If any vehicle comes to mind when thinking about Volkswagen, it’s the celebrated Beetle. Surely, this famous German brand has many other significant and popular models under its belt, but a few of them hold a higher place in customers’ hearts than all the others. The Golf series, for instance, is another long-running production car (alongside the Beetle) to achieve iconic status, especially in Europe, where it scored the highest sales for many years (your writer admittedly contributed to these numbers).
The compact car under the spotlight here has been developing for over eight generations so far, gradually receiving the badging from Mk1 to Mk8. Now, although more than a few versions within the entire lineup deserve attention, we want to take a closer look at the Mk4. Why is that, you may ask?
The Volkswagen Golf Mk4 was the generation that aimed to climb the market ladder with upgraded specs and high-quality construction and equipment. In 2003, a very special version of this vehicle came to be in order to fulfill this mission, and almost 20 years later, the Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 is one of the most praised hot hatches in Europe and beyond. Here’s why.
The Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 Arrived As An Updated Replacement For The Previous GTI
The Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 was a special of the year 2003, considering its primary goal was to outgrow the earlier GTI. That was actually not very hard to accomplish. Sadly, the mentioned Golf Mk4 GTI was not a very well-received ride, considering it lacked the power, acceleration, and, overall, sporty design everyone loves in hot hatches. The R32 quickly amended this, though.
This VW compact car arrived with a larger version of the 2.8-liter VR6 engine the brand already had in its hands. The new 3.2-liter VR6 (with banks of cylinders sharing the same head) sends 240 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque through a Haldex all-wheel drive system. It was paired with a six-speed manual transmission as standard, with the biggest improvement being the optional Direct-Shift Gearbox or DSG dual-clutch transmission.
In fact, the Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 was the first vehicle to offer a direct-shift gearbox (or an automatic for large-scale production) as a more efficient option than the manual. Speaking about special, right?
In terms of acceleration, the R32 was able to speed up to 128 mph (limited) and go from 0 to 62 mph in under 6.4 seconds. Although today these figures may not seem that special, at the time of its launch, the Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 was recognized as a snappy performer. Even more importantly, all the specs got improved compared to the previous Golf versions, making the R32 a highly desirable option.
Ultimately, the Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 was so well-received that the brand decided to sell it in the United States and Australia as well, marketing it under the 2004 model year. About 5,000 units were delivered to these locations and sold out in less than a year. VW achieved the boom it aimed for with the new Golf.
The Timeless Hot-Hatch Formula Was Embedded Into The Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 From The Start
But it was not all about the upgraded power, acceleration, and unique transmission of the Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4. This vehicle also ticked other significant boxes that stand in front of a desirable hot hatch, such as quality and attractive design.
The Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 in fact received some subtle overhauls to make it even more appealing than the previous version, starting with the deeper front and rear bumpers and a set of side skirts. With these modifications, the hot hatch became hot indeed — from every side and angle.
Plus, as we hinted, the interior got a couple of updates. The sports seat, the ESP, climate control, rain-sensing wipers, and cruise control were all nice additions. The cabin ended up being pretty sporty and appealing, which is a good thing, considering one of the very few drawbacks of this car was a little stiff ride over bumpy terrains.
Even though we absolutely love this special ride, we must admit a firm ride and a little heavy steering were its pain points (and still are). But again, the Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 is such a fun and appealing car that most drivers are likely to forgive its flaws (some of us do that every day).
What’s more, we have to acknowledge that the Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk4 has aged gracefully. Almost 20 years later, this hot hatch is as appealing as it has ever been, with the high price reflecting this with utmost accuracy. But in the end, almost all Golf versions tend to hold their prices up, so we’re not surprised such a special version comes pricey even after all those years.