The original R32, explains Rudiger, caught everyone by surprise. Spurred on by the realisation that its beloved GTI had become a joke in enthusiast circles, the more focused R32 was rushed through to production, barely pausing to have some 18-inch OZ alloys, painted brake calipers and twin exhaust pipes added.
The Mk5 Golf is a vastly superior platform from which to launch a performance version, and the R32’s narrow-angle V6 easily outclasses the GTI’s 2.0 FSI turbo. It’s the same 3.2-litre unit fitted to the previous version, but with an extra 10bhp courtesy of a reworked inlet manifold. Maximum power is now 247bhp at 6,300rpm; torque is unchanged at 236lb ft, but comes in 300rpm lower down the rev range.
The Golf V R32 is quick: Direct Shift Gearbox-equipped (DSG) models will dispatch the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 6.2 seconds - six-speed manual versions are three tenths slower (6.5sec) - making it over half a second quicker than the GTI. However, this gap becomes a chasm once the speedo approaches triple figures.
On a derestricted stretch of autobahn near the launch site in Hanover, Germany, the Volkswagen R32 powered from 80mph to 130mph with a vigour that makes the front-drive version feel asthmatic. Only above 145mph did the limitations of that hatchback body begin to take effect, causing the car to labour up to its 154mph limit. If anyone feels the need to travel faster than this in a compact family car, I suggest they seek professional help.