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Thread: 2008 VW R32 - too much $$ for not enough performance?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2008 VW R32 - too much $$ for not enough performance?

    Anyone can own an EVO - or a Subaru WRX STi for that matter. But only 5,000 people will get to hold the keys to a VW R32.

    And that, to a great extent, is what makes the R32's big ticket price tag ($32,990) palatable.

    Or so VW hopes.

    Take away the low production - and you'd have a problem. Because while the R32's a hoot to drive - with a 250 hp 3.2 liter V-6, standard all-wheel-drive and VW's trick dual-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox - it's neither as powerful nor as quick as other, less expensive import pocket rockets like the Mitsubishi EVO and Subaru WRX STi.

    It's not even close, actually.

    The R32 can deliver 60 mph in 6.5 seconds - quick enough to be fun, yes - but by the standards of today's sport/performance cars, not all that spectacular. An '08 EVO (due in Spring 2008) will obliterate the R32 in a drag race - with zero to 60 capability reportedly in the 4.8-5 second range. The old (2007) EVO's also much quicker. And it costs less at $27,415 for openers. Even worse - for VW - the new EVO will reportedly offer a dual-clutch automatic very similar to the R32's signature feature DSG - in addition to a traditional six-speed manual that enthusiasts may prefer.

    VW doesn't offer buyers a choice of transmissions; it's the DSG - or buy something else, chief.

    Then there's the Soobie WRX STi - another ferocious performer that packs 300 turbocharged and intercooled horsepower (in current form; the pending update will likely be even more powerful), likewise offers standard all-wheel-drive - and which can bullet to 60 mph in around 5.8 seconds. That's 50 horsepower more than the R32 - and almost a full second quicker - for about $5k less.

    And like the Mitsubishi EVO, the current WRX STI is about to be updated - the new model will almost certainly be even more potent than the current version.

    As far as handling, while the R32 is plenty grippy - it's also plenty heavy - and feels it. Curb weight with two people on board is close to 4,000 pounds - which is kind of shocking for something that's technically a compact. VW has done an admirable job of nailing down all that weight (stiff springs/struts and a low-down center of gravity combined with thick anti-roll bars and super low-profile 18-inch rubber can work miracles) its presence cannot be completely masked. The R32 will corner - but it doesn't feel as light on its feet as either the STi or the EVO. It is much happier stretching its legs on lightly-trafficked secondary roads where you can run 20 or 30 over the posted limit than it is working hard on tight S-turns at lower speeds.

    Also, the R32's a coupe with limited access to the back seats. The extra pair of doors you get with the EVO and the STi can make a world of difference as far as daily driving goes.

    On the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG):

    This is one of the R32's main selling points, according to VW. It's a combination of automatic and manual transmissions - with no need for the driver to handle any clutchwork. The driver can shift through the six forward gears manually (via F1-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel) or leave it in one of two automatic modes - normal and Sport. In Sport mode, shifts comes harder and faster; the engine is kept in the sweet spot of its powerband - and you won't see much of overdrive. In normal mode, shifts quiet down and the tranny gets you into fuel-saving overdrive as soon as possible.

    It's an impressive piece of engineering but one wonders about VW's decision not to offer a conventional six-speed manual (with a driver-operated clutch) in what is, after all, a high-performance sport compact. It's kind of like not offering power windows on the latest Lexus. Doesn't make much sense to me. The DSG works well - and delivers snappy gear changes - but as an enthusiast driver, I prefer to shift gears for myself. Even if the DSG is "more efficient" - and can bang off more precise shifts with greater consistency (the raison d' etre for these auto-manual gearboxes). Enthusiast cars are about driving fun - and handling the clutchwork is a big part of that for many enthusiast types. The absence of the choice is arguably a real liability for the R32.

    But you do get exclusivity.

    And the R32's a more discrete ride - which adds points if you're over 30 and don't want to make a spectacle (or target) of yourself with gold-anodized wheels, huge wings and cop-magnet hood scoops. My tester R32 - painted in "run silent, run deep" gunmetal silver - looked for all the world like any other Golf/Rabbit on the road. Enthusiast types might notice the low-profile rubber (225/40-18 Dunlop Sp Sports), the blue-anodized, oversized brake calipers and the dual tailpipes that are R32 exclusives. But these cues are not blatant. It's easy to fade into the crowd - and thereby avoid the unkind eye of Officer Friendly.

    That's much harder to do in either the EVO or the STi. I always feel nervous driving either; every time you pass a cop you get The Look. Even if you are doing just exactly the limit. Never happened in the R32. It's a car you can slip through traffic at 10 over in and if a cop turns up, it's just a matter of throttling back and slipping past unnoticed - eyes straight ahead.

    You may still get nailed - but your odds of escaping The Look (which often leads to the ticket) are much better.

    The VW's also less juvenile on the inside. R32 specifics include real engine-turned aluminum trim bits, as well as a very handsome gauge package with 180 mph speedo and blue-lit needles. The car also comes standard with firmly bolstered but still very comfortable sport buckets, wrapped in high-quality leather. Ditto the wheel and door panels. Both driver and passenger front seats are heated. Dual-zone climate control AC, a sunroof and a powerful stereo with six-disc CD changer and satellite radio are all included. The only major option, in fact, is a GPS system - and you can swap the standard high-performance rubber for more winter-friendly all-seasons.

    All in all, it's a nice package - and by far, the fiercest version of the Golf/Rabbit VW has ever unleashed.

    It's just too bad it's so doggone expensive - particularly since it's not at least as quick as less expensive competitors like the EVO and STi.

    Exclusivity is fine - but is it enough to feel good about paying more for less performance?

    That's a call you'll have to make for yourself ... .


  2. #2
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Little Rock, Arkansas

    Re: 2008 VW R32 - too much $$ for not enough performance?

    Curb weight is 3547 lbs.

    That's still a lot, but it's not two tons. The STi and Evo are around 3200 I think.

    The lack of horsepower for the price is criminal though.

    Also, the 2007 Subaru STi was $34K, and the Evo was in that ballpark too (with a bare-bones stripper at $28K). The 2008 prices have not been published, but won't be less than 2007 for sure.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Re: 2008 VW R32 - too much $$ for not enough performance?

    Here's the link to this article on the main page with pictures:


    I agree it does have a lack of horsepower for its pricetag. I would rather have '85 VW GTI - that car had character - it was quick for its day, very reasonably priced, handled well, and was a sharp car.

    VW could hit a homerun by putting the W8 in the R32 for the price of a current R32 - now that would be a car offering a whole lot of bang for the buck.

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