At more than $30 large, the 2008 Volkswagen R32 is pricey for a compact hatchback. But with its standard 250-horse V6, all-wheel drive
What would you get if an early '80s Audi Quattro coupe and the current VW GTI found themselves on a deserted island with an endless loop of Barry White's Greatest Hits playing? Well, glossing over that whole icky age-difference part, you'd likely end up with a spawn that resembles the 2008 Volkswagen R32.
That first Audi Quattro coupe packed a powerful turbocharged five-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, offering enthusiasts who had to deal with snow and slush a performance car they could drive all year round. Carrying that spirit on today, the Volkswagen R32 is similar to today's GTI but offers two things that hot hatch doesn't -- a ripping V6 engine and all-wheel drive.
The latest model is a follow-up on the limited-production, Golf-based R32 that VW sold in the United States a few years ago. Of course, with the R32 being a compact sporty car with a muscular engine and all-wheel traction, everybody will want to compare it to the forthcoming redesigned Subaru WRX STI and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. That's not exactly apples to apples, however, as the R32 is more a fast, comfortable GT than a rip-roaring, apex-attacking super compact.
Yes, the Evo will leave the R32 behind on a tight twisty road and will outgun it in a stoplight sprint. But the Vee-Dub is still plenty quick enough (zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds, says Volkswagen), handles better than most drivers will ever need and would make a much better daily driver and road trip companion thanks to its smoother, quieter ride. The R32 is also more mature, as this performance car does without the gaping air intakes and wing-and-spoiler bonanza. It also has a nicer interior that gives off a neatly tailored European vibe typical of the brand.
Priced at more than $30,000, the 2008 Volkswagen R32 occupies a niche in the hot-hatch segment. It's more expensive than natural competitors and lacks the performance one can get from the Evo or Ford Mustang GT. But this super-sporty Vee-Dub's appeal lies outside the norm. With only 5,000 bound for American shores, the R32 is rare and holds obvious appeal to VW fans, making it a worthy über-GTI. Heck, maybe even the dearly departed Barry White would want to own one.