Today’s front-wheel-drive hot hatches, though many aren’t sold in the US, whip hard in all sense of the word. But if you crave something spicier, AWD ones like the Golf R offer more pace with the same practicality. Unfortunately for enthusiasts’ wallets, the extra performance naturally comes with a higher price tag. Fortunately, the used market offers an even greater selection at an appreciable discount. And if you can’t afford a new Golf R, consider giving a Mk5 Volkswagen R32 like the one on Bring a Trailer a look.
Before the Golf R, Volkswagen brought refined AWD hot hatch fury with the Mk5 R32
|2008 Mk5 Volkswagen R32|
|Transmission||Six-speed dual-clutch ‘DSG’ automatic|
|Curb weight||3547 lbs|
|0-60 mph time||5.8 seconds (claimed)|
5.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Although the Golf R is now a regular part of Volkswagen’s US lineup, its predecessors were anything but. While Volkswagen launched the first ‘R’ Golf, the Mk4 R32, in 2002, it didn’t reach us until 2004. And even then, VW only imported 5000 examples of the AWD hot hatch.
Unfortunately, its sequel, the Mk5 R32, suffered from similar limited-edition status. Again, Volkswagen only sold it here for one model year—2008—and only brought over 5000 examples. And while the Mk4 was a four-door, stick-shift-only hot hatch, the Mk5 only came as a two-door with a DSG.
Fortunately, not only does the 2008 Volkswagen R32 still have the iconic VR6—not a V6—but it makes more power than in the Mk4. Also, while the DSG’s paddle shifters don’t quite mimic a manual, the automatic R32 is faster in a straight line. Furthermore, the Mk5 R32 has the same stiffened springs and shocks as the Euro-market model, Car and Driver notes. And, because it’s based on the Mk5 Golf, it has independent rear suspension, unlike the Mk4 model.
The suspension upgrades mean that, while the 2008 Volkswagen R32 is heavier than the Mk5 GTI, it’s just as playful and tossable on twisty roads, Car and Driver reports. Plus, the Haldex AWD system gives it tons of grip without robbing turn-in sharpness or mid-corner balance. And when you need to slow down in a hurry, the R32’s bigger brakes are more than up to the task.
Admittedly, the 2008 R32 isn’t as sharp as the contemporary Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, Car and Driver says. However, it’s noticeably quieter and more refined, especially on bumpy roads. And neither the Evo’s, WRX’s, nor the GTI’s turbo engines sound nor respond quite like that smooth, burbly VR6.
You can bid on this 2008 Golf R32 right now on Bring a Trailer
Because the 2008 Volkswagen R32 is kind of a luxury hot hatch, it came standard with several premium features. And the Mk5 currently listed on Bring a Trailer demonstrates this well.
Besides the performance features, this Mk5 R32 has leather upholstery, bi-xenon headlights, a power-operated sunroof, and automatic dual-zone climate control. Also, its front sport seats are heated, and its four-wheel disc brakes are ventilated. Plus, it has a factory in-dash CD changer, aluminum pedals, folding rear seats, and electronic stability control.
In addition, this 2008 R32 has a few aftermarket extras. Firstly, it has paint protection film on its front bumper and part of its hood. And while it’s currently riding on the stock wheels with Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires, it also has Neuspeed Re12 wheels with Continental summer tires.
As of this writing, this R32 has less than 56,000 miles on the clock and a clean, zero-accident history. And in preparation for the sale, the seller had Midwest Performance Cars, a Chicagoland German car specialist garage, change the oil and perform a multipoint inspection. Bring a Trailer also notes that a previous owner changed the transmission and differential fluids in 2018.
Will this Mk5 Volkswagen R32 be a reliable hot hatch bargain?
As of this writing, this 2008 Volkswagen R32 is listed at $15,800 with three days left in the auction. While that seems high for a used hot hatch, it’s worth noting that this isn’t exactly a conventional Golf. Plus, the average R32 sells for $20,000-$40,000 these days on Bring a Trailer, and the cheapest example with similar mileage on Autotrader costs over $5000 more.
As with any used car, a pre-purchase inspection is recommended, especially since some used VWs aren’t exactly paragons of reliability. But overall, the Mk5 R32 is fairly reliable, provided it’s been serviced regularly.
If it’s maintained properly and has its ignition coils and plastic chain tensioners addressed, the VR6 is a sturdy engine. It’s a similar story with the DSG transmission and AWD system, PistonHeads says. As long as you change the fluids regularly and check the DSG’s Mechatronic module for potential recall work, things should be OK. And while the adaptive headlights’ motors can fail, they appear to be fine on this R32.
So, if you’re interested in a fun, affordable, comfortable hot hatch, this 2008 R32 could be what you’re after.
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