I have yet to look at a Golf R32 in 2018. It’s not for lack of examples; any given day, there are usually about 10 or so for sale on eBay and plenty more via Volkswagen-specific fora. But it’s the crazy asking prices that usually put me off from the first generation. I just can’t get on board, especially as Golf R prices have dipped down in to the low 20s. Heck, there are two Golf Rs below $20,000 right now. It’s therefore pretty hard to stomach the high teen ask on many first-gen R32s even with many hundreds of thousands of miles. They’re not the E30 M3, after all. Not even close.
So how do you get into an affordable R32? One way is to consider the second generation. Perhaps it was the styling, perhaps it was the DSG-only transmission, but even a very clean 2008 Golf R32 comes to market generally under the asking prices of the first generation. Still not your bag? Well, then you could get into this no reserve first gen – but a warning, some assembly is required…
Update 12/23/2017 – This R32 is back with almost no changes a year and a half later – except the price. When I looked at it in June 2016 the seller was hoping for $16,700. It’s now up to $17,400. Will this bold strategy pay off?
For a few generations, Volkswagen fans were denied the cream of the crop for Volkswagen products. It took several years to finally get the original GTi to these shores, and then it wasn’t quite as hot as the European version. The second edition might have sported twin cams and 16 valves, but Euro customers got the addtional option of a supercharged, all-wheel drive version. There were plenty of cool options missing from the U.S. lineup in the 3rd generation, too – including the 2.9 liter VR6 Variant Syncro. So there was a bit of rejoicing finally when the all-wheel drive hot hatch was finally added to the U.S. lineup after the initial launch in 2003. Sporting the same 3.2 VR6 found in the TT, unlike the Mk.1 TT it was 6-speed manual only. It was also only available as a 2-door model, with special body kit unique to the R32 and dual exhaust to help announce its sporting intentions. With the best part of 240 horsepower on tap, it certainly seemed like the ultimate Golf and the sound generated from the narrow-angle 6 was mesmerizing. While heavy weight meant it wasn’t considerably quicker than the 1.8T models, it nonetheless has secured a spot in U.S. fans hearts as the top trump from the Mk.4 generation:
The Mk.4 GTI lineup got progressively better through the early 2000s and culminated with the U.S. finally getting the Super Golf. All-wheel drive was nothing new to the hatchbacks, as they’d had it in the normal run starting in 1986 and it was offered pretty much straight until today. But for U.S. customers, models like the Golf Rallye, Golf Limited and VR6 Syncro models were forbidden fruit until the fourth generation of Golfs.
In late 2003, the model with so much promise was finally added to the U.S. lineup. The underpinnings were shared with the Audi TT, which meant a transverse engine utilizing a Haldex hydraulic controller to drive the rear wheels. Power came from a double-overhead cam 24 valve narrow-angle VR6. Displacing 3189 cubic centimeters, it generated 237 horsepower and 236 lb.ft of torque and for the first generation it was mated solely to a 6-speed manual transmission. Outwardly there were a few clues that it was more potent than yesterday’s 20th Anniversary GTI; revised front and rear bumper covers with dual exhaust and gaping intakes. The wheels were the same 18″ OZ-made Aristo wheels from the 20th, but the calipers were painted blue and grasped rotors a full 1.3 inches larger than the GTI. As with the signature model for performance in the hot hatch category, the R32 received larger anti-roll bars and 1BE sport suspension, good for a 1″ drop. Tires were meaty 225-40-18 ZR-rated rubber. All of these things helped to keep the weight of the R32 in check, and there was plenty of that to manage. The addition of heavier-duty running gear, two more cylinders and all-wheel drive meant that the R weighed in a full 3,350 lbs – about two full-sized adults north of a GTI. It was more powerful, but it wasn’t really much quicker in a straight line. Of course, it had great torque and even greater noise, along with the mystique of being the head honcho around the VW scene. Consequently, the R32 has maintained near-cult status since new and examples still demand a serious premium over the rest of their contemporaries from Volkswagen:
News broke this morning that the brand new RS4 Avant is unsurprisingly not coming to the United States. While this is no doubt disappointing to the twelve people who actually would have bought it 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 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. 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, Jazz Blue and Imola Yellow:
The R32 is one of my favorite Volkswagens — at least among the ones we actually got in America. A great sounding 3.2 liter VR6, 6-speed manual transmission, 4motion all-wheel drive, Königseats, a different yet conservative body kit, 18 inch OZ Aristo wheels all finished off in some special colors. Yes, it was still a MK4 at heart and the interior smelled like crayons but at least you could hit the accelerator pedal in first gear and not worry about spinning the front wheels uncontrollably. Now that these cars are heading towards their teenage years, the really nice ones are holding their value quite well but the ones that were driven hard and put away wet? Well, again, this is still a MK4 so you can imagine what kind of state they are in. So when I saw this Deep Blue Metallic for sale with almost 400,000 miles on it I had to take a closer look.
Engine: 3.2 liter VR6
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 399,767 mi
This 1 owner no accident 2004 Golf R32 is a great entry level opportunity for someone to get into an R32. Whether you purchase to use as a daily driver or build as a race car this will definitely be the most affordable, running driving, clean title MK4 R32 on the market. Although this is the highest mileage Mk4 R32 we have seen but it still has lots of life left in it. The Carfax report shows very detailed Dealership service it’s entire life by the one owner it has had. The engine runs very well with full power and does not smoke and no Check engine light. The Ac blows cold, engine runs at proper temperature and fans cycle as they should. The car does have obvious cosmetic issues which can be seen in the pictures which include very rough leather on the front seats, damaged Rt front fender and other dents, dings and scratches on the rest of the car. There is also light rust on very front of both rockers behind the front wheels. The car runs and drives fine but the transmission does have lots of noise in most gears, more than likely needs a freshening with bearings. This car is being sold as-is and there is no warranty!
On the outside, this R32 actually looks really good for nearly 400,000 miles. I assume it has a lot to do with it being a single owner car but outside of some chipping around the fenders and a missing lower front grille, I am impressed. Once you open the doors, it is a different story. If you would of told me a mother black panther with a fresh litter of kittens was living inside it, I would of believed it. Those front seats are absolutely destroyed to the point of no return and even the rear seats show a heavy amount of wear. The rest of the interior doesn’t look too bad, but it’s easy to overlook all the peeling plastics that don’t show up too great in photos.
The price is $5,900 which in my opinion is extremely optimistic. I could maybe see that price if the drive train was sorted, but the sellers warning of transmission noise gives me pause. Probably this R32 will be snatched up for use track use or maybe even parted out for a swap into another Volkswagen chassis. Either way, it’s always interesting to see how cars hold up when miles are piled on.
Frequently I see Volkswagen swaps. Infrequently do I think they’re well carried out. There are a myriad of reasons why this might be the case, but often it seems that the details, the aesthetics, or the excuses are too questionable. However, once in a while one pops up that really is pretty well pulled off.
Now, to be clear, I always have a love/hate relationship with swapped cars. On the one hand, I love the creativity, the devotion to the brand, the attention to detail – the individuality that shines through. It’s a general love of cars that can be expressed in so many different directions that makes the hobby refreshing. If we all had tan Camrii, what would be the point? But the hate also shines through, as in this case we lost one of the acknowledged VW greats; a late model 2.0 16V GTI. Was this swap executed well enough to excuse such an exacting high cost?
The Golf Harlequin is one of those strange creatures that ostensibly would look more at home in a art festival than in a car show. Volkswagen’s “Chinese fire drill” of body parts from primary colored Golfs was an interesting exercise, leading to the moniker Harlequin – a reference to the colorful and semi-psychotically eyed ducks, themselves named after a colorfully dressed character in Italian 16th century theater. Now that you’ve learned something, these Golfs have become legendary and desirable in their own right despite effectively being a base model underneath, leading to the replica color scheme not only extending to copies of the originals, but even to replicas utilizing other Volkswagen models. My local Volkswagen dealer, for example, has used the scheme not only on post-Mk.3 delivery Golfs, but even their Chevrolet Express parts vans have the mismatched tones. But today we’ll look at a replica GL which has gone to great lengths to mask itself in the colorful attire. Unlike the originals, though, this one has a serious weapons-grade revision in the drive department:
One week ago today I enthusiastically wrote up one of my preferred daydream cars, the original MkIV R32. When it came out, the R32 was the superGolf I’d always dreamed of but thought only existed in Hans Dahlback’s shop of terror. The MkIVs obviously still entice me today with wide fenders, deep growls, and a VR6/6-speed/4Motion combo that makes them very special hatchbacks indeed. Where I caught myself was trying to make an argument that MkIV prices have fallen far enough to be a great performance bargain.
MkIV R32s are certainly accessible hot hatch performance, but it’s not a bargain if you can get the following model, 4 years newer with nicer equipment, a little more power, and lightning-fast DSG for the same price. This MkV R32 brings all of that and fewer miles while still ringing in around $15k. The MkV may be in the running for the least desirable generation of Golfs, but the features outweigh the generational spite. With 250hp, all wheel drive, and a very sharp interior, this is an even better performance value than last week’s blue R32.
The new Golf R is making some loud, non-diesel-related waves for Volkswagen. The best news is that with almost 300hp and state-of-the-art tech it’s a screamer in any and all conditions. The bad news is that it starts at $35k, $10k more than a GTI and nearly double the price of a base Golf. A friend was recently trading in his Jetta TDI and comparison shopping the GTI Performance Pack against the Golf R (a plan hatched before but spurred on by Dieselgate). He ended up laughing his way into the tartan seats of the GTI as the dealer’s available Golf Rs were nearing $50k!
For less than the basest of brand-new Golfs, you could have the R that started it all, the still sexy, still loud, still fast MkIV R32. You will certainly not be getting the kind of brand-new quality and warranty that comes with the newest model, but that could be forgiven as you joyously row the 6-speed manual and the Haldex 4Motion inspires confidence in any condition. And did I mention the loud factor? The VR6 has never sounded as aggressive as it does in this car with the bypass valves open. Today’s example comes from a Service Director at a VW Dealership in the lovely and fitting Deep Blue Pearl with O.Z. Ultraleggeras. The modifications are limited to reversible suspension upgrades and short shifter along with reinforced engine, transmission, and suspension mounts, combining for a package that sounds fun, strong, and well-chosen.
Despite recently hearing blog owner Dan’s personal hell with a MkIV 20th Anniversary GTI, I can’t shake my love for the first-generation R32. Hot hatches are experiencing an incredible resurgence including some noteworthy American offerings, but we’re obviously partial to Teutonic wee beasties here. The R32 still has one of the best exhaust growls out there, and combines a 6-speed with Haldex 4Motion AWD to make an all-season weapon.
They look great in any of the four colors they came in, but this red example is exceptionally clean after 90k miles and a respray of the front bumper and hood to undo the common rock chips. It’s had two owners who each drove it for 45k miles before passing it on. I remember being excited when these got down around $20k; now that good examples are under $15k, I’m even more tempted.