Honorable Mention Roundup

Time for another Honorable Mention Roundup of the cars we just didn’t have a chance to get to this week. In addition to a few reader submissions in this edition, I found a few affordable performance options that caught my eye. Which is the one we should have spent more time on?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi TT 3.2 quattro at Coventry Motorcar

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

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It is with a slight bit of envy that I’ve noticed that each Jetta Sportwagen I pass in the Bay Area has the little TDI emblem on the back. It is the mark of the modern young suburban professional family that is environmentally friendly but doesn’t quite have the cash or ostentatiousness to buy a Tesla. When the Sportwagen TDI first came out, there were waitlists here and even today they hold their value remarkably well, with low-mileage examples demanding anywhere from the high teens to the mid-$20ks. To find one for cheaper than that, you’re usually looking at high-mileage commuters or dealing with rebuilt titles, but every once in a while you can find a middle-grounder like today’s 2009 model that won’t break the bank.

With 80k miles, DSG, and a 4-year warranty this silver Sportwagen is a great all-around commuter or roadtripper for a nice price.

Click for details: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday Turbo Quattro Coupes: 2004 TT 3.2 quattro HPA Turbo and 2009 R8 4.2 Heffner Twin Turbo

When they launched the original Quattro, Audi redefined how performance could be packaged. With supercar performance but day to day practicality, the Quattro established a niche that made Audi unique amongst not only German manufacturers, but indeed the automotive world. Since then, however, the idea of all-wheel drive and turbocharged platforms have spread not only to sister companies Porsche and Volkswagen, but indeed to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Opel and even outside Germany to Japan. So Audi once again redefined its packaging; in the case of the TT, they brought expensive styling to the masses, and in the case of the R8, they brought supercar performance and packaging to a 911 budget. But it’s not just Audi that has raised its game; tuning firms are held to much higher standards then they were in the 1980s. Go back and look at some early Callaway turbo setups, for example, and you’ll see what was cutting edge in the 1980s – levels of fit and finish that just aren’t acceptable today, along with driving characteristics not suitable to most owners. Computerized engine management has transformed what is possible in the tuning world to the point where today’s packages often retain OEM-levels of driveability with otherworldly performance on tap. Two great examples of this can be found in HPA’s turbocharged Audi TT and Heffner’s twin-turbocharged Audi R8:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi TT 3.2 quattro HPA Turbo on eBay

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2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Cup Edition

2014 will reportedly introduce to the U.S. a car that many Volkswagen fans have been eagerly awaiting – the Golf “GTD” TDi. Basically a GTi with the turbo diesel in place of the 2.0T, the GTD looks great, drives wonderfully and gets some fantastic mileage. But go back a few years and we basically already had the prototype here; the short lived 2010 Jetta TDi Cup Edition. What you got for your hard earned bucks was a basically a Jetta GLi with it’s heart yanked out and replaced by the thrifty and torque-laden turbo diesel. But this wasn’t just a styling exercise for Volkswagen – they had actively engaged in racing the Jetta TDi in the “TDi Cup” to help promote the TDi brand, so this car has some racing heritage as well. Only 1,500 were produced in black, white, blue, or today’s Salsa Red:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Cup Edition on eBay

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2006 Audi A3 3.2 quattro S-Line

I have several times bemoaned the fact that, until recently, Volkswagen opted to not bring the 4-door Golf R32 to the United States. However, what they did offer for fans of utility was the Audi A3 3.2 quattro. It was a very expensive luxury counterpoint to the Golf R32 that we often feature, and with effectively the same running gear performance was nearly identical. They’re fairly rare to come by, even in comparison to the pretty rare Golf R32 – most likely due to the hefty premium that Audi charged which put the 3.2 A3 squarely in line with even more commodious options like the A4 2.0T quattro Avant. Once in a while they do pop up for sale though, as a stealthy silver one has today – just in time for the inclement weather in New England:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Audi A3 3.2 quattro S-Line on eBay

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Double Take: Which R for you? 2004 Volkswagen R32 v. 2008 Volkswagen R32

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The “Hot Hatch”. While Volkswagen may have started the trend with the original GTi, by the 4th edition of the Golf it seemed they had lost their way. Sure, the 1.8T was peppy buy relatively underpowered compared to some of the competition given the Mk.4’s weight, and while there was a VR6 option it just didn’t seem to have the point and squirt feel that the GTi was famous for. Furthermore, the Volkswagen Audi Group had been holding out on importing a major trump card; that was the still not available in the U.S. Audi S3. Sporting an uprated 1.8T powerplant and all-wheel drive, the S3 at least captured some of the intent of the original GTi. The hints of a resurrection to the GTi nameplate came in the 2002 “337” limited edition GTi, but culminated in the 2003 launch of the R32. Sporting the A3/S3/TT Haldex-quattro drive train and a new powerful VR6 pumping out 240 horsepower, the R32 popped the Golf right back to the forefront of the hot hatch market while eliciting memories of the ultra-cool Mk. 2 Golf Limited. Today we’re going to look at the two generations of the R32, starting with the first generation – a clean and rare Tornado Red 2004:

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Year: 2004
Model: R32
Engine: 3.2 liter VR6
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 65,500 mi
Price: $18,000 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen R32 on eBay

LIMITED EDITION 2004 VOLKSWAGEN R32. ADULT DRIVEN AND ALWAYS GARAGE KEPT.
INCLUDED IN SALE ARE TWO COMPLETE SETS OF WHEELS.
1 SET VW OEM RIMS WITH PIRELLI 240 SNOWSPORT TIRES SHOULD YOU WANT TO DRIVE IN THE SNOW (WINTER ONLY)
1 SET MIRRO 111’S WITH DUNLOP DIREZZA SPORT TIRES (SUMMER ONLY)
ALSO INCLUDED BUT NOT INSTALLED IS A UNIBRACE REAR STRUT BRACE AND A SET OF FRONT STAINLESS STEEL BRAKE LINES.
VW OEM FOG LIGHTS WITH EURO SWITCH. ALL FLUIDS AND SERVICING DONE RELIGOUSLY. ONLY SYNTHETIC MOTOR OIL USED. BRAKES DONE VERY RECENTLY.
SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY.

While I have to say I prefer the 337/25th Anniversary body kit more than the Mk. 4 R32 bumper package, it certainly does draw some serious attention. I’m glad to see the original “Aristo” rims and could do without the Miro wheels that are included, but it’s nice that the car comes with two clean sets. Miles are lower average but condition appears to be one of the better ones I’ve seen. This car was clearly owned by an enthusiast and shows. $18,000 feels like all of the money for one of these super-GTis, so when I was looking I wasn’t surprised to see that the Mk.V edition can be had for about the same money:

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The 5th edition of the Golf brought a new level of refinement and better build quality over the Mk.4, but performance was relatively unchanged due relatively unchanged power and weight. One thing that did change was that the U.S. bound R32s only came with the DSG automatic gearbox. Today’s 2008 model is represented in Deep Blue Pearl, the signature color for the R32:

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Year: 2008
Model: R32
Engine: 3.2 liter VR6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic DSG
Mileage: 72,693 mi
Price: $18,976 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Volkswagen R32 on eBay

Safety Notes
3-point height-adjustable front safety belts w/pre-tensioners & load limiters, 3-point rear safety belts,4-wheel anti-lock vented disc brakes w/blue calipers, brake pad wear indicator,Daytime running lights,Driver & front passenger front airbag supplemental restraint system w/buckle switch,Driver & front passenger side airbag supplemental restraint system,Dual tone horn,Electronic stabilization program,Front/rear side curtain protection,LATCH child seat attachment points
Mechanical Notes
18″ x 7.5″ alloy wheels w/anti-theft wheel locks,4-wheel anti-lock vented disc brakes w/blue calipers, brake pad wear indicator,Dual center mounted chrome exhaust tips,Electric-assist pwr steering,Electronic stabilization program,Independent MacPherson strut front suspension,Independent multi-link rear suspension
Comfort Notes
(2) front & (2) rear assist handles,(2) front cupholders,3-spoke leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel w/audio controls, transmission paddle shifters,60/40 split folding rear seats w/height-adjustable head restraints,Alloy pedals w/R logos,Alloy-look interior trim,AM/FM stereo w/MP3/6-disc CD changer-inc: Sirius satellite radio, (10) speakers,Anti-theft vehicle alarm system w/audible & visual activation,Auxiliary pwr outlet in center console,Brushed chrome interior door handles,Climatronic electronic climate control w/pollen filter,Cruise control,Diversity & satellite radio antenna,Driver & front passenger illuminated visor vanity mirrors,Front center armrest w/storage compartment,Front center dome light w/time delay, (2) front & (2) rear reading lights,Fully carpeted luggage compartment w/light, auxiliary pwr outlet, removable cover,Height-adjustable & telescoping theft-deterrent steering column,Immobilizer theft-deterrent system,Leather shift knob & handbrake grip,Leatherette door panels w/integrated armrests, storage pockets,Locking glovebox,Multi-function trip computer w/trip time, trip length, average trip speed, average trip fuel consumption, current fuel consumption, miles to empty, outside temp,Pwr windows w/pinch protection,Rear window defroster,Remote release for hatch & fuel filler flap,Self-dimming interior rearview mirror,Top sport bucket seats w/heated partial leather seating surfaces, pwr lumbar support, R logo headrests
Exterior Notes
Aluminum color grille,Blue tinted glass,Body-color bumpers,Body-color door handles,Body-color heated pwr mirrors,Body-color side moldings,Body-color side skirts,Daytime running lights,Rain-sensing aero windshield wipers w/heated washer nozzles,Rear intermittent wiper/washer,Rear spoiler,Xenon HID headlamps w/washers

Safety, Mechanical, Comfort and Exterior Notes detail items which were installed at the factory during manufacturing of this vehicle. These items may or may not still be installed on this vehicle. Please call for further details.

In a straight drag race and around a track, the DSG was quicker, but is more expensive to run and lost some of the feel of the manual “chuckability” of the Mk.4. The real shame with the Mk 5. is that there was a 5 door version and manual option in Europe but VAG opted to not import them. It’s too bad because they would have been a clear challenger to not only hatches but the WRX/Evo crowd. I love the original Omanyt wheels (though they’re unbelievably heavy), the color is fantastic, and the car comes with a CPO warranty. Gripes? I never liked the slightly separated exhaust on the Mk.5. It just doesn’t look quite right to me. It may be a minor point, but it brothers me every time I see one. The sound they produce, however, is great in both models.

Were it my money, I think I’d choose….neither. I always want to love the R32, and I always think it sounds great, but the “ultimate” Golf has never really done it for me. If I want a fast V6 all-wheel drive car, I’d rather spend this money on a B5 S4 or S4 avant. If I really wanted a “hot hatch” VW, I’d get either a 337 or 25th Anniversary GTi. Sorry folks, if this is a bit of a letdown, but I just wouldn’t buy either one of these cars. In my mind, they’re overpriced, overly complicated, way too heavy, and try too hard. They’re the antithesis of the GTi – a stripped down tossable hot hatch. Want a good, fast awd hatch? Buy a WRX. Yes, the Golf has better build quality, but you can get a just about new WRX hatch for the price of these two well-used mega-Golfs, and I’d be willing to bet in the long run the WRX would be cheaper to run. And if you haven’t been in a last generation Impreza, you’d be pretty impressed with how they drive for sure.

This might just be the worst conclusion ever, but at least it’s an honest one. Which would you choose?

-Carter

Theme Week: 2011 Audi A3 TDI

An old coworker recently reached out as he’s in the market for a car that’s useful, fun to drive, city-sized and efficient. His shortlist included the usual suspects who make up this thriving segment: Mini, Audi A3, BMW 1-series, etc. To me, there’s no better compromise than the A3 TDI. It’s the best-looking, most efficient and most useful of the bunch, with plenty of luxury and tuneability. After witnessing my brother’s recent 50+ mpg road trip in a Jetta TDI, I could see going back to a long commute if I got to have an A3/Golf TDI with a chip.

2011 Audi A3 TDI w/ DSG for sale on eBay


Disclaimer: I plan to only own stick-shift manual cars forever. However, while I haven’t yet driven DSG myself, in a tech-laden young urban professional machine like this, it makes sense for efficiency, ease of use in the city, and even fun. My dream A3 would be a nice brown, but white will do. Fierce bidding has turned off the reserve at a low $18k, well below the asking price of $26k. Even into the low-20s, this is a great all-arounder that could still be plenty of fun.

-NR