To many enthusiasts, ‘R32’ refers to Nissan Skyline GTRs. But it’s also the name of a Volkswagen: the Golf R32. Previewed by the Beetle RSi, the Volkswagen Golf R32 was a step up in performance from the GTI hot hatch. But does that justify spending $62,000 on a used one?
2004 Volkswagen Golf R32: background, specs, and features
The 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 is the predecessor to the modern Golf R, Super Street Online explains. Like the Golf R, the R32 is an all-wheel-drive hot hatch, unlike the FWD GTI. But that wasn’t the only thing that separated the R32 from the GTI, Automobile reports.
Unlike the Golf R and GTI, the Mk4-based 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 and its Mk5 successor don’t have turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Instead, the Mk4 R32 uses a 3.2-liter V6 rated at 240 hp and 236 lb-ft, Road & Track reports. In Europe, the Golf R32 launched in 2002 and was available with an automatic, Motor Trend reports. The US models, though, are 6-speed-manual-only.
In addition to the AWD and V6, the Mk4 Golf R32’s brakes are larger than the GTI’s and vented Car and Driver reports. It also has a quicker steering rack, stiffer and sportier suspension, a lower ride height, and grippier tires. And its independent rear suspension was the first such setup in the Volkswagen Golf’s history, Hagerty reports.
Plus, the R32 has bolstered leather Konig sport seats, automatic climate control, and a sunroof, Automobile reports. But its external mods are limited to a subtle functional aero and body kit, along with dual exhausts.
The $62,000 2004 Golf R32
When it launched, the 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 competed against cars like the Subaru WRX and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. The Lancer Evo is noticeably faster than the R32, Autoweek reports, with sharper handling. But the VW hot hatch is significantly more comfortable. It’s stiffer than the contemporary GTI, R&T reports, but it doesn’t ride harshly, and the interior is well-suited for commuting.
Originally, the Mk4 Golf R32 retailed for $29.1k, R&T reports. That’s roughly $39.9k in today’s money, which is slightly less than the current Golf R costs, Car and Driver reports. But the Mk4 R32 is rarer than the modern R—Volkswagen only made 5000 of the former.
That being said, despite its rarity, a Mk4 Golf R32 isn’t typically that expensive. Most sell for about $20,000 on Bring a Trailer. Up until recently, the most expensive one sold on BaT went for $44,000 in 2019. But on August 14th, 2020, that title passed to an example that sold for $62,000.
Was it worth it?
This isn’t the first time an enthusiast car has garnered an unexpectedly-high auction price. In February of this year, an exceptionally well-preserved 1971 Datsun 240Z went for $300,000. Just last month, a 1999 Honda Civic Si sold for $50,000. And this isn’t the first time a Volkswagen Golf sold at an above-market price, either. At the end of April 2020, a tuned 1983 GTI sold for $38,000.
So why the $62,000 price tag? Mostly, it’s due to the 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32’s condition and mileage. Or rather, lack of mileage: it only has 1500 miles on the odometer. Also, unlike many other R32s of this vintage, it’s unmodified, with a pristine interior. In contrast, that $44,000 example sold in 2019 had 8000 miles on the clock.
Low-mileage vehicles can carry a host of mechanical issues, due to dried-out rubber seals and bushings. And this particular R32 might continue to be infrequently driven. The more miles, the more the market value drops. And as The Drive points out, there are quite a few other used performance cars that sell for less, such as a 996 911 Turbo.
But, as we stated in discussing the $300,000 240Z, this R32 is someone’s dream car. These late 90s/early 2000s performance cars are appreciating as the generation which idolized them gains buying power. It’s already happened with the Acura Integra Type R. And emotional satisfaction is tough to assign a dollar value to.
Let’s just hope whoever bought this Mk4 R32 drives it as often as they can. But at the very least, this purchase makes more sense than spending $125,000 on an Evo.
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