2003 Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition with 26,000 Miles

For the last few years, Volkswagen has perpetually teased us with the hottest Clubsport and Clubsport S version of the GTI, promising they “may” come to the United States but never following through. While this is no doubt disappointing to the twelve people who actually would have bought them and the 1.8 million who claim on the internet they would if given the option, it follows a long tradition in German motoring of leaving the best of the breed in the homeland. When it came to the GTI, not only did we have to wait several years before we got the original hot Golf, but indeed it was a bit watered down and heavier when it did arrive. The same continued in the next two generations; more weight, less power. Both in the second and third generations we also lost out on supercharging, all-wheel drive and special body kits available in the European market.

Once again in 2001, a neat Golf was launched that – of course – wasn’t coming to the United States. But of all of the special editions that weren’t sold here, perhaps this one made the most sense to be excluded. It was called the 25th Anniversary Edition and you didn’t need to be good at math to realize that there was no GTI sold here 25 years before 2001. Since the “18 year Anniversary Edition” didn’t make much sense from a marketing perspective even in spite of Volkswagen’s continual spotty judgement in that regard, it was no surprise that it wasn’t offered. That was too bad, as it had a lowered suspension, better brakes, a bit more power, fantastic Recaro seats and the best looking BBS wheels fit to any Volkswagen, ever. Volkswagen enthusiasts in America drool inwardly and shouted openly, so in 2002 Volkswagen finally did bring the special edition here. Again, since “19th Anniversary” didn’t make any sense, we instead got the “337” Edition. This was, for all intents and purposes, an exact copy of the 25th Anniversary model, but instead the 337 referenced the internal project code for the original GTI. But they were quite limited, with only 1,250 sold in the U.S. and 250 sold in Canada. So, you probably missed out on your chance to own one, right? Well, wrong, because in 2003 Volkswagen re-released the 337 edition. Conveniently, there was now a round number that they could actually commemorate the GTI’s longevity with as it had been 20 years since the A1 GTI rolled out of Westmoreland. Again, it was a greatest hits edition; the 337 upgraded 12.3 inch vented brakes with go-faster red calipers carried over, as did the upgraded suspension. Though they sported different fabric, inside was the same Recaro interior with deep bolsters. The golf ball shift knob also returned, though it now was mated to a new 6-speed transmission (MQ350) which in turn were connected to R32 Aristo wheels in place of the BBS RCs. Deeper front and rear valances matched the previous two models, and the 20th AE got blacked headlights more similar to the 25th AE. The AWP 1.8T turbo’s boost was cranked up a bit, delivering 180 horsepower through the front wheels and tied to an electronic differential. A final homage to the original model were subtle rabbits adorning the rear and vintage inspired GTi badging. But the biggest change was that the 20th AE was available in three colors unlike the silver-only prior cars; Black Magic Pearl, Imola Yellow and Jazz Blue :

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition 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