At 4.3 miles, the Landeck Tunnel in the Austrian Alps is one of the longest enclosed roadways in the world. It's an impressive feat of engineering, but a mile or so in, we're feeling a little claustrophobic. Opening the windows doesn't help as the air is thick with diesel exhaust, so to break up the monotony we move on to Plan B.
Two downshifts and a burst of wide-open throttle later, our 2008 Volkswagen R32 is filling the tunnel with the refined burble of its sport exhaust. Up to redline and back down again, the engine is flawlessly smooth with an occasional crackle when we abruptly let off the gas. The R32's V6 has never sounded so good, and yeah, we're feeling much better now.
A few more runs through the six-speed direct-shift gearbox (DSG) and we're through the tunnel, headed toward roads with fewer ceilings and more turns. Wind noise overcomes exhaust growl at this point, but the 2008 Volkswagen R32 has plenty more to keep us interested.
An Unexpected GT As satisfying as it is to soak up the sound of the R32's V6, this is not a car that relies on cheap engine hop-ups to deliver the performance goods. Although it's based on VW's latest Mk. V chassis for the GTI, the R32 adds a 3.2-liter VR6 engine and Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, neither of which is available on the less expensive GTI.
With this kind of hardware, obvious comparisons are made between the R32 and the all-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru WRX STI, but the Volkswagen isn't a hard-core rally wannabe. "We think of it as more of a grand touring car, really," says David Goggins, director of product and marketing strategy for Volkswagen of America. "We know it's not the fastest or the most extreme-handling car out there, but we think it has a unique combination of performance and comfort that's not offered anywhere else."
It's that logic that has led to the use of Volkswagen's DSG instead of the previous R32's six-speed manual. "DSG fits the personality of the car better," Goggins explains. "The R32 isn't a stripped-down, all-out performance car, but instead a true long-distance tourer." He also points out that by limiting the R32 to one transmission choice and one two-door body style, it was easier for Volkswagen of America to make a business case for the car in the U.S. With only 5,000 examples of the R32 scheduled for sale here, he has a point.
Europe Has Nothing on This R32 Even if the R32 hasn't been designed as a pure performance coupe, it still has a formidable spec sheet. Tweaks to the computer software have added 10 horsepower for a total of 250, while the torque peaks at 236 pound-feet. The twin-clutch DSG gearbox isn't any different from the one offered for the standard GTI, but Goggins notes that it has been specially tuned for the U.S. "We were given three shift programs to choose from," he tells us, "and we went with the most aggressive setup — more aggressive than even the European model."
The R32's suspension settings have been carried over from Europe with no changes. Spring rates and damper settings were just slightly retuned to compensate for the added weight of the larger engine and all-wheel-drive system, but careful attention has been paid to the setup so as not to compromise ride quality. Standard 18-inch wheels and tires provide the grip while the front brake discs are more than an inch larger than those of the GTI.
The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is the same featured in the previous R32. Its Haldex center differential continually distributes torque to the front and rear wheels in varying degrees depending on conditions.
Crossing the Alps Winding our way up a set of switchbacks in an Alpine pass not far from Lake Como, the R32 proves capable if not nimble. Negotiating one of the numerous hairpins is a matter of getting on the brakes late, snapping off a downshift with the shift paddle mounted on the steering wheel, dialing in about three-quarters of a turn on the wheel and matting the throttle on the way out. Then repeat. Then repeat again.
There's not enough power to get the tires loose and the electromechanical steering isn't overly fast, so there are no worries about getting the R32 crossed up like a rally car. When we go too deep into a corner, the R32 understeers until we scrub off enough speed to get our line right again. When we dive in a little early, the all-wheel-drive system simply yanks the nose around until we're headed in the right direction.
Even with the R32's optional all-season Dunlop SP Sport tires, there's plenty of grip. That's probably why the stability control rarely intrudes, but with guardrails as spindly as sprinkler pipes, we're not exactly pushing the limits.
The R32 feels more comfortable when the hairpins turn into sweeping bends. It rolls a little, settles in midcorner and sticks without needing any steering adjustment. Road feel is excellent for an electrically assisted steering system, and the thick rim of the steering wheel isn't bad either.
If there's anything that could use work, it's the Sport program for the DSG's shift schedule. It feels nervous, dropping a gear when we don't need one and often doing so with a clunk. Soon we simply leave the DSG in its normal mode for the rest of the trip and never miss the quicker shifts Sport mode promises.
No Autobahn Required Once out of the mountains, the wide-open autobahn through Austria begs for a top-speed run, but unlike its German counterpart this road has an 80-mph speed limit and the police are very aggressive. Although smooth and silent on the highway, the R32 isn't brutally fast. In fact, Volkswagen claims only 6.4 seconds to 60 mph, a tenth slower than the 2004 R32.
At this point, however, we don't mind much. Unlike some of its competitors, the R32 feels equally at home while cruising on straight roads as it does blasting through canyons. Seats borrowed from the GTI grip well without forcing you to climb into them, and when you look around the well-appointed cabin, it doesn't feel like all the money went into the engine bay.
The engine-turned aluminum accents are unique, and of course there's some obligatory "R32" badging. Nearly all of the GTI's optional equipment is standard, and the $1,800 DVD-based navigation system is the only option that'll cost you extra. (Even the all-season tires are free if you choose them.) The R32 starts at $32,990, so with the navigation, you're looking at nearly $35,000.
Do You Really Want To Have It? Paying more than $30,000 for what is essentially a top-of-the-line Rabbit isn't an easy sell. But with only 5,000 headed our way and a good chunk of those already spoken for, the 2008 Volkswagen R32 is clearly aimed at a specific customer.
Caught between a BMW 328i on one hand and a Mitsubishi Evo on the other, the R32 occupies a very small niche in the market. More like a splinter, really. It's like a GT car stripped to a core of function and practicality, a compact long-distance car with high-tech engineering.
Considering its downmarket hatchback profile, it seems as if it costs more than it should. Then again, the R32 also does more than it should, too. For the right kind of driver, the R32 won't seem quite so expensive, and he'll be glad to own it every time he drives through a tunnel.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
2008 Volkswagen R32 Overview
The 2008 Volkswagen R32 is offered in the following submodels: Hatchback. Available styles include and 2dr Hatchback AWD (3.2L 6cyl 6AM). R32 models are available with a 3.2 l-liter gas engine, with output up to 250 hp, depending on engine type. The 2008 R32 comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed automated manual. The 2008 R32 comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a used 2008 Volkswagen R32?
Price comparisons for used 2008 Volkswagen R32 trim styles:
The 2008 Volkswagen R32 Base is priced around $11720 with average odometer reading of 111073 miles.
Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, Virginia. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.
Is the 2008 Volkswagen R32 a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2008 Volkswagen R32 and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2008 R32 featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process All of our reviews are written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
How do people like the 2008 Volkswagen R32? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2008 Volkswagen R32 and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2008 R32 4.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2008 R32.
Review Follow up from Sep 2008 when I bought it w/ 12k miles. I now have 42k on this car and it remains rock solid. Over time I've gotten very used to getting the most out of it without killing gas mileage. It's best on long twisty road and takes 20 mph S-turns at 60-70 mph w/o even thinking about it and is so much fun to drive. I get 23 combined and 26 highway MPG but still think it needs a taller 6th gear. It's hard to find a better AWD car. AWD and DSG maintenance is spendy and only had a strut go bad. With all that said I wonder what it would do with an additional 100 hp.
How can Edmunds help? Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color