2008 Volkswagen R32 review: ‘Nice car’

2008 Volkswagen R32

2008 Volkswagen R32

“Nice car!”

He’s leaning out the window of his car, going the other way, but in a split second he recognized the 2008 Volkswagen R32 and offered probably his supreme compliment. Or at least the best he could come up with on such short notice.

It’s a testament not only to his ability to know what he’s seeing, but also Volkswagen making in the R32 something worth noticing. Indeed, to most observers the Volkswagen R32 is little more than a two-door Rabbit (VW no longer uses “Golf” in the U.S.) with special wheels, even if that’s noticed.

That’s R32 to you But the performance car-conscious will recognize the hallmarks that make the Volkswagen R32 different. To begin with there’s the aforementioned wheels, 18-inchers with an open 10-spoke design that shows off the large blue-painted brake calipers front and rear. Standard tires are sizeable 225/40R18 summer compound stuffing the standard VW wheelwells.

Experienced VW spotters will notice a front fascia unique to the R32, the biggest instant giveaway. Where the Volkswagen Rabbit has a monochrome face and the Volkswagen GTI has a black bib, the R32 sports a “brushed aluminum-look” grille surround, along with standard bi-xenon headlamps and a deep front spoiler. Out back, Volkswagen added a roof spoiler and centered dual polished stainless steel exhaust outlets as clues.

That, plus R32 badging, R32-signature Deep Blue Metallic paint and the overall sense of too much car stuffed into too little automobile, makes the two-door sedan noticeable without standing out.

2008 Volkswagen R32 engine

The narrow-angle V-6 in the 2008 Volkswagen R32 has closely spaced spark pugs.

Perhaps our mobile admirer had seen the inside of the Volkswagen R32. The interior is set off by engine-turned look plastic, though more important are the high bolsters on the front sport seats. They’re flat out annoying to climb over getting in or out, and they’re a snug fit for average derrieres and a veritable vice for anyone larger. But there’s not much more in the way of bum grabbers than the R32’s front seats, allowing the driver to use the contoured steering wheel to actually steer rather than hang on in the corners. They’re also significant noise reducers, effective in reducing the terror lever of the right front seat..

The two-door Volkswagen is allegedly a four-seater, and indeed even adults can fit in the lower forty, but for the fully grown, getting in and, worse, getting out is challenging despite front seats that bump up and forward.

The Volkswagen R32’s primary function, however, is not mass transit but rather rapid transit. The model’s namesake is a narrow-angle V-6 displacing 3.2-liters. With only 15 degrees between the banks, the transversely-mounted six is a snug fit in the R32’s engine compartment but yields a naturally-aspirated 250 horsepower with a ready response to the right foot.

Tech specs for piston necks Technical engine specifications for the certifiably gearheaded: Bore and stroke of 84 mm by 95.9 mm. The vee engine has a dual overhead cams per bank, which means there are four camshafts in the R32’s single aluminum-alloy cylinder head. The engine has variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder and a healthy 10.85:1 compression ratio. Yes, premium fuel is required.

The R32 is available only with a six-speed DSG transmission. The dual-clutch gearbox has no clutch pedal, but instead a conventional “gear box” is manually shifted sequentially by tipping the shift lever for and aft, or by flipping paddles on the steering wheel.