Driven - Oct 2017

The Golf R32 – The best fast AWD Golf thus far?

The Golf R32 Driven Review

With October kicking itself off with gloomy and stormy weather and muscle tops and sunglasses replaced with coats and boots, it’s safe to say the overall “suns out guns out” atmosphere has changed drastically. The only real way I could do any road testing in what seems to be an endless torrential downpour was in a boat, this was until an unexpected conversation with a rather attractive lady owner of a black 2007 VW Golf R32…

The conversation led to the conclusion that I would take her number – because of course, and we would link up again for a day of rigorous road testing. The “date” had arrived and late on a Saturday, the inquisitive lady saw it fit to tag along during my escapades in her pride and joy. The car was a very clean example, with only 97 thousand kilometres on the clock, fully original with the exclusion of an imported Milltek full exhaust. Sadly I noted the tires were a set that I hate most in the world, Yokohama S-drives, which I dislike for their lack of grip when compared to rival tires, but nevertheless, it would prove to be an interesting day.

Driving Impressions

After being dragged out of my warm house and away from my snuggle buddy – Mr Cuddles a plush toy teddy, with only the flooded roads and full body wetness to look forward to, I set off to the prescribed meeting location.  After the obligatory “Hellos” and pretending to be interested in the happenings and day of others, I began about on a full walk around and examination of this specimen of German engineering. Rather grumpily climbed into the driver’s seat and was almost fondled by the optional buckets fitted to this vehicle. The seats are incredibly aggressive and hold one’s figure tightly and proved to be rather well suited to aggressive cornering. The interior is typical VW, the layout simple and uncomplicated. Everything functional and full of leather and soft-touch surfaces. Handed the keys, a simple twist to the ignition let loose a loud and aggressive six- cylinder burble, unmistakably Volkswagen’s famed 3.2-litre VR6 Motor. The exhaust drone was extravagant and let a touch too much noise into the cabin when driving around in town, and this didn’t help my mood, nor did the passenger and owner who selected to drown this out with the hard-hitting bars and cuss words all too familiar with a classic Snoop Album. Now I like Snoop, maybe even more than most, but I wanted to return to the warmth of my bed and fill my face with coffee and my gran’s baked treats.

Leaving the empty city roads behind, I flicked the references to shootings and marijuana off and flicked the DSG box into “S”. Given the road was very wet and slippery, knowing I had 4Motion All-wheel drive as my safety net; I began the dance of G-forces. The owner began to look more and more concerned as the speed climbed. With the choice of road being rather familiar now, I entered each corner rather rapidly and the steering was bang on, pointing the nose at the apex, relaying exactly where the front wheels were facing and as grip began to wash at the front, my organs began to feel the power moving around to the rear wheels. The grip is endless and very much confidence inspiring. Driving you out the apex is this deep and throaty VR6 delivering 184 kW all the way up at 6 300 rpm. The journey to the rev-limit is immense and this theatrical experience with the revs climbing and reaching impressive eargasmic levels of audio solace. The motor pulls strong on a wave of N.m delivering 320 torques from a lowly 2 500 rpm, and this translates to a linear and constant shove rather than the push to into your seat that a turbo car would deliver. The experience is fantastic as the engine screams to 7000 rpm before its time to bang in the next cog, it’s brilliantly agile and the extra weight of the differentials and electronic Haldex magic machines is not enough to unsettle the properly sorted MK5 chassis. The tricky dynamic stuff now done and the R32 having impressed, the true test was now in the typical let down of the fast Golf AWD.  The endless grip and clever Haldex trickery often leaves you cold when looking for fun rather than precision quickness. I’ve always maintained the MK6 and Mk7 R’s were like a night out with the choice of drink being Beck, non-Alcoholic beer. Look, you’ll have a great time but, you can’t be silly and dance on tables till you vomit everywhere and wake-up to the black eye the bouncer gave you. This did improve with the Mk7.5 with it being more fun, but still being likened to cheap vodka – great fun, horrible hangover. The hangover in its case being the Stupid R657 000 asking price.

The Mk5 R32 does the fun element very well, the VR6 adds so much character and when being manic with the handbrake on entry to wet corners and traffic circles, the 320 N.m do a great job of keeping all fours spinning, enough to pull cute AWD skids, moving the 90% front power bias around to the wheels with grip and this is rather amazing, scary for your passengers but rather epic. Even the humble undercover parking lot provides for some merriment, the V6 and a heavy throttle input almost always manage to scare a few parked cars into alarm blaring cries of fear. After all the fun and jolliness of skids and being kicked out of parking garages,  the return trip saw the pretty lady rather impressed with what I’d like to believe was the modicum of talent and overwhelming stupidity I possessed, and like a magician I announced my final trick was launch control at the sight of the red light.  This was a bit of a letdown given the lowly 3 000 rpm launch limit doesn’t allow for enough slip to make it properly brisk but 6.5 seconds is impressive given the car’s 10 years of existence, so too the top speed of 250km/h.


The R32 is very impressive as an all-weather machine, its old school in its demeanour with no turbo lag, no invasive electronic nannies, just a great big engine, a loud exhaust and a clever way of delivering the power. Its Haldex based 4Motion AWD system feels less restrictive than the new safety-conscious models and the engine still very strong. The addition of an exhaust to this just makes it truly epic, I would still argue this is the best AWD golf thus far and to prove this point I’m prepared to have an actual fist fight in its defense – I’d lose but it’s the principle that counts.


The R32 can be had for around R200k, with the cleaner models with low mileage climbing into the R250 000 mark. The engines are strong and last forever and see over 300 000 km. The VW reliability comes standard, and so too does the 10l/100km when driving around town and double that when “On a night out”