2008 Volkswagen Golf R32: The Hatchback with Serious Attitude

May 3, 2018




My name is Timothy Li, and I'm a second year Aeronautical Engineering and Medical Science student at the University of Sydney. I currently drive a 2008 MkV Volkswagen R32 in Reflex Silver.


How long have you had the car for? How much did it cost?

I have had the car since November 2016, so for around one and a half years now. I purchased the car on 90,000km for $18,000, which was a justified decision considering it was in far superior condition, both inside and out, than others I inspected. Being a car that just begs to be driven and has given me persistent urges to go out for long aimless drives (stay tuned, more on this later), I’ve managed to put on a fair 25,000 km in this time, including a drive down to the Great Ocean Road.


How does your car drive?

The best summation of the way the R32 drives is it gives a feeling of sure-footedness and stability. In the corners, the suspension noticeably tightens the harder you corner. Thanks to the AWD, the rear end just keeps holding on and gripping the road, allowing me to dive deeper and carry a lot more speed into a corner that I have ever felt comfortable with in a FWD vehicle. Initially on hard cornering, the rear end feels like it wants to lose grip, but very soon the AWD feeds more power to the back wheels and it swings around easily to catch up with the front wheels. As such, I have learnt to stay on the power slightly and allow the front wheels to pull and back wheels to push, clawing into the road and shooting the car out of corners. I personally feel like the car is riding on rails, as it is so planted and goes exactly where I want it to. Under occasional circumstances, however, the front-end pushes on a little as the car understeers from the weight of the big engine up front. I have found this can be fixed with good tires and a suitable driving style.In terms of power, the NA 3.2 litre engine (hence the name R32) is quite torquey low down and on most occasions only need to stay in the lower RPM range. Yet in the higher revs the delivery is linear and smooth and it keeps on pulling, helped along by the very smooth and lightning quick DSG which shifts in a fraction of a second. As Jeremy Clarkson once described of the R32: “It’s a big, refined power, more like gravity than internal combustion” owing to this. 



What is the best thing about your car?

I’d say the absolute best thing about it would have to be its ability to be an all-rounded, do-it-all car- making it one of the best daily drivers and a perfect match for my needs. Even in stock form out of the factory, it is such a driver’s car and offers performance and features that would satisfy any need that come to mind. If you want a car that handles well, the fine-tuned sport suspension and grippy Haldex AWD system has got your back. If you are after some decent grunt, the naturally aspirated 3.2 litre VR6 motor producing 250HP and 320Nm of torque has got you covered. Maybe, like me, you want a car that is mellow and liveable with on a day-to-day basis, but turns in to a completely different beast altogether making you fear for your license going on those ‘spirited’ drives through Mexico. As I like to tell my mates, this car has a serious dual personality. Leave the DSG dual clutch gearbox in normal D mode and it potters along in the city, feeling refined, practical and easy-going like any other Mk5 Golf.


My favourite features are the heated leather seats with lumbar support, big boot, infotainment display with GPS and speed limit advisory. But when you bump the DSG into Sport or Manual mode and put down your foot, it kicks down in an instant as the exhaust valve opens (effectively bypassing the rear muffler) and the distinct growl of the VR6 motor emanates from those twin centre exit exhaust pipes. I am still often in awe of the performance that is hidden quietly away when not needed, of the way the world suddenly starts to go backwards and of the way it just eats up any turn I throw at it. All of a sudden, it is like you are driving a whole different car that leaves you with a big ear-to-ear grin and no doubt of its credentials as an .:R model.


What do you dislike about your car?

Despite its ability to do pretty much everything surprisingly well, make no mistake, this car will NOT give you the ultimate performance, say as a track car or even daily. The naturally aspirated nature of the engine presents very limited tuning potential. Unlike on newer generation 2 litre turbo Golf Rs, it is not possible to simply turn up the boost and make notable gains with a tune. The desire for more power for this fairly heavy car cannot be quenched without forking out big money, with the addition of a turbo or supercharger. In the meantime, I’ll have to get comfortable with the fact that there will be quicker cars out there. This is compounded by the portly weight of the Mk5 R32, with its boxy 5 door shell, full spec interior, heavy motor, complex DSG, and AWD system all adding up.


What modifications have you made?

-OZ Ultraleggera wheels in 18x8+45 (super lightweight at only 8kg per corner)

-Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres

-BSH uprated engine and transmission mounts

-Dog bone mount insert

-Extended DSG paddles

-Supersprint exhaust (Powerloop back box)

-Flow Designs front lip

-Minor cosmetic upgrades such as trim pieces painted gloss metallic black.


Do you plan on replacing your car anytime soon?

I do not plan on replacing this car and intend to keep it for as long as I can. It is my first car and I have endeavoured to maintain it to a high standard, so to me it does hold a lot of special value. Moreover, due to the car industry’s trend towards smaller turbocharged engines, the Mk5 R32 is possibly the last Golf ever to be fitted with VW’s signature VR6 engine and one of the last hot hatches with a big NA motor. So, while I do not know what the future holds, I do have a feeling that the R32 will remain a special package for years to come.


2008 Volkswagen Golf R32


Price guide:  $15,000 - $22,000 with approx. 90,000km - 150,000 on the odometer

Body: 5-Door Hatchback, 5 Seats

Drive Type: AWD 

Engine: 3.2L 6-Cylinder Petrol 

Transmission: 6-Speed DSG (as reviewed)

Power: 186kW @ 6300 rpm

Torque: 320Nm @ 2500-3000 rpm

0-100km/h: 6.2 seconds

P Plate Legal: Yes


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