspension mean there are small differences: height has been reduced by 20 mm and length increased by 42 mm.
With the standard Golf, one of the chief targets for the designers was a substantial improvement in body rigidity. Thanks to the extensive use of advanced construction techniques such as laser seam welding, this was achieved: static torsional rigidity improved by 80 per cent, establishing the Golf as class leader.
Improved safety and handling dynamics are among the benefits to the driver and passengers, while noise levels are reduced and overall refinement enhanced.
Attention to detail is evident throughout the vehicle, with many styling details and design ideas passed on to the Golf from Volkswagen's luxury class models. Among these is the boot lid release control, which takes the form of the Volkswagen badge.
The new 'module' doors are also an innovation, aimed at drastically reducing door skin repair costs. No longer must the entire door be replaced in the event of damage, instead the outer panel can easily be detached. This is achieved by the use of load-bearing 'hybrid bars' which serve as the door inner panel. The outer skin panel is simply bolted into place.
Though similar in terms of quality, design and ergonomics to the standard Golf's interior, there are many features that distinguish the R32 from the rest of the range, giving it an ambience which suits its performance and character.
The Volkswagen Golf R32 seats offer maximum comfort with the best possible side support and distinctive appearance. The high seatbacks carry integrated, but adjustable (and active) head restraints. The front seats also have height and lumbar support adjustment as standard. New 'Monte Carlo' cloth upholstery comes as standard, but full leather upholstery is also available. In addition, Recaro cloth and leather options are also offered. Some options come complete with adjustable seat heating and electric lumbar support adjustment.
Multi-function steering wheel with paddle shift
The R32 uses the same three-spoke steering wheel featured in the current Golf GTI. Leather-trimmed as standard, the steering wheel has a straight lower section to its rim providing more room. The R32 logo features on the brushed aluminium vertical spoke of the steering wheel. As on all Golfs, the steering column is adjustable for rake and reach.
A multi-function steering wheel is fitted as standard to the Volkswagen Golf R32. This features steering wheel-mounted controls for the radio/CD player, so drivers are able to alter the volume, track, station etc, without taking their hands off the wheel. On R32 DSG models, one multi-function steering wheel exists, which includes not only the audio controls, but also paddle shift levers for even greater control of the DSG transmission. The left paddle shifts the gears down while the right paddle shifts up.
Gearknob and instruments
Aluminium alloy is employed for the new R32 gearknob, the trim inserts on the dashboard, centre console, door panels, pedal cluster and instrument dials. The instruments themselves have been newly designed and are exclusive to the R32: the speedometer, for example, has a display that reads from 0 to 180 mph.
The Volkswagen Golf R32 features 2Zone electronic climate control air conditioning. As a fully automatic two-zone device, the driver and front-seat passenger are able to adjust their own climates individually and independently, with up to four degrees Celsius difference between each zone. Temperatures within the two zones are maintained to an accuracy of half a degree, with no readjustment normally necessary whatever the outside conditions. The Climatronic's intelligent control system even takes into account the amount of sunlight penetration into the cabin, and makes separate calculations to compensate for it on both the driver and passenger sides. As an example of further attention to detail, the system switches automatically to recirculating air mode when reversing and when the windscreen washer sprays are used; the fresh air supply is momentarily cut to prevent odours from entering.
Gas discharge (bi-Xenon) headlights
Ultra-efficient gas discharge headlights provide a well focused, blue-white light approximately two and a half times more powerful than standard lights. This feature includes a self-levelling mechanism and high-pressure headlight wash.
Volkswagen enjoys a reputation for quality and knows that it must make an even greater commitment in design, materials, development, quality control and many other areas if it is to retain its lead. By designing the Golf to make use of some major and minor components used in other Group products, Volkswagen is able to purchase high quality components and materials in bulk. By saving costs in these areas, Volkswagen has more resource to spend on quality items specific to the Golf that distinguish it from other models.
Engine - 3.2-litre 3189 cc, 24-valve 6-cyl, V6, 250 PS
As you would expect from a car which sits at the top of the Golf range, the R32 is powered by a potent 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine which provides acceleration and power across the engine speed range. Mounted transversely at the front of the car, it drives through a six-speed manual or DSG automatic gearbox.
The Volkswagen Golf R32's powerplant delivers a maximum power output of 250 PS at 6,300 rpm with a compression ratio of 10.9:1. Maximum torque of 236 lbs ft (320 Nm) is delivered from as low as 2,800 rpm and throughout the rev range, making it ideal as a sports car, track day car or motorway cruiser.
The four valve per cylinder engine has a narrow V-angle of 15-degrees between the cylinder banks. The cylinder heads are aluminium while the engine block is a grey cast iron casting. The bore is 84.0 mm and the stroke is 95.9 mm resulting in 3,189 cc capacity. Each of the four overhead camshafts - two per cylinder bank - uses continuous timing adjustment. The adjustment angle is 52-degrees on the inlet side and 22-degrees on the outlet side. Roller rocker arms with hydraulic compensation operate the valves. The engine is equipped with a distributorless electronic ignition system and each of six cylinders is assigned its own ignition coil.
The 3.2-litre engine does not use FSI technology, but it does meet the tight Euro IV emissions regulations. Carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 231 g/km for the DSG equipped R32 and 255 g/km for the manual version.
Six-speed manual gearbox
The Volkswagen Golf R32 is offered with the '02Q' six-speed manual gearbox as standard, featuring a magnesium selector housing and cable operation with very short lever movements. This is essentially the same transmission used in the Golf GTI and Golf GT FSI, without a 'notched selector fork', but with uprated input shaft bearings to match the higher power of the R32. The gear ratios have been changed to suit the V6 engine.
Three-cone synchromesh for the lower gears ensures a pleasant shift action, while reduced-friction bearings increase the efficiency of the unit and cut fuel consumption. The clutch housing thickness has been increased by 3.5 mm for the R32 and an 'oil-tight' differential area has been created with its own oil circuit.
DSG - Direct Shift Gearbox
Optional with the Volkswagen Golf R32 is a six-speed automatic gearbox. Available currently in the Golf, Touran and Passat, it is offered here for the first time with a V6 petrol unit. DSG combines the comfort of an automatic gearbox with the agility and economy of a manual unit. Such is the capability of this new design of this transmission that it is fitted as standard on the Bugatti Veyron supercar.
The transversely mounted DSG has two wet clutches (offering a higher thermal load tolerance than dry clutches) with hydraulic pressure regulation. One clutch controls the 'odd' gears plus reverse, while the other operates the 'even' gears. Essentially it is two gearboxes in one.
With this new clutch management system, the breaks in power that are typical of even an automatic-shift manual gearbox no longer occur. This is achieved by an intelligent hydraulic and electronic (mechatronic) gearbox control system, the two wet-type clutches and the two input and output shafts in each half of the gearbox.
This combination enables the next-higher gear ratio to remain engaged but on standby until it is actually selected. In other words, if the car is being driven in third gear, fourth is selected but not yet activated. As soon as the ideal shift point is reached, the clutch on the third-gear side opens, the other clutch closes and fourth gear engages under accurate electronic supervision.
Since the opening and closing actions of the two clutches overlap, a smooth gearshift results and the entire shift process is completed in less than four-hundredths of a second. In addition to its fully automatic shift mode, DSG has a Tiptronic function to permit manual gear selection. The DSG option comes complete with steering wheel 'paddles' as standard. The left paddle changes down the gear ratios, whilst the right hand side changes up.
Compared with the DSG fitted to the Golf GTI, the R32 version is strengthened for use with 4MOTION and uses engine-specific software. Examples destined for hot countries (such as in the Middle East) gain an extra water cooler system which is built into the DSG transmission.
All Golfs, including the R32, are set to run on variable or LongLife servicing times. The on-board computer informs the driver when the vehicle needs a service or, for example, an oil change. Rather than having fixed service intervals determined by mileage, a range of engine sensors electronically monitors the vehicle's oil temperature, oil pressure, oil level and brake pad wear to establish when a service is needed. A dashboard display informs the driver when a service is due. Alternatively, customers can opt for a 10,000 mile or one-year Time and Distance service schedule.
With the LongLife system, it can be possible to drive for up to 19,000 miles or 24 months without a major service. Customers can choose between Time and Distance and LongLife Servicing at PDI (pre-delivery inspection) and though it is possible to change from one to another during the vehicle's life, it can only be done when a full inspection service is due.
Front and rear axle
A new era for Volkswagen suspension design was ushered in with the arrival of the Touran; the Golf was the second model in the Volkswagen range to benefit from the development of a completely new four-link rear suspension system.
Ride and handling were markedly improved over the standard Golf's predecessor, with attendant active safety benefits, and the new rear axle configuration also enabled an enlarged through-load width in the luggage compartment.
The standard Golf's front strut and rear multi-link chassis have been made even more dynamic for the Volkswagen Golf R32, to guarantee the level of agile handling required for this car. The suspension has been lowered by 20 mm, while higher-rate springs and dampers have been chosen for both axles. These are also adapted for the extra weight of the engine and 4MOTION system.
Electro-mechanical power steering
Electro-mechanical power steering is another feature introduced with the Golf (first seen in Touran) and designed to enhance the driving experience. Unlike some electro-mechanical systems, it is able to vary the feel of the steering wheel according to speed and driving situation: firm at higher speeds, lighter for parking.
Other advantages of the system include its mild self-centring action, its ability to compensate for different driving hazards, like crosswinds and steep road cambers, and a beneficial effect on fuel economy that comes from replacing the power-consuming hydraulic power steering pump with an electric motor. The steering system, like the suspension, has been reprogrammed and produces higher steering forces, giving the driver a more direct feel and more feedback through the steering wheel.
The Golf's new chassis and steering configurations give the car its impressive agility and make it genuinely fun and rewarding to drive. However, the sporty set-up does not come at the expense of long-distance comfort. While the suspension is designed to be firm, it is still able to provide a good ride.
The VW Golf R32 has been designed to be extremely agile, but easy to control. Even without the intervention of ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme), the R32 will stay on track if the driver, for example, approaches a corner too fast, pushing out slightly at the front without too much understeer. On the other hand, if the driver suddenly eases off in a bend, the tail will not swing out; the driver will simply experience some mild oversteer, which will slow the car and allow gentle steering through the throttle. To counteract all these unwanted effects, the R32 is equipped with helpful electronics and 4MOTION intelligent four-wheel drive.
The very first 4MOTION system appeared in 1998, succeeding the Syncro four-wheel drive system seen on models such as the Golf Country and Golf Syncro. The Volkswagen Golf R32 uses the latest generation of the 4MOTION four-wheel drive system. This intelligent system provides optimum traction, allowing all of the 250 PS developed by the engine to be delivered effectively to the road - wet or dry.
The technical highlight of the system is the new Haldex coupling, a wet plate clutch, electronically controlled, that provides the function of a centre differential. Being electronic, the coupling works well with other standard safety systems on the R32 which include ABS, ASR, EDL and ESP. Linking 4MOTION to these existing on-board electronics creates a sure, safe and involving drive.
Like all Golfs, the R32 features a sophisticated braking system, with standard ABS and ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme). However, like most aspects of the running gear, the brakes have also been adapted for the R32. A larger diameter brake servo has been employed, while the brake discs have also increased in size to 345 mm at the front and 310 mm at the rear. All discs are ventilated and are gripped by distinctive blue brake callipers.
Electronic Stabilisation Programme - ESP
ESP is a sophisticated system that automatically senses any tendency for the car to slide. Should this situation occur, ESP reacts by applying the brakes to one, two, three or all four wheels and adjusts the engine's power. In this way it is possible that a skid can be corrected even before the driver is aware that one has started. This can be useful if a tendency to understeer or oversteer develops in a bend. In such circumstances ESP can help prevent the car skidding or spinning off the road and is particularly helpful in wet or icy conditions.
The new-generation ESP system developed for the Golf has a range of features designed to have a direct and positive effect on active safety, including:
ABS - Anti-lock Braking System
Hydraulic Brake Assist - HBA
Working with the other elements of the braking system, this latest form of HBA recognises from the speed at which the brake pedal is depressed whether it is a 'normal' braking situation or an emergency stop. In an emergency stop, HBA increases braking pressure, activating ABS and ensuring the level of braking meets the needs of the conditions. The application of HBA makes it possible even for unskilled drivers to reduce braking distances by around 25 per cent.
The high levels of body rigidity brought about by the advanced construction techniques employed in the Golf make it safe, thanks to the strength inherent in the body. Key to this is the employment of laser seam welding; there is a total length of 70 metres of laser-welded seamwork in the Golf, compared with five metres in the previous generation Golf (which itself was renowned for strength and rigidity).
In the event of a high-speed offset accident, an extremely strong bumper cross-member ensures that energy is efficiently absorbed even on the side of the car furthest from the impact. The side members have been adapted to meet this requirement by means of 'Tailored Blank' technology: a maximum amount of energy is absorbed in the front section of the car and only then does the rear side member section buckle, thus reducing footwell intrusion.
Further protection of the footwell is achieved by the use of a cross-member to distribute longitudinal forces to the sill, the underfloor side-member and a stiffened transmission tunnel. COF, or Crash-Optimised Foot controls, retract forwards in a crash to reduce the risk of foot injury.
The previous Golf's already high levels of passenger protection against side impacts were enhanced in the current model thanks to the greater use of high-strength body panels and a three-layer B-pillar structure. Impact loads are spread more uniformly as a result, preventing localised overloading. High-strength side reinforcements are employed in the doors.
Safety standard requirements due to come into force in 2005 were taken into consideration in the design of the Golf's rear protection systems. These regulations require that, when the rear hits a deformable barrier at 50 mph, the fuel tank system must develop no leaks. Thus the tank filler neck and associated pipework is located ahead of the rear wheel, outside the crumple zone. A high-strength bumper cross-member ensures that impact loads are distributed as evenly as possible to both sides of the car.
The Golf name has always been synonymous with safety, and the well-being of all occupants is paramount. Despite the R32 being designed for fun and dynamism, safety has in no way been compromised. All models feature:
twin front airbags
In the event of an accident, a central control unit electrically triggers the Golf's belt tensioners. Belt tensioning ensures the best performance, with energy being absorbed over a longer period of time with more moderate deceleration values. Both front and rear seat belt systems are fitted with force limiters which prevent excessive pressure being applied to the chest in the event of an accident; while newly-designed inertia-reel seat belts ensure excellent passenger comfort.
The front safety system of the Golf consists of a driver's airbag with a volume of 60 litres and a front passenger's airbag of 120 litres. A further feature is the steering column, which has a highly engineered clamp for longitudinal and vertical adjustment. This clamp helps prevent the steering wheel from moving upward in the event of a crash. The underside of the steering column is also covered with an energy-absorbing trim to reduce knee and thigh forces, while a rigid footwell with forward-retracting brake and clutch pedals reduce loads on the feet.
The side airbags on the Golf are integrated in the front seat backrests. They protect the chest, abdomen and pelvis and suit the car's rigid side structure, while an innovative sensor concept means even faster triggering times. Integrating the side airbags in the backrests ensures optimum positioning of the driver and front passenger with respect to the airbags.
Curtain airbag system
The Golf has especially large curtain airbags, which cover the side window areas from the A- to the C-pillar and from the headlining down to over the doorsill. The result of this feature is that maximum protection is afforded to all outer seat positions regardless of passenger body size. The fact that these airbags cover such a large area prevents the head from swinging out, extremities from being thrown out and objects from penetrating the interior even in the event of the car rolling over.
An Isofix child seat has been developed for very small passengers in the Golf, with a target age group between eight months and four years (or 9 to 18 kgs). It fits into the Isofix fixtures, which are standard in the two outer rear seats. This type of fixture ensures that the seat is secured in place to optimum effect.
Euro NCAP test results
The Golf scored a maximum of five stars for occupant protection in the front and side impact tests, four stars for child protection as well as three stars for the protection of pedestrians in the Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) tests. These scores are among the best of all cars tested to this standard to date.
These scores also apply to the Volkswagen Golf R32 model, giving drivers and passengers the confidence that they are driving a car that is both a benchmark in safety and in the driver enjoyment that it offers.
Factory fit options
Due to the high standard specification of the Golf R32 only a small number of factory- and retailer-fit options are offered. These include; leather upholstery; cruise control; satellite navigation; Recaro sports seats; electric glass sunroof; two winter packs and metallic paint.
These newly-designed sports seats which have been developed in conjunction with Recaro offer even greater lateral support for both driver and front passenger. They come with integrated head restraints and 'slots' in the backrest through which multi-point seat belt harnesses can be fitted, if desired.
Also available on the Volkswagen Golf R32 is a parking distance control system which simplifies tight parking manoeuvres. The system uses four ultrasonic sensors, integrated in the rear bumper, to pinpoint parked vehicles or other objects behind the car. Automatically activated when reverse gear is selected, the system produces an audible warning signal to guide the driver up to a safe distance to any objects behind. Not only does this help to avoid car park knocks, it could also prevent accidents, for example, if a child runs out who may not have been seen.
Satellite navigation system
The VW Golf R32 is offered with the option of a factory-fit satellite navigation system. The 6Â½ inch colour LCD screen, which is mounted in the centre console, is supplemented with a simplified display in the instrument panel and verbal instructions. The driver or passenger can use the screen to pinpoint where the car is on a moving map display. A traffic jam avoidance facility will be able to calculate alternative routes and the radio can memorise the latest traffic information bulletin even when switched off.
Rear ABS wheel sensors are used to determine the distance the car has covered and to provide information when the car is turning. Further system components include a solid state magnetic compass concealed under the roof and a three-way roof aerial for radio and GPS (Global Positioning System). The aerial receives signals from the satellites in orbit around the earth from which the system is able to calculate the position of the car on the surface of the earth.
A digitised road map, stored on DVD in the car, is accessed. This contains road details and other information such as the locations of airports and stations. It is effectively a digital street plan of Great Britain. The desired destination is selected using the buttons on the centre console. The system evaluates satellite signals and those from the wheel sensors and compares these data with the digitised DVD road map. Quite quickly, by comparing the movement of the car with the map and its approximate position from the satellites, the system can calculate the position of the car. The road, street or motorway the car is on is then displayed and the route to the chosen destination calculated.
The system employed in the Golf also allows for a choice of different types of route - for example, avoiding motorways or cross-country roads. Should the driver deviate from an indicated route, the voice will politely request that he or she make a safe U-turn. If the driver does not oblige, the system will automatically calculate a new route and continue to issue instructions to reach the destination.
The Golf is sold with Volkswagen-designed stereo equipment. This sits neatly within the dashboard and is ergonomically designed for ease and safety of operation and maximum security. A dash-mounted CD player is standard; it can be upgraded through the optional fitment of a centre armrest-mounted six-disc CD autochanger for a small premium.