Golf 3-4 and Vento

Golf 3
Teeing Off With A Sledgehammer
Clean Green Machine – Golf Ecomatic
Vento Introduced
Testing Golf 1, 2 and 3
Extreme Turbo VR6 Corrado
Golf 4 – First Impressions
Tee Up A Drive In the New Golf 4
New Golf 4 GTI – the legend continues
VW Golf – In Brief
Different by Design
VW Golf Tops the Beetle!
Volkswagen Golf R32
Extreme Golf R32
2004 VW Golf R32

 

Golf 3

By Phil Matthews
November 1991

Following its public debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, the new model Golf was officially launched to the international press in Munich in October. R & D chief Prof. Ulrich Seiffert was on hand to present the cars and to answer all questions. He's the man ultimately responsible for delivering the third generation of VW’s, and Europe’s, best selling car. Thanks to Robin Wager of VW Motoring magazine (UK), we can finally give a detailed report on the new Golf to Club Veedub members.

Bodywise, Herbert Schafer and his in-house team at VW needed only to update the eight-year old Golf 2 shape that was already basically right - look at the number of copies! Overall dimensions have hardly altered. Thus, from the rear particularly, the view is quite familiar although with the improvement of a rear hatch that now extends right down to the bumper bar for easier loading access.

The characteristic thick C-pillars remain, but the plan and profile is more rounded. Overall lines are smooth and flowing, in contrast to the sharp edges on the Golf 1. A stepped waist makes the new Golf look chunkier, while the wheels stay flush with the body regardless of wheel width.

At the front, the main change is the new oval headlights, taking advantage of the latest lighting technology. VW claims 50% greater illumination and 20% more range. The grille and badge maintain the VW family identity, while the huge bumper houses all extra ancillary lights and will tolerate minor impacts without permanent damage. The lower section has no steel insert.

Inside, the facia will be superficially familiar to Corrado and current Passat drivers (are there any in Australia?) The swooping console is right up to date, and the glovebox is now big enough to take a maxi-sized street directory. Most of the range boasts a tachometer, while the odometer is in LCD form with separate integral battery backup.

Buyers will have a choice of seven different engines. All units follow current VW thinking; that is, increased torque at lower engine speeds, allowing a more relaxed, low-shifting driving style, as well as reducing fuel consumption, emissions and noise levels.

The engine range starts with the little 45 kW 1.4-litre unit that is an updated, stroked version of the older 1296cc engine. With Monomotronic injection/ignition, maximum torque is delivered at only 2800rpm yet it will push the base Golf to 100 km/h in 16 sec and a top speed of over 155 km/h.

Next comes the familiar 1.8 litre engine, in 56 and 67 kW versions. The detuned 56 kW version replaces the 1595cc engine of the same output. Both engines are fitted with Monomotronic fuel/ignition systems. Top speeds are 169 km/h and 180 km/h respectively.

The GTI version is updated with the 2.0-litre 86 kW Digifant unit from the Passat, thus giving the European GTI the same sized engine it has already enjoyed for some time in South Africa and the USA. Top speed is 211 km/h, while 0-100 km/h is 10.1 sec. There will also be a 16V version, but not until later in 1992.

Top of the range is the new VR6 engine, also from the Passat. VW plan to sell only four VR6 Golfs in every hundred, so are creating a new market niche - the powerful, luxuriously equipped executive hatchback. The Motronic VR6 displaces 2792cc and produces 130 kW at 5800rpm, while torque is 235 Nm at 4200 rpm. Performance is incredible; a top speed of 225 km/h and 0-100 km/h in only 7.6 seconds!

Completing the range is the famous 1896cc superclean Umwelt diesel engine, replacing the older, dirtier 1.6-litre diesel. The turbocharged, catalysed Umwelt produces 56 kW, while a non-turbo unit for the German market produces 48 kW. A 67 kW direct injection diesel, as fitted to the new Audi 80, could follow later.

Even so, the Umwelt is no slug; top speed is 167 km/h! All Golf engines, petrol and diesel, have catalysers fitted as standard, and will be sold as such throughout Europe without exception. Note how the G60 supercharged engine has been dropped; it has effectively been superseded by the VR6.

All export Golf 3s will be fitted with power steering and height-adjustable steering column as standard, to answer common criticism of the previous model. Otherwise, the new Golfs suspension concept remains unchanged, with only detail changes to spring and shock absorber rates. Special changes to the running gear on models above 67 kW, called the 'plus' system, are designed to eliminate torque and bump-steer, and improve directional stability.

The VR6 model has electronically-controlled ABS as standard (optional on the rest of the range), together with EDL (Electronic Differential Lock) which uses the sensing components of the ABS.

VW is becoming more and more environmentally conscious; the German-market Golf 3s will be accepted back free of charge by the factory at the end of their life for recycling. This facility will gradually extend to other markets as well.

The new Golf is also the only car in its class to meet the tough 1993 US occupant crash protection standards, which include a 33.5 mph (54 km/h) lateral collision test. It easily passes the 35 mph (56 km/h) frontal collision test, equivalent to being dropped onto concrete from the top of a three-storey building.

Production of the Golf 3 actually began in Hall 54 at Wolfsburg in July, in readiness for the German market launch on November 8. Right-hand-drive models will probably reach England by next April, by which time stocks of current Golfs will be exhausted. Prices should range from $A20,000 to $42,300 by that time.

The Golf 3 position for Australia is less clear. No decision has yet been made on the models we will get, so it’s not likely that any Golf 3s will be seen in Australia before about September 1992. Current Golf sales will end about February 1992. We predict the Golf 3 will be first shown here at next year's Sydney Motor Show in October 1992, fingers crossed.

The Cabriolet Golf 3 will appear in 1992, as will the booted Golf, called the Jetta up until now. We learn that the ‘Jetta’ name will be replaced with ‘Vento’, Italian for wind. A station wagon, or ‘Variant’, version of the Golf will also appear for the first time. There is no word yet on whether these versions are scheduled for Australia.

Top

 

Teeing Off With A Sledgehammer

By Philip Lord
July 1994

The Golf VR6 is the fastest Vee-dub ever sold in Australia. Without a doubt the fastest the factory has ever given us so far. But is it the fantastic power it's capable of delivering that becomes this car's Achilles heel?

When I jumped into the grey test car, I was impressed by two things. Firstly the quality of fit and finish of the interior was up to usual Volkswagen standards - that is, very good. The key slotted into the ignition like a precision Chubb lock, and the door needed a solid pull to close, which it did with that lovely solid 'thunk' that Mercedes cars have always done. Secondly, the ergonomics are very good in the Golf 3. The driver's seat I could adjust to the ergonomic ultimate for my 172 cm frame. The bolstered sides of the front seats hold you in like a glove, imperative for accurate placement of the car not only in enthusiastic cornering, but in emergency situations also. Who wants to be slithering around fighting G-forces when trying to re¬capture an out-of-control slide? I don't want to labour the point, but seats can be a safety issue in emergency situations - primarily when the driver cannot brace him/herself in time or is overcome by the severity of the G-forces being exerted on his/her body. So the Golf VR6 feels good, is comfortable enough, but how does it go?

Unless you've been living in Slumberland the last few years, you would have heard that the Golf VR6 has grunt. In Germany the VR6 holds its own in the Autobahn outside lane - with 225 km/h achievable - and quickly achievable - there is not much that threatens its performance prowess amongst the hot hatches. But with my experience with the series III Passat 2.0 litre 16v, I was sceptical about how the VR6 would perform on Australia's low-octane unleaded. In Europe and the US, motorists can buy unleaded in 98 RON octane. In the case of the Passat, the Euro and US cars have consistently pulled sub 10 second 0-100 km/ h sprints, while Wheels had tested the Passat in Australia (June 1990) with much more tardy results – like a 11.5 second 0-100 km/h time. So how was the 7.6 second 0-100 km/h Euro time for the VR6 going to be affected by our puny petrol?

The answer is hardly at all. The VR6 I drove was nearly new and very tight. I didn't have the resources to test acceleration and nor the inclination to do so on public roads, so my test was governed by a self-imposed 4,500 rpm rev limit. And I can report that even only up to 4,500 rpm, this car goes like stink. There is no doubt that under 3,000 rpm it does not offer any great performance - but beyond that it is a slingshot. The acceleration is marked by a slight, familiar V6 growl from underneath the bonnet, but little else. It would be so easy to lose your licence in this car - its ability to crank up a turn of speed is deceptive. The gearshift in the Golf III follows the lead of the Passat III and Corrado - instead of rods and linkages it has a two-cable arrangement that is supposed to offer more precision to gearchanges. In the early days Volkswagen had problems with the new gearchange - like you couldn't find a gear at all, let alone with the precision that Volkswagen was claiming for the new design. The early Passat III and Corrado were the models most affected by the gear selection problems and even later ones (like my 1991 model) can cause frightening moments - like when you can’t find second gear hard under brakes just before a sharp left¬hander you're about to go into much too fast. The VR6 I drove also baulked at engaging gear - usually first at standstill. Is this going to be yet again the bugbear of VW service centres - customers complaining about difficult gear selection? (Remember the early Passat series 1?) I hope not for VW's sake, as in this country they're going to be on a big enough learning curve as it is with the various and sundry new models coming out.

The VR6 handles well, at least in the narrow confines in which I drove it, and its ride is firm in a typical German way. Recently Wheels engaged Mark Skaife to check out the VR6's handling credentials and he came away less than impressed. It appears that the springs are too soft in the VR6. Enthusiasts overseas too are yet to be convinced that the VR6 could swipe the hot hatch crown from the series II GTI. Maybe the VR6 was never meant to - but with its performance ability should come handling ability to match.

For your $44,990 the VR6 offers a pile of standard equipment, although to look at it you'd think it was maybe a Golf CL poverty pack with some nice alloys someone put on later. There is very little cosmetic differentiation between models in the Golf range, although plenty of other manufacturers do the same thing. Perhaps it's a good thing if it dissuades the joy riding fraternity from taking your pride and joy VR6 for a spin. Still, the Volkswagen designers have seen fit to plaster some cheap and nasty brushed silver ‘VR6' badges front and rear, which do nothing to make the car look classy. They'd be the first things I'd take off, not only so potential thieves wouldn't pick its performance potential so easily, but because the damn things look so cheap and nasty.

The VR6 is a viable option to the more bland BMW 318i, which sells for about the same price. The heart would go for the better performing VR6, but the head would go for the BMW for its good resale value.

Top

 

Clean Green Machine – Golf Ecomatic

By Wayne Webster
September 1994

Is that the car that showcases the technology of the car of the future? Okay, so it looks like a normal VW on the outside, but the Golf Ecomatic may well be the blueprint for the environmentally acceptable vehicle of the next century.

The Golf Ecomatic is a green machine with a future, for VW has taken the diesel engine, traditionally one of the cleanest power plants, and made it even better.

The basic principle of the Ecomatic is the fact that when the engine isn't needed, it simply shuts itself down. Get off the throttle in this car and the diesel engine goes into hibernation. Get on the gas again and it fires up. And all this is accomplished without the loss of power assistance to the steering, brakes or other features.

Certainly the emissions, or lack of them, are what the Ecomatic is all about. Even when compared with a normal diesel, extremely clean and green compared with a normal petrol burning powerplant, the engine in the Ecomatic is amazing.

Not only is fuel consumption reduced by a whopping 22 per cent, with European versions averaging under five litres per 100 kilometres, but CO2 emissions are down by 22 per cent, NOx is down 25 per cent, CO drops 36 per cent and the emission of particulates from the exhaust is cut 11 per cent. This really is a car that will make even the most hardened greenie crack a smile.

According to testing carried out by VW in Europe, the engine can be switched off as much as 60 per cent of the time, and in Australia that figure could be even higher because of our love affair with traffic lights in urban areas.

But while European drivers have not been afraid to adopt the technology used in the Ecomatic, the question remains whether Australian motorists, traditionally more conservative, are ready for a car that stops running on a regular basis. And that's something VW Australia boss Peter Ruefli is hoping to find out with the evaluation version which is now doing the rounds Down Under.

"We are not testing the car in Australia to see if the technology works," said Mr Ruefli. "It does. What we are interested in is whether Australian drivers are ready for a car like the Golf Ecomatic." And there lies the rub.

I tried the Ecomatic around Sydney last week and came away enthused after getting the hang of driving a car that stops more than it goes. At first it's a little off-putting, for when you lift off the throttle the engine just dies. Several times I went to grab the ignition key, but firing up the Golf again required nothing more than getting back on the accelerator. In stop-start city traffic the Ecomatic is amazing.

To get going in the Ecomatic is total simplicity. Just turn on the ignition key, grab first gear and hit the throttle. There's no hesitation and the Golf pulls away cleanly and smoothly each and every time.

It certainly comes as something of a shock when you're cruising downhill in peak hour traffic and suddenly the noise from under the bonnet just dies. First of all there's the silence. Then, of course, there's the tendency to think that power assistance to the steering has also died and gone away - but it hasn't.

But the real question is whether Aussie drivers could cope with a car such as the Ecomatic which, when all is said and done, means having to change the motoring habits of a lifetime. VW Australia is looking at the possibility of introducing the vehicle here, but admit that there's a long education process involved if the go-ahead is given.

Top

 

Vento Introduced

By Wayne Webster
July 1995

Quietly, without a trumpet, let alone a fanfare, Volkswagen’s importers TKM have dropped a new model onto the Australian market. So silently has the VW Vento arrived in Australia that it wasn't until opening the mail last week that its availability became obvious.

One would hope TKM decides to make a little more noise about the new VW Vento to let the buying public in on the secret.

The Vento is, when it all boils down, the sedan version of the Golf. Only one specification will be available in Australia, the Vento GL, which is powered by the same 2-litre 85 kW four cylinder engine that does service under the bonnet of the Golf GL.

The arrival of the Vento gives VW a strong contender in the very competitive mid-size sedan market dominated by the Toyota Camry and Mitsubishi Magna. It certainly has the credentials to attract a good number of buyers. Indeed, the Vento could even end up snaring the odd Commodore or Falcon buyer as well, thanks to its incredible practicality.

Despite being a compact 4.3 metres long, the cleverly designed Vento has a boot with 550 litres of cargo space. The Commodore has 443 litres and the Falcon 465 litres. And, if you fold the rear seats down, the Vento's cargo carrying ability stretches to a massive 850 litres. If it weren't for the boot, this VW could be used as a ute.

Vento prices start at $33,090 in manual trim, while the four-speed auto is $35,160. Those prices are VERY competitive given the amount of features included in the package. The Vento comes with dual airbags, electric windows, central locking, power steering, electrically operated exterior mirrors and velour trim. The only options will be air con¬ditioning and anti-lock brakes.

TKM Australia general manager Peter Ruefli believes the Vento hits the market at the perfect time for the German company to take advantage of a change in buyer preferences. “The Vento is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the worldwide move by luxury car buyers to downsize,” he said. “There are a growing number of buyers who want to replace their present car with a smaller one, but they don't want any reduction in luxury or refinement, and they still want a good boot capacity for hol¬idays, shopping and sporting needs.”

The Vento is on sale right now. Lucky I opened the mail, isn't it?

Top

 

Testing Golf 1, 2 and 3

By John Simis
October 1996

Golf GTI - the Grand Touring Intelligent car. It's warm, too - hot in fact. And lean, which is why it’s so much fun to drive. The Volkswagen Golf GTI, shaper of a hot-hatch generation, is 20 years old this year. Today's third-generation version has matured with the times and its clientele, but the idea has as much appeal as it has ever had.

Now we didn't get Golf GTIs here in the UK until 1978 (and not in Australia until the Golf 2 in 1990), but from that point on the world of the sporty fun-car was up-ended in a way not seen since the first Mini Coopers made purpose-built sports cars look silly. I remember seeing one of the first right-hookers on the A5 as I was driving to catch the Holyhead ferry. It was black, lean and mean, and it sliced past other traffic as though the other traffic wasn't there. The sheer bombastic efficiency of the thing has stuck in my mind ever since.

Then a friend bought one, a two year-old silver GTI with a four-speed gearbox. The pace, the punch, the energy! Now I understood how the black-painted A5-muncher did its stuff. One day, I told myself, I would have a GTI.

Fast forward to 1996. I'm driving the best of the Golf 1s, a 1983 five-speeder in Mars Red, with a 1.8-litre engine in place of the earlier cars' 1.6. Behind me is an early Golf 1 - mine -and I'm chasing a new Golf 3 16-valve. There are those who say, with some justification, that today's eight-valve is a bit soft, that it has aged with its audience as a rock star might. That former fleetness has turned to flab. The 16v, however, is a different matter: firm of suspension, powerful of heart, low of ride height; it promises to be as purposeful a pleasure machine as any of its ancestors.

Thing is, I'd forgotten just how frisky a Golf 1 is. It's small - little bigger than today's Polo - and weighs just 835 kg. This light construction shows up in a shuddering fascia whenever you hit a sharp hump, but it means that the engine's 83 kW and 148 Nm really go. There's a sharp, eager edge to the throttle response that few modem, catalyst-equipped engines can match, and solid pull that zings right on round to 6000rpm with an effortless free-spinning smoothness. That's why I'm keeping up with the 112 kW (but 1090 kg) 16V with no real excess of effort. Even in the corners, 175/70 R13 tyres are skinny by modern standards, but they're fine for a light car and their slip angles make for first-class steering feel. You know exactly where you are in the Golf 1, and it's usually just where you want to be.

Light weight and narrow tyres mean that the Golf 1’s unassisted steering is just about bearable for parking, but this is where the Golf 2 has lost friends over the years. Heavier than the Golf 1 at 935 kg, and wearing 185/60 R14 rubber, the Golf 2 can be a pain to park although nearly as communicative as the Golf 1 when pressing on. Fortunately, some later Golf 2s had an excellent power-assisted system with quicker gearing and no loss of feel, and just such a system has found its way into the Golf 2 here.

So while you're aware of the Golf 2's extra bulk, the front wheels are just as pointable as the Golf 1’s. The experience is not quite so intimate, because the newer car's reactions are softer and more measured, but this Golf looks after you in a way the Golf 1 might not. Here is the Golf 2’s strength. If you want to amble it gets on with the job without the earlier car's crash and hang. But if you want play, it’s still your ally. Like the Golf 1 it feels prone to understeer when your cracking on, but it never succumbs. It just goes around the corner.

Also like the Golf 1, it has a terrifically punchy throttle response. Later Golf 2s, with Digifant electronic injection instead of the Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical system, lost this hard edge as they gained the ability to run 95-octane unleaded. But the earlier Golf 2s can actually out-drag the Golf 1 in the higher gears. Higher peak torque more than makes up for the extra weight, at the expense of some top-end zap. On the road our three Golfs are pretty evenly matched for pace.

In its second guise, the GTI was growing up, and with the maturity came a broader appeal. If the Golf 1 was the preserve of car nuts, or young, thrusting high-fliers, the Golf 2 was roomier, smoother, more solid and available with five family friendly doors. It hit the magic mix of being all things to all product-literate men and women, seemingly without compromise. That's why it became such an icon of the 1980s, able to work hard, play, hard, look good and send out the right ‘I’m in control’ messages. In the UK 30 percent of all Golfs sold were GTIs.

That year was the heady peak. A year later, the GTI gained some ungainly big bumpers and lost its visual neatness, a chunky, black-detailed neatness that had survived intact since the earliest days of the Giugiaro styled Golf 1. Coincidentally, sales dropped, though the real reason was the sudden upsurge in insurance costs following what the media portrayed as a national outbreak of joyriding. Unsurprisingly, insurance companies were entirely happy to go along with the media hype, and demand for hot hatchbacks imploded overnight.

This was bad news for Volkswagen, but it did mean that second-hand Golf GTIs suddenly became much more affordable as their values plunged. By now, the GTI had a reputation for being unbreakable, brilliantly built and able to last seemingly indefinitely. Tales of cars with 250,000 or more kilometers on the clock, still running as well as ever, were not uncommon, and the GTI became the smartest used buy of all. Sadly, many fell into undesirable hands and were horribly abused and neglected. Yet still they hummed on, smooth, deep exhaust note untainted, bodywork rust-free.

And so to 1992, when the Golf 3 burst onto a moribund market. Gone were the red stripes, the upbeat trim fabrics, the bold pair of flared, chrome-plated exhausts, the four round headlights. Up went the weight (although the Golf 3 is still much lighter than an Alfa 145). And while the outside was still recognisably Golf-like compared with the Golf 2 (if not the delicate, sharp-edged Golf 1), the cabin struggled for continuity. Where was the golf-ball gearlever knob, that rare symbol of German humour? Where was the rectangular facia, stark in the Golf 1, refined to ergonomic excellence in the Golf 2? Instead we had a great, rounded slab of a dash, easy enough to use but completely devoid of individuality. Had the Golf 1 and Golf 2 been distinctive by accident, rather than design? Or had Volkswagen lost confidence?

Nor was the Golf 3 a particularly uplifting drive. Its engine had grown to 2.0 litres, but neither power nor torque had risen enough to offset the weight gain. Blame the engine softness that goes with emissions-controlling catalysis, blame the corpulence that goes with satisfying more stringent safety legislation, but with the Golf 3 GTI the fire went out. It was, and is, a pleasantly efficient mode of quick travel, and more civilised than its forebears, but you don't get the punch of pleasure the old 1.8s could give you during a particularly incisive overtaking manoeuvre, nor the intimacy as you track through a series of twists. To call it a GTI is, frankly, stretching a point.

Luckily, we also have the 16V. It's not the ultimate thrill-giver the original 1986 16V could be once thoroughly run-in (say 100,000 km plus), but it's a passable GTI. If anything its suspension is too firm, certainly firmer than that of its antecedents here, but the 205/50 R15 tyres - continuing the trend to greater squatness of footwear - make this the grippiest of Golfs. The trade-off is further loss of intimacy and subtlety. You can proact and react, but not so easily interact. As well as the grippiest, it's also the clumsiest.

It has a good engine, though not as sweet as the 1.8s nor as eager to please your throttle foot, but lusty across the rev range in their image. Quieter, too. Outright acceleration matches the other cars' to 100 km/h - it's in the mid-eights but slightly more slippery aerodynamics than the Golf 2s make for a much higher top speed of 216 km/h against 192. That’s the 112 kW and 150bhp and 180 Nm talking.

You seem to sit lower in this Golf than you do in the others, but this is because the scuttle and facia are higher and the headlining is light grey instead of brooding black.   It changes the ambience, distancing you from past perceptions of Golfness. Yet there's plenty to remind you of the Golf 3's roots: the pedals, seat shape, trip computer, underskin metal work, cabin space; all are near identical to the Golf 2's. You're still, essentially, at home.

VW – The Original GTI – is a line that is often copied, but seldom bettered as a total package, and it has outlasted the lot. The only other maker using the GTI tag of late has been Seat, whose cars are engineered from Volkswagen parts anyway, although there are now new GTIs from Nissan and old sparring-partner Peugeot (306) to get the party moving again. But no rival has ever matched the Golf’s blend of quality, efficiency, sophistication and fun, nor its cloak of Beetle-driven dependability, and only Peugeot's 205 GTI has seriously competed as a fashion icon.

And, 20 years on, there's still a version of the Golf GTI that holds on to its credibility, even if the purity has gone missing. It has taken a bigger engine and hunkier running gear to do it, but that's the only way to keep the spark ignited in the face of safety and environmental demands. The good news is that insurance has got cheaper again, and people are rediscovering the pleasures they had forced themselves to forego.

The Golf 1 was the trailblazer that advanced the art of the possible. The Golf 2 was the most complete enthusiast's car ever built. And the Golf 3? Let's just enjoy it because it will have to do.

Note – Australia did not get the Golf 1 GTI at all. A low-spec 8V 77 kW version of the Golf 2 GTI was imported between 1990 and 1992. For the Golf 3, importers TKM chose to import the VR6 as an upmarket touring machine and BMW-beater rather than a sports car, and the GTI is not available. However, the Aussie-spec GL Golf 3 has the 85 kW 2.0-litre engine, fitted to the GTI in Europe, so it’s a good buy.

Top

 

Extreme Turbo VR6 Corrado - it exists !

By Steve Carter
April 1997

This is a European article I found and translated, as I thought you would find it interesting.

This French-built custom VW Corrado is a monster. Rarely had we been that far in what we call ‘street tuning’. All this to beat BMW M3s ! (Zender spoiler kits, Zender rear wing) 365 kW available, all this simply to settle an old dispute with an M3.

To catch the gearbox shifter, put your arm out straight horizontally - there you have it. Acceleration is demonic and the wheel spin finally stops in fifth gear. The ventilated hood permits the engine to breath a bit. Downshifts are punctured with flames.

Under the hood, you see that all this power comes from an engine compartment with no room to spare. Life is tough. Consider Mr. Charlery's emotions: the innocent owner of a basic VW VR6, with which he did a few wide-open acceleration runs on the only straight 3-km highway near his home in Nice. One day, while beginning his little daily burn-out at 7:30 am, his favourite car was thoroughly trounced by a vulgar metallic coloured late-model BMW M3. In a heartbeat, war was immediately and officially declared, and this challenge had to be met.

Mr. Charlery called Christophe Sormani, his faithful tuner and Director of PAC Racing, to tell him that the Corrado was already on its way in a cargo plane, and that PAC Racing had to think about a little pep pill that could permit him to be assured of complete vengeance. Never used to doing things halfway, and still devastated by his bad adventure, Mr. Charlery set his sights on a 365 kW Corrado, with front wheel drive.

To transmit this demonic power to the wheels, the entire transmission had to be examined and revised. The stock gearbox was replaced with a VW Motorsport box ($7456 to $9320 US manufacturer's price) with linkages used in rally-cross. The changes are evident in the monstrous shifter that towers some 15 cm higher than the stock shifter. In order to fit the big shifter, they had to cut a little in the plastic cover where ‘Karmann’ is written. The gearing has been thoroughly revised and some custom reinforcing pads have been carved at PAC Racing because the stock rally-cross box pulled too hard in the lower gears. The higher gear ratios have been selected to limit the top speed to 247 km/h at 8000 rpm. The gearbox is connected to the engine via a steel twin-disc clutch with copper pads, similar to those used in rally cars as this is the only clutch capable of transmitting the power. The one drawback is the clutch life expectancy is just 10,000 kilometres.

Finally, the power is transmitted to the road through special CV joints (roughly twice the diameter of stock) to the 235/40 ZR17 tyres. Any wider and the tyres rubbed dangerously against the guards.

To minimise wheel spin as much as possible (laborious when we shift into 4th at 180 km/h), the wheel hubs have been modified, and the front wheel caster angle sensibly increased (it increases traction). As far as the suspension is concerned, springs and shocks have of course been changed (re¬calibrated Bilsteins with Eibach springs), and a complete specially welded front triangulation A-arm has been adapted into the body.

Moreover, the ABS machine is now equipped with a mechanical anti-lock (probably a mechanical differential), which will unlock on acceleration. To correctly slow down the beast, from the speeds obtained by the engine’s fury, the whole braking system has been also revised. The front wheels now have 320 mm discs (there were none bigger), special-cast, slotted, with AP Racing's 4-pot piston callipers, and the rear stock discs have been cross-drilled.

And what of the mighty VR6 engine? As Sormani explained, the VR6 engine has an excellent block that is relatively easy to optimise. Thus, the turbocharger (the famous Garrett T4 that is used on the Renault R5 Turbo II and the Peugeot T16 Evolution 2) did not present major problems, though it did require a few hundred hours of work. At this power level, however, practically each engine component needed to be revised.

To fit a turbo, the first course of action was to reduce the compression ratio, which increases the combustion-chamber volume. To accomplish this, Philippe Sormani began by modifying the connecting rods and wrist pins. Naturally, the stock pistons were replaced by forged ones (with a modest re-bore to 82 mm, compared to the original 81 mm bore), while the connecting rod and crank surfaces were nitrided in order to improve their strength.

All of the stock rubber hoses in the cooling water system were converted to silicone materials and the oil lines were replaced with ones fabricated from armoured aerospace tubing. The radiator was revised and now consists of two stock radiators welded together. The air intake is now direct, in order to feed the turbocharger, and uses a JR Competition oversized filter designed for 375 kW + systems. Because of the addition of the turbo system, naturally the exhaust system had to be redesigned, complete with a new German-made exhaust manifold and 70-mm diameter all-stainless exhaust tubing.

But, the most impressive change remains the air-to-air intercooler that covers more than one-third of the engine bay ! It even includes a special fan and a water injector that can be triggered from the dashboard in the event of overheating. Appropriately, the dashboard has evolved as well. It has integrated every gauge imaginable, thus the modification of the ABS light to include a rev limiter warning light. At the focus of the driver's attention is the turbo boost gauge. When the needle reads 1.5 bar, there are 365 kW at the front wheels at 6500 rpm (maximum torque is 540 Nm at 4500 rpm). For reliability reasons, the turbo pressure for the break-in period has been limited to 1.0 bar by adjusting the turbo wastegate, so for the break-in period the maximum power is 285 kW at 6500 rpm.

When I questioned Phillipe about the car's acceleration times, his response was, “We haven't have the time yet to get measured times, but if you want to give yourself an idea, only recall that the Ferrari F40 has 357 kW, and a long box that pulls up to 300 km/h, while on the Corrado VR6 Turbo, it pulls out 364.8 kW, with a short box that pulls up only to 287 km/h (they said 247 km/h before, because of the higher gear ratios and limited top speed. Maybe they made a mistake). Though in the VW, the loss of traction must play a bit against us.

“Regarding the loss of traction, I've confirmed why the F40 is fitted with bigger tyres than the ‘small’ 235/40-17 tires which equip the Corrado! It's simple to know how many times I have shifted on the 800-metre acceleration run that I just executed. I just have to redo the course on foot. When the two black tracks pause for 10 metres, that's where I up-shifted. By measuring the thickness of the rubber left on the road, we can estimate the front tyre life at 200 km, max.”

Even though the exceptionally smooth engine tuning lets us consider, in theory, almost daily use, we have to say that at this weight/power ratio, we cannot talk anymore about a car, but rather a dragster. However, this was the goal requested by its owner properly trouncing the 1996 BMW M3 that pulls some burn-outs in front of the Corrado owner's garden each Sunday afternoon. In this matter, there is no uncertainty that even without controlling the skids, the Corrado should put approximately 50 m on the BMW M3 on a 400 m start/stop.

Top

 

Golf 4 – First Impressions

By Glenn Butler
December 1998

Ten grand is a lot of cash by anyone's standards. That's how much extra you'll have to pay to play at Volkswagen's new Golf course, compared with roughly the same spec Holden and Toyota facilities. But look closely and you'll see it's not really the same course. Look at the little things - yes, it's more Huntingdale than Hacker, more Tiger Woods than in the woods. This is round two of Ferdinand Piech's master plan; this time it's his core company, Volkswagen, in his sights.

(I'm glad they got all the stupid 'golf’ puns out of the way early. When are these moronic journalists going to learn that the VW Golf is named after the Gulf Stream winds (Golf Strom), not the game of golf? - Ed)

Volkswagen produces some 60% (2.2 million) of the Group's annual sales, and of the VW-badged cars the Golf makes up almost one in three. Unfortunately, it faces the uphill battle of matching the incredible standards set by the Passat when it was launched in Australia 12 months ago.

Critics liked the Passat. They admired its lines and applauded its looks. But most of all, it appealed with its keen pricing.

This set a quality and price precedent for the Golf 4. Again the stylists have restrained themselves in the name of good taste. There's no denying it's a Golf; there's also no denying it’s a huge step ahead of the previous one. Golf 4 is built on what the VW Group calls the A-Platform, first seen under the Audi A3 in 1996. By the end of 1999, Volkswagen AG will be producing more than 7,000 A-platform cars every day.

This commonality of parts means cost savings because VW AG only forks out one bundle of cash for the research and development phase. Each carmaker sharing in the A-platform can use the same tooling, and it also allows a sharing of vital car components such as gearboxes, front and rear axles, braking systems, steering components as well as the obvious engine blocks.

For Australia the Golf 4 offers three engine choices, two spec levels and one body shape. Here's the deal - for starters, there's the 1.6-litre GL, which will sell for $29,990. Standard with a five-speed manual, its alloy block uses a two-valve head and as usual sits across the front, sending 74kW to the front wheels at 5600 rpm. This no-frills, thrills or spills block is a workaholic. Willing to reach the 6500rpm redline, it may take a while but at least you know it'll get there. There are no hidden benefits to revving the little motor right out but, unlike most Korean cars, there's no reason not to. The gear change is smooth, if a little uninspiring, fitting in nicely with its quality-over-quantity image.

The 1.6 feels more awake and responsive than the old 1.8 it replaces. Throttle response is definitely improved, as is the steering feel, now consistently weighted though still a little artificial. The diminutive 1.6 was revving at a high 3500 rpm at 110 km/h but, to its credit, cabin noise levels weren't affected. Wind noise, too, is way down on the previous car, with the only real intrusion coming from the Michelin Pilot tyres.

The 1.8-litre Golf GLE is fitted with the same high-profile 195/65 series Michelins as the smaller-engined GL, which points to Volkswagen's focus on ride quality over handling and performance. The front MacPherson strut suspension is too softly sprung, fighting in vain to prevent the nose tucking under in a corner. And though this makes you look like a hero as the inside rear goes up like Cazaly, it does not make for quick cornering.

The anti-roll bar fitted to the rear helps the Golf 4 with subtle passive rear steering, the back sliding predictably around the corner on decisive throttle inputs. Initially the driver feels very detached from the action, the Golf acting as though on remote control, with feedback dulled somewhat by the overly soft suspension. Until, that is, you realise the Golf is doing everything you ask.

The 1781cc engine suffers from a similar detachment - plenty willing enough, just devoid of personality. It's worth noting that this 1.8 litre four - the same 5 valves-per-cylinder used in the Audi A3 - is actually more powerful than the old 2.0-litre. Specifically, peak outputs are up by 7 kW for power and 4 Nm for torque. Impressive, given the 200cc deficit.

It's hard to be definitive on the driveability of the 1.8-litre four, as magazine deadlines demanded a quick drive of one of the first models off the ship. VW importers TKM/Inchcape barely had time to do the pre-delivery on the car, let alone run it in with a thousand km on the clock. We got our hands on it when only 34 km had passed under its wheels, and the engine and gearbox were noticeably tight.

There's definitely no faulting the quality of the interior. A lot of work has been done by the VW engineers to bring it to a high level, but it's noticeably not as nice as the A3's. Fit and finish are easily of a Mercedes standard, while trim choices and stitches add an air of refinement and elegance to a simplistic cabin. Volkswagen slugs the interior colour scheme on the cheaper GL ‘Trendline’, which is apt given the more vibrant pattern used. The up-spec GLE is dressed in more sombre shades of grey and is dubbed ‘Comfortline’.

All dials and buttons are logically positioned and easily reached from the driver's seat. The steering wheel adjusts both vertically and horizontally, while height adjustment on the driver's seat makes it easy to get comfortable.

The 1.6GL comes to market at $29,780 with anti-lockers, twin airbags and air-con. A CD player is fitted in-dash, while an immobiliser will keep the Golf where you left it, though a keyfob remote is noticeable by its absence.

An extra $2200 will get the four-speed automatic with Dynamic Shift Program as fitted to the previous model, and there's also a lengthy options list for those with the extra cash, which leans heavily towards improving the look and handling of the Golf.

The 1.8GLE tips the scales at an overpriced $34,990 and adds traction and cruise controls to the already impressive equipment list. Brakes on both models are vented front and solid rear discs with anti-lock. According to VW, even the 1.6-litre four requires premium unleaded, so be prepared for the extra charge come bowser time.

The final model in the Golf range, at least for Australia, is the hottie GTI slated for release sometime in 1999. Priced between $45-50,000, it houses Audi's 1.8-litre turbocharged four in a more tautly sprung body with sharp-looking 16-inch alloy wheels. Is this where VW has hidden the sweets for the enthusiastic driver? It would be a shame if driving enjoyment has been sacrificed at the altar of refinement that is new Golf 4.

Top

 

Tee Up a Drive in the New Golf IV

By Rafiq Mughal
March 1999

(Hooray - more stupid Golf puns !! - Ed)

The Germans are renowned for their top-quality cars - Audi, BMW, Mercedes. The new Golf, the latest round from VW, is par for that course. This impressive ‘Fore’ is now Open and ready to play. You should think about trading in your buggy and joining the Golf club. It will not be a handicap; in fact is is perfect for the driver. In a very fairway, it is no water hazard. Take a swing and have a putt putt through the trees. You will be hooked. Have a slice! The Golf is quite green with no bunkers or bogies; it will attract the birdies and will never be out of bounds. Play a round - you might even feel like a short stroke with your wood afterwards.

VW have launched the New Golf in Australia with the slogan, ‘The Shape Of Things To Come From Germany’. The car lives up to that promise.

At present, there is a choice of two engines - the 1.6 GL and 1.8 GLE, but early in 2000 we will see the introduction of the 1.8 20V turbo GTI.

The fourth generation of the popular hatchback was released in Germany last year, and has so far beaten all sales forecasts. Total Golf sales have now passed over 17 million.

It is not difficult to understand why it has become so popular after a test drive. We drove the 1.6-litre GL with an electronic four-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox boasts an intelligent dynamic shift program (DSP) with fuzzy logic that adapts to individual driving habits. This is the optional gearbox, as the five-speed manual is standard.

Also offered as standard are driver and passenger side air bags, ABS, air conditioning, immobiliser with infrared security flasher on driver-side door button, three-year/60,000 km standard engine warranty and a 12-year warranty on the body against rust.

The new Golf offers the convenience and manoeuvrability of a small car (great for city driving), combined with the luxury and comfort only offered by larger and usually more expensive cars. So it's no sweat to push it on freeways, or winding country roads. It holds its ground well.

The finish both outside and inside is of very high standards. It is roomy inside and the luggage compartment is fairly big. The car also supports larger tyres - 15 to 16 inches depending on the model, and discs all around. A lot of thought and detail has gone into providing every creature comfort for driver and passengers.

Key-controlled central locking, power windows, adjustable steering and front seats, driver side window and door controls, courtesy light and key light - both a great help at night time - headrests for passengers, excellent single CD player, quality fabric seats and padded door panels with arm rests, blue back-lit instrument panel, and cupholders are just some among the many added features of the new Golf.

VW has also redesigned the outside, giving the car a smarter, sleeker look, thus reducing the drag considerably. Also added are the innovative oval headlight units, featuring twin headlamps, fog lights and turn signals, all encased together. A more steeply shaped windscreen gives the new Golf a more dynamic appearance.

The 1.6-litre pushes out 74 kW of power from the aluminium cylinder block. The engine's variable intake manifold increases torque mainly in the low range engine speeds. Its maximum torque of 145 Nm is reached at 3800rpm.

We found the engine smooth and responsive. There is little engine noise, and the roadholding is excellent. The passengers found the ride to be very comfortable.

A slight downside is that the indicator stalk is on the left, while the wipers are on the right. That's the way they are in Europe, but it doesn't take long to get used to it (like existing VW owners already are).

Admittedly there are not many Golfs on Aussie roads at present, but expect the numbers to rise considerably as the word gets out.

A manual costs $29,780 before on-road costs. An auto will add another $2000 to the basic price. At these prices you are getting European standards in every millimetre of the car.

Top

 

New Golf 4 GTI - The legend continues

By Brian Walker
March 2000

Volkswagen's Golf GTI presents something new to the Australian market: - a performance hatchback with an outstanding level of refinement and comfort. Ewan Ramsey, Managing Director for Inchcape Ltd, the Volkswagen importers, welcomes the return of the GTI to Australia. The Golf 2 GTI was previously available in 1990, but only in 8-valve form. The Golf 1 and 3 GTI were not imported.

“This is the original hot hatch, and today it continues to be the benchmark,” Mr Ramsay said.

“The GTI offers all the features of the fourth generation Golf launched late last year, but adds more power, refinement and standard features than ever seen on Golf.”

The power behind the Golf GTI is its 1.8-litre 20-valve turbo engine that produces 110 kW, and yields low-rev torque levels normally only expected from engines with considerably more cubic capacity. This engine achieves its maximum torque of 210 Newton metres at just 1,750 rpm.

The GTI can dash from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 8.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 216 km/h. Despite its exceptional performance figures, this engine is quite frugal in its fuel consumption, consuming an average of just 7.8 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres.

The GTI is equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox with the car's hydraulic clutch operation system providing a high level of refinement for the driver.

In Australia the GTI has 5 doors, to match its five seats, five headrests and five 3-point seatbelts, further broadening its appeal and its potential market. “Whilst there are numerous sports cars on the market,” Mr Ramsay said, “none can match the new Golf GTI's blend of performance, luxury and everyday practicality.”

The Golf GTI features the clear cut styling of the new Golf 4 range, which has a fresh modern look while at the same time remaining true to its design tradition. Typical Golf styling cues such as the oval headlights and the wide and relatively upright C-pillars make it easily recognisable as a Golf. On the other hand the more steeply raked windscreen makes the new Golf appear more dynamic than its predecessor, and the new Golf has a drag coefficient of 0.31.

One of the design highlights of the GTI is the main headlights, featuring twin headlamps behind a clear, see-through lens. The foglights and turn signals are also incorporated in this unit, giving it a totally modern look.

The rear-end design of the new Golf range is also strikingly expressive. The interplay of lines between the C-pillar, tailgate and taillights make the car unmistakable from this angle. The prominent wheel arches draws the observer's eyes to the running gear on the new Golf. The large 16-inch tyres strengthen this focus, as does the wider track. The GTI also features alloy wheels as standard.

The interior of the new Golf range has been entirely re-designed and nowhere is this more evident than on the GTI. The instrument cluster with its two large dials fits harmoniously into the instrument panel. It features a new backlighting technology with blue illumination. The GTI interior features a black myrtle wood finish complemented by chromium-plated inside door handles.

One of the most striking features of the interior of the GTI are the Recaro seats in the front and rear. The front seats are height adjustable with headrests for all five passengers. The Recaro seats are available in black/red, black/grey and black/ blue creating a sporty feel from the inside of the car.

The GTI features a leather three-spoke sports steering wheel for added driver comfort.
Volkswagen's attention to detail is evident in the entire Golf range; for example in the grab handles, which feature a silicone damping mechanism that makes then return softly to their original position when released. The luggage compartment of the GTI has a volume of 330 litres, is fully covered with trim and provides four strong lashing points to easily and securely tie down your luggage.

Standard on the GTI is an eight-speaker radio/CD stereo and Climatronic air conditioning, which keeps the interior temperature constantly at the desired level. In addition, the GTI comes standard with a power slide/tilt glass sunroof, completing the exceptionally luxurious level of equipment.

Other small touches in the interior include illuminated vanity mirrors, cupholders in the front and rear, power windows, split fold rear seats, cruise control and central locking.

Volkswagen has set quality records for body production in the new Golf. New production technologies such as laser welding and state-of-the art bonding methods have allowed Volkswagen to reach unprecedented levels in body rigidity for the new Golf.

Thanks to Volkswagen's innovative technologies a high level of dynamic rigidity has been achieved, improving smoothness and refinement and enhancing the car's dynamic driving characteristics.

This unprecedented level of quality in body manufacturing is also visible externally. The new Golf features much narrower shut lines around the doors, bonnet and tailgate. This is only possible because the body has been given a high level of torsional rigidity. These narrow panel gaps not only underscore the quality of the bodywork; they also have a favourable influence on aerodynamics.

The extraordinary long-term value of the new Golf is also shown by the fact that its body is fully galvanised. This is the ideal type of corrosion protection and creates the foundation that allows Volkswagen to offer a 12-year warranty against rust perforation on the Golf. This feature, too, clearly distinguishes the Golf from its competitors.

Volkswagen accords special priority to occupant safety. The body structure of the Golf is designed to allow it to absorb the greatest possible amount of crash energy in the event of a collision. Lateral passenger cell reinforcements in the A, B and C pillars, along the sills and in the doors provide the basis for a high level of protection in the event of a side collision. The fuel tank is located in front of the rear axle, ahead of the rear deformation zone.

In the GTI, like all Golf models, full-size driver and front passenger airbags protect occupants. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and belt force limiters are standard equipment. In addition, the seats and seatbelts are height adjustable, as are the five occupant headrests.

The action of the seat belts ensures that the belts make firm contact with the occupant as quickly as possible in an accident. Volkswagen has developed a new generation of pyrotechnic belt tensioning device. A rotary-piston drive is attached to the outer rear automatic seat-belt reels and if the sensor trips, an igniter cartridge causes the spool to rotate and draw in up to 200 millimetres of slack belt. Belt force limiters prevent the maximum force exerted by the belt in this situation from exceeding 6,000 Newtons. The Golf features a height and reach adjustable steering column and angle adjustable twin headlights with front and rear fog lights.

ABS brakes are standard on all Golfs. In addition the Golf features Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution (EBD), and Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) as a standard feature. Passengers are also protected from unpleasant surprises from the luggage compartment. The rear seat backrest was designed to resist the pressure that is exerted by objects stored in the luggage compartment in the event of collision. Furthermore, standard lashing points make it possible to securely tie down the contents of the luggage compartment.

It is measures such as these that saw the Australian New Car Assessment Program. (ANCAP) award the Golf the highest possible safety rating, when it released the results of its small car tests late last year.

The Golf was also the number one rated car in its class in the recent security evaluation tests undertaken by the NRMA. For maximum resistance to theft, the Golf range features an inner profile key and a rolling code immobiliser. When the key is turned in the ignition the immobiliser control unit sends a complex calculation to the key, which responds with an answer code. If the answers don't match, the engine will cut out after two seconds, cutting off fuel and spark.

In addition, there are freewheeling locks in the doors, which prevent damage and prohibit entry if forced. The doors are also protected by deadlocks, which activate automatically on locking the vehicle. This means that, once locked, the doors cannot be opened even if the windows are smashed and the interior door handles operated. A flashing red light on each front door wards off any potential thieves.

The Volkswagen range also comes with central locking that can be activated from the inside; however, in the case of a collision all four doors will automatically unlock to allow emergency services access.

A Mechanical Anti-Theft Steering Lock is standard on all Golf models, which features a torque overload coupling that makes it virtually impossible to steer if the steering lock is forced, but it also means that it won't snap and cause expensive damage.

The stereo systems installed in the Volkswagen range have also been highly rated with each unit protected by a personal identification number (PIN) for added security.

Improving refinement and handling were the focal points of Volkswagen's engineering efforts during the development of the Golf’s running gear. The proven layout with McPherson struts and lower wishbones on the front axle have been enhanced in significant ways. Spring response and straight-line stability have been improved as compared to the previous model.

The Golf’s rear wheels are linked to a torsion-beam axle and the springs and shock absorbers have been installed separately. The coil springs are now located below the longitudinal members, eliminating the need for the suspension strut turrets which would otherwise take up so much room in the luggage compartment. This rear-axle layout has also reduced rolling noise and enhanced refinement.

The GTI features sports suspension providing and comes standard with the latest generation of ABS brakes and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD). This system ensures that the brake forces applied to the rear axle never cause the rear wheels to over brake. In addition, the GTI also features Electronic Differential Lock (EDL).

A normal sized spare tyre is stored in a recess under the luggage compartment floor.
Furthermore, a new generation of powertrain mountings called pendulum mountings, together with a specially tuned exhaust system, have substantially improved idle characteristics, i.e. smooth running, refinement and noise emissions.

The Golf GTI is available now at your Classic/European dealer for $43,990.

Top

 

VW Golf - In Brief

By Barry Lake
November 2000

After the popularity of Volkswagen's Beetle, its follow-up ‘Everyman model’ – the Golf - saw the badge become a rare sight on Australia's roads. That wasn't the case in Europe.

Germany's ‘People's Car’ was a novelty when it first appeared in Australia in the early 1950s. Within a few years, however, the Beetle was winning round-Australia trials and selling up a storm. You couldn't drive a block without seeing one. As the Beetle model finally ran its course, Volkswagen did an about-face, moving the engine and the driven wheels from the rear to the front, and releasing some rather shoddy Australian-assembled examples. Worst of all, it moved the pricing up market.

The Passat and Golf were initially very popular and set new standards in modern car design, but sales quickly fell when the local quality issues and rising prices hit. VW imported German-built cars after 1977, which fixed the quality issues but greatly worsened the pricing. A ’79 Golf was more expensive than a Commodore! Sales dried up and Aussie VW fans retained their old Beetles. None seemed too interested in the new breed of ‘People's Car’. That the marque was later passed from one distributor to another in this country didn't help the cause any. Volkswagen became a spent force in Australia.

In the meantime, the company boomed in Germany with the Golf model, introduced there in 1974 as an angular, boxy-looking hatchback. Within three years it had sold a million and had become the biggest-selling car in Europe. The GTI appeared in 1976 but was never sold in Australia. The redesigned Golf 2, with more room and sophistication, was launched in 1983 to rave reviews. In Australia it was a non-event, except for local VW enthusiasts keeping up with the news by buying British VW magazines such as Safer Motoring.

In 1990 the Golf 2 in sporty GTI and trendy Cabriolet guises were finally brought to Australia by new importers, Ateco, aiming at a niche market in Australia. It gained some acceptance, but only in hundreds sold per year, rather than thousands. The GTI, a low-spec 8V model that was already six years old, was not the VW saviour we had read about in European magazines. And the Cabrio was still based on the Golf 1, but with ancient engines and a chunky body kit that spoiled the car’s original clean lines.

In 1994, the local distributors (now TKM) got a bit more serious. That year's new Golf 3 range had 2.0-litre injected fours as the base engine, while the quick and smooth 2.8-litre VR6 was added. There was only the one body style, a five-door hatchback, but there was a choice of manual or automatic transmission with both engines. The Cabriolet had been dropped, so the range totalled just four variants. Sales, still, were just a few hundred.

In 1995, prices were raised measurably, but this was disguised by some clever model mixing. A less costly three-door hatchback style was added and a smaller 1.8-litre engine made a return. So the entry-level Golf - the three-door 1.8 CL manual - was now almost $2,000 below the previous bottom-of-the-line price. In reality, the price for cars in similar specification to the previous year's models had gone up about $2,000. The public began to stir.

Sales almost trebled, to just under 1,300 cars. As well, there was now a 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine, the first local Golf Diesel since 1981, with either auto or manual transmission, and the Convertible was back with a 2.0-litre engine in the Golf 3 body and a choice of auto or manual. The range had exploded to 10 models. It grew to 14 models in 1996, before rationalisation back to the top-selling versions reeled it in to 10 in 1997 and to eight by 1998.

Aussies didn't take to the three-door models. In 1998, before the fourth-generation Golf was released, there were two convertible models (differing only in the choice of transmission) and six five-door hatchbacks. The base CL cars had the 1.8-litre engine, with manual or auto shift. Then there was the 2.0-litre GL, also as auto or manual, and the VR6 with 2.8-litre V6 engine and the same choice of transmissions. Prices began at $24,990 and ran up to $49,090 for the VR6 auto, while the two convertibles were about $50,000 and $52,000 respectively.

All of these 2nd and 3rd generation cars, in their various configurations and over an eight-year period, look similar. But the range of price, performance and image vary considerably. The 1.8-litre cars can be considered economy cars - in terms of fuel use, at least. The 2.0-litre cars are small family cars, and the old GTI models, as well as the later VR6s, are true sporty cars. And then there is the ‘look at me’ convertible. That's quite a spread.

Good early model GTIs - and even the Cabriolet, for that matter - can be had for about $15,000. You can get them for less, $10,000 or $11,000 if you're game, but there's a high risk of incurring expensive mechanical repairs when buying rougher versions.

Since Volkswagen and its Golf are not yet ‘mainstream’ someone looking at a Golf is probably inclined towards ‘something different’, the VR6 5-speed manual is an interesting car, ranging from about $27,000 for 1994 models through to $37,000 for the 1998 version.

Cheapest of the 1998 models is the base 1.8-litre CL manual, now under $20,000. Two years old and well looked after, this might be a good proposition. Our research indicates, however, that these cars are more prone to annoying problems than the better-quality Japanese cars - oil leaks from the automatic transmission, the clutch pedal not returning properly on the manual models and rattling gear levers. Power windows and remote control locking systems also have been headaches for many.

As always, our advice is to avoid cheap dodgy versions, spend the extra and go for one that has a good service record and looks well cared for.

The good: The Golf range offers everything from economy models to the sporty GTI and VR6 versions, with a convertible as icing on the cake.

The bad: Quality isn't as high as this German manufacturer would like us to believe. Golf models are often beset by niggling quality-related problems.

What to look for:

Automatic: Look for fluid leaks and road test the car for proper shift patterns. Autos can be very costly to repair.
Manual: Test for rattles from the gear lever and clutch pedal and for correct operation of the clutch   pedal. Not serious problems, but annoying and tricky to fix.
Suspension: Knocking noises from the suspension are not uncommon in various Golf
models. During a test run, try to find some rough patches to test for rattles.
Accessories: Remote central locking and power windows are handy options, but can be annoying when faulty. Check operation of all power equipment.
Electrical: Golf 3s can suffer failure of a number of components, such as the power supply relay, fuel pump relay and crank angle sensor. If they fail the car will not run and will need to be towed to a VW workshop. Some owners have also reported problems with the electric windows, and sometimes the electro door locks.

The verdict: The Volkswagen Golf 3 range offers everything from economy car to high performance sports models. An affordable way to have ‘something different’.
Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5).

Top

 

Different By Design

By George Achorn
January 2001

There is an art to building a truly unique car. It isn't that tough to figure out who makes the coolest modifications and accessories, or to plunk down the plastic for the purchase and to have it installed; or better yet install it yourself. The trick is finding just the right mix of mods for a car to make it truly unique.

Throughout the show season, it's easy to spot cars that are rolling commercials for one accessory line or another. While these cars are often highly attractive and very well built, their impending popularity succeeds in eroding any exclusivity the modifications may have afforded them.

That's not so with Dan Kozak's fourth generation Golf GTI. Planning the car was a labour of love and Dan pulled from many different sources for a mix that resulted in a GTI that makes its presence known in a big way.

On the outside the car is subtle, but also seriously improved. Hella red and clear taillights replaced the stock GTI smoked units in an effort to match the clear headlights and European sidemarkers. A Projektzwo body kit, exterior rear-view mirrors and rear hatch blend beef up the dimensions. Thought to be a cleaner look, Dan opted for an Oettinger grill to complete the body modifications. Each piece was sprayed to match the original colour of the car.

Rolling under the car are 18-inch OZ Fl Racing Cup wheels. This modular design was chosen for its inherent strength and also its rarity. The centres were sprayed in an anthracite grey, and they were shod with Yokohoma Paradas.

For the suspension, Dan decided upon offerings from H&R. Coilovers provided a stiffer ride that isn't too harsh and plenty of ride height flexibility. To tighten things up, an H&R front sway bar and rear O-bar were also installed.

For added stopping power, the Audi TT 32-cm brake conversion was chosen. This particular kit included slotted rotors for additional cooling and Ferodo pads for higher performance and less brake dust.

The cockpit of the car was enhanced on several levels. A set of stainless steel pedals and dead pedal from the Audi TT were a straight swap, and Schroth 4-point harnesses assure that the driver and front passenger are snugly held in their seats.

The audio system was also significantly improved. An Alpine 7850 CD head-unit with tilting face replaced the stock radio and an Alpine S624 CD changer supports it. The head unit is connected to two Alpine F407 amplifiers via O-point wires. These help get an adequate signal to a pair of MB Quart Q-series 6.5-inch mid-range speakers in the doors and two JT 10W-6 subwoofers built into sealed enclosures in the rear. To keep the audio in and the road noise out, the whole interior of the car has a layer of Dynamat underneath the carpeting.

An Optima Yellow-top battery was added, though it was relocated to the boot for better weight distribution. This completely sealed dry cell battery is now located in the spare tyre well with the factory spare placed over top of it.

To house the amplifiers, a custom enclosure was built that raises the floor slightly and displays the equipment below. The enclosure is constructed of 19 mm medium density fibreboard, four layers of 6 mm plexi-glass, and one layer of 25 mm plexi-glass that has been sand blasted and bevelled. The outer perimeter has a custom 1-piece red neon light with transformer in the back that makes for a great display at nighttime shows. When turned on, it makes the plexi-glass floor light up with a red tint. To go further on that theme, the 10 JL speakers are now also backlit in red as well.

Perhaps the single most interesting part of this car is what lies beneath the bonnet. To accommodate for the added weight of all the modifications performed on the car, a turbo system was needed. Since this is a newer VR6 with variable intake from the factory, there is no kit yet available and one had to be devised.

This turbo is the brainchild of Dan and JBE Racing of Long Island, NY. JBE had developed its own turbo systems for the earlier VR6 cars and felt up to the task of designing one for this newer version. The system makes use of a Turbonetics T3/T4 hybrid turbo with stage 2 impeller housing, custom air-to-water intercooler using a Spearco core, Bosch blow-off valve and a Delta Gate external series 2 wastegate controlled through a Greddy Prefect D boost control. The manifold used is made of 3 mm- thick stainless steel, the same as the factory exhaust manifold, and is a totally custom piece along with a 3 mm stainless custom downpipe and a 65 mm diameter stainless exhaust.

This new system makes use of the stock ECU with a 1.7 ratio fuel regulator, Haltech supplemental brain and 585 kPa injector just before the throttle body.

When the battery was removed, the air-to-water intercooler took its place. This position allows it to breath properly assuring maximum performance for keeping system temperatures in check. A new thermal barrier was added on the inside of the car to keep heat from the down pipe on the outside, and VW Motorsport motor mounts hold the engine in place with all of the added torque.

To monitor the engine and the new system, several VDO gauges were also added. A boost gauge, EGT and air/ fuel ratio gauge were all installed in the dash.

How does it perform? Basically there's wheel spin straight through first and part of second gear. The beefier tyres and firmer suspension help to minimize the lean and squat but running 0.5 to 0.6-bar of boost, the tires will still break loose. Boost is set with high and low boost settings. Dan usually keeps it at 0.3 bar, but claims he can turn it up to 0.6 bar on pump gas (92-octane) and not have any knocking problems in hot weather. No real lag is experienced either. One critical factor here is that the turbo is set up with minimal runs between the turbo, intercooler and throttle body so the system pressurizes itself very quickly.

Since the car uses stock software, the stock compression ratio was also maintained, but Dan has noticed that the knock sensors do pull back the timing if they notice detonation. To help this a chip is being considered and he's currently in talks with a particular chip developer in regards to dialling back the timing and fattening up the fuel curve.

To further help with traction a Quaife limited slip differential has just been ordered and will be installed along with a new dual-fibre clutch set-up, and a pressure plate with heavy-duty straps. This should prevent problems from occurring during full boost.

Is the car finished? Heck no. When the transmission issues are taken care of and the engine management is ironed out, Dan has a host of other things to keep him busy and keep this ear on the edge. He's considering an even wilder body kit, and may also opt for some Alcantara skin on the seats or even a pair of more hardcore racing seats. Whatever the choice, he's guaranteed not to see another VW Golf like it on the show circuit and he can be proud that his car is not a rolling showroom for any one company.

Top

 

Volkswagen Golf tops the Beetle

By Steve Carter
July 2002

Think Volkswagen, think Beetle? Wrong.

On 25 June 2002, cumulative production of the Volkswagen Golf surpassed that of the legendary Beetle (which is still being made at Volkswagen de Mexico). Golf number 21,517,415 drove from the Volkswagen assembly line in Wolfsburg, Germany, watched by Volkswagen's Chairman of the Board of Management, Dr Bernd Pischetsrieder, Volkswagen's Deputy Chairman of the General and Group Works Council, Mr. Brend Sudholt, other board members, German political figures and Golf production employees.

Currently VW produces over 3,600 Golf models each day in six plants, which in total employ some 40,000 people - Wolfsburg, Mosel, Brussels and Bratislava in Europe, as well as Uitenhage in South Africa and Curitiba in Brazil.

In 2001, VW delivered a total of 865,000 Golfs to customers throughout the world, and already in the first quarter of 2002, some 205,600 units have been delivered. Apart from Germany, leading world markets for the Golf are Italy, France, Great Britain, USA, Japan and South Africa. This year, VW Group Australia will deliver 5,500 Golfs to local customers, the most ever.

Volkswagen's first Golf model made its debut in Germany in 1974. In 1976, the VW Golf GTI - the car which started the 'hot hatch' revolution - made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Over 6.8 million Mk1 Golfs were made up to 1984, followed by 6.3 million Golf 2s up to 1992, 4.8 million Golf 3s to 1999 and now 3.6 million Golf 4s to the present.

Golf number 21,517,415 was a Reflex Silver Metallic V5 model being delivered to a customer in Hanover, Germany.

In his address as the famous Golf drove from the Wolfsburg assembly line, Dr Folker Weissgerber, member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, said, “Volkswagen Golf is the benchmark in its class and represents the yardstick of automotive values. It is a perfect example of functional discipline and custom work, an individual vehicle for everyone.”

Mr. Peter Nochar, Managing Director of Volkswagen Group Australia, said, “Over the years, Australian customers have reacted to the Golf in the same way as consumers throughout the world - it is the hatchback of choice for many and the standard by which others are measured. Golf is our single most important model and maybe, in the future when people think of Volkswagen, they will think of the Golf first and the Beetle second.”

Perhaps in the future when Golf production overtakes the pretender to the crown the Toyota Corolla, Toyota will stop its inaccurate ad campaign. The original Corolla, with its longitudinal front engine and rear wheel drive, has nothing in common with the latest model with transverse front engine and front wheel drive – apart from the name on the badge. On the other hand, even after four generations, the Golf has had the same engine and transmission layout since its inception. As for the Beetle – well, features from the earliest pre-WW2 prototype Beetle can still be seen in the latest Mexican air-cooled Beetles. It’s still the same car, so in my opinion it hasn’t lost its crown to the Corolla at all. Being the biggest selling car design in history is more impressive than just the biggest selling ‘name badge’.

Note – when VW issued this press release in mid-1992, the Beetle’s total production had reached 21,517,414, and the Golf had just passed this figure. The Beetle took 57 years to reach this total; the Golf took just 28, less than half the time. Residual production of Beetles continued, and by the time production came to an end in June 2003, the final Beetle production total reached 21,526,464. Of course by then the Golf was far ahead, and went on to pass 25 million in 2007.

Top

 

Volkswagen Golf R32

By Steve Carter
November 2002

First, the new R32 is officially called the ‘Golf R32’ and is NOT a ‘GTI’ model. The R32 comes standard with 4Motion (Haldex) all wheel drive, the successor to the older ‘syncro’ all-wheel-drive’ system. As for the GTI, in an attempt to keep with the light and nimble theme of the original GTI, the 4Motion is not generally available except on highline models in Europe. This gives greater separation between the GTI and R32 hot Golfs.

The blue metallic paint on the R32, which Volkswagen officially calls ‘Deep Blue Metallic’, is stunning. It is a deeper and darker Jazz Blue with a heavy metallic that changes hue just slightly in sunlight. The R32 has a very menacing appearance that is low to the ground, sitting squatly on its special Aristo 18" wheels (specially made for VW), and 225/40ZR-18 Dunlop tyres. The body kit is a brand new piece made especially for this car that comprises an aggressive front lower air dam with black honeycomb inserts, side skirts that are deeper and flared, and a rear bumper that is totally unique with two large 3 inch chromes exhaust tips exposed on either side of the body. Overall the front and sides have a very VW feel while the rear tends to look a little more aftermarket, but not too over the top by our tastes. Further exterior pieces include high-intensity-discharge (HID) projector headlamps with bumper mounted washer units, a rear mounted hatch lip spoiler, and R32 badging on the front grill and rear hatch.

Inside those 18" wheels sit big 4-piston callipers with 334 mm vented rotors from the W8 Passat, with blue powder coated callipers that are unique to the R32. The rear brakes are 256 mm diameter vented rotors. ABS and electronic brake force distribution (EBD) are also integrated into the braking system. The suspension sits 20 mm lower on H&R springs and Bilstein shocks. The R32's steering system has also been completely redesigned with a quicker rack (2.5 turns lock to lock) and more direct feel. Because of the standard 4Motion four-wheel-drive system, the R32 has a fully independent multi-link rear suspension with dual-link trailing arms. Sway bars are also reportedly stiffened quite a bit front and rear. To help you keep it all together, electronic stability program (ESP) is standard but has been fine tuned to be less intrusive in the R32.

The Golf R32 is the first production Volkswagen to utilize the new 3.2-litre 24-valve VR6, and in this application is rated at 176 kW and 320 Nm of torque. Power is transferred through VW's new MQ350 six-speed transmission and 4Motion four-wheel-drive system. The 3.2-litre has a variety of new pieces and improvements over the older 2.8 VR6. Bore and stroke were increased from 81.0 x 90.3 mm in the 2.8 to 84.0 x 95.9 mm in the new 3.2, with a compression ratio of 11.3:1. The 3.2 also incorporates dual overhead cam shafts with continuous intake and exhaust adjustment of 52 degrees and 22 degrees respectively. The entire intake system was redesigned to optimise flow geometry of the intake manifold and cylinder head with larger flow cross-sections. Engineers also increased the diameter of the intake valves and improved the shape of the valve seat inserts. Expect to see the 3.2-litre VR6 utilized in the Touareg, Phaeton (Europe only), T4 Microbus, next generation Passat and next generation Golf and Jetta. The 3.2-litre VR6 will also likely see duty in the Audi TT and next generation Audi A3.

Open the door and your eyes are treated to a feast of leather, brushed aluminium and the most aggressive sport seats to ever grace a stock Volkswagen. These sport seats are made for Volkswagen by Konig and feature integrated headrests, huge thigh and side bolsters and a great shape designed to completely lock you in place during inevitable high-speed manoeuvres. Brushed aluminium trim is liberally applied to the dash, centre console and doors as well as the door sills with R32 logos etched into the surface. The pedals are unique in the R32 with aluminium surfaces and rubber inserts also shaped like the Volkswagen Racing ‘R’ logo. Volkswagen also snuck in Jetta/Bora style air vents in the R32 in place of the regular Golf/GTI units.

The European gauge cluster features aluminium trim rings, a 300 km/h speedo and R32 logo on the lower tachometer face. The steering wheel is a three spoke unit similar to the existing GTI 3-spoke but even thicker with larger thumb cut-outs at the 3 and 9-o'clock positions and an aluminium R32 logo inset at the bottom of the wheel. Other standard interior features include sunroof, rain sensing wipers, Climatronic, a theft system with interior radar, your choice of CD/Sat/Nav sound systems and a choice of all leather or leather and Alcantara seating surfaces. Exterior colours in Germany include ‘reflex silver metallic’, ‘deep blue metallic’ and ‘black magic pearl effect.’

So what's it like? The seats are fantastic and provide excellent support without being too hard or too narrow. Firing up the 3.2 sounds like any other VR6 engine until you dip into the throttle, which unleashes a very healthy and low growl from the dual exhaust system. Volkswagen takes pride in mentioning the special exhaust tuning that went into this system and we're here to tell you that it sounds simply awesome. In fact if we didn't know any better we would have thought the exhaust was a straight aftermarket piece - it was that noticeable.

Clutch take up was lighter than expected, but the new six-speed is smooth and fairly precise making it easy to get going. You can tell that the R32 is a heavy car getting under way, yet it didn't feel too ponderous. The 320 Nm of torque pulls the car out of the hole rather nicely, and when you keep your foot planted past 4000 rpm things start to really move with both mechanical engine noises and exhaust tones fighting for attention - this is something we could definitely get used to.

Volkswagen laid out a cone course for us which included a slalom section right out of the gate. This was the most telling part of the whole course and where the R32 truly separated itself from every other Golf GTI we've driven. In to the first cone the first thing you notice is the very sharp and precise turn-in, but also the fact that the rear of the car is actively part of the program not just being tugged along for the ride like the regular beam axle GTI. By the third cone I found myself needing to correct for oversteer as I hadn't expected any cooperation from the rear of the car, nor any sort of neutrality. Once accustomed to the completely different handling characteristics, the R32 was easy to dice between the cones and provided a great balance all the way up to about 9/10ths when, in typical iron-block-completely-in-front-of-the-strut-towers VR6 fashion the car ploughed hard at the limit driving wide of the line. Simply backing off the throttle part-way and scrubbing some speed helped correct the problem, but there is little anyone can do when it comes to the pure physics of placing that much weight in front of the wheels. Just below that threshold though, Volkswagen did a phenomenal job of bringing neutral handling back into the Golf platform and making the car feel completely different than any Golf GTI to date.

Does it feel fast? Quick and fun absolutely... fast, well... The R32 tips the scales at a heavy 1,480 kg, which conspires to intrude on any light and nimble feeling one might have in a regular GTI. It is still an aggressive car in so many other ways, with a wonderful engine, wonderful sounds and great handling up to a point that you are willing to forget about the weight. The brakes are easily up to the task and provided fade-free solid braking every time we touched the pedal.

Top

 

Extreme Golf R32

By Matthew White
October 2004

You won't find ‘Bragging Rights’ listed in the brochure or owners' manual, but this feature is standard with every Volkswagen Golf R32.

Only 200 R32s will be coming to Australia. For the fortunate 200, Sunday afternoons washing the car and the inevitable enquiry from the neighbours: “That's a great looking Golf you have,” can be answered emphatically: “Yes, it's the fastest and most powerful production Golf ever!”

Serious bragging rights-indeed. Put simply, the new R32 model boldly treads where no other Golf has gone before.

Did we mention the engine? How does a 177 kW 12-litre V6 driving all four wheels via 4MOTION and a close-ratio 6-speed gearbox sound?

In fact it sounds very good - thanks to a specially tuned twin pipe exhaust system, R32 owners will be driving out of their way to find some tunnels to be enjoyed with the windows down.

Aside from the tailpipes, there are other noticeable differences - the front bumper and spoiler has a pronounced dynamic design, with three large honeycomb ventilation grilles in the lower section that are specifically designed to feed air into the engine. On the grille is the distinctive R32 badge and the headlights are Xenon.

Massive 18-inch OZ Racing alloy wheels and low sills dominate the side profile. The 15-spoke wheels provide maximum cooling for the brake system.

It's a similar story at the rear where the low apron integrates with the twin chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. The top edge of the rear hatch also boasts an integrated spoiler.
Golf R32 is only available in three exterior colours - Deep Blue Pearl Effect, Black Magic Pearl Effect and Reflex Silver Metallic.

Inside are beautiful leather-trimmed Köning sports seats with integrated head restraints, new leather-trimmed steering wheel, alloy pedal cluster and side foot rest -all highlighted by the Volkswagen Racing 'R' logo. As well, the door sills and centre console feature brushed aluminium with the R32 logo standing out in gloss on the brushed background.

Each Australian R32 is individually numbered with a stylish badge mounted on the centre console (owners also receive a matching commemorative key ring).

Performance is the key word for the Golf R32. With its 177 kW (at 6250 rpm) and 320 Nm (between 2800 and 3200 rpm) V6 engine, plus 4MOTION all-wheel-drive, 0 to 100 km/h takes just 6.6 seconds.

Golf R32's 24-valve V6 engine is distinguished by its very acute 15-degree vee angle. The engine is a development of Volkswagen's 2.8-litre V6 with several changes to achieve significantly boosted power and torque. The cylinder head is an entirely new development. The shape of the intake and outlet ducts has been significantly modified with larger flow cross sections for improved flow capacity. Two overhead camshafts with continuous intake and exhaust camshaft adjustment are used in the cylinder head. Each cylinder has its own ignition coil.

It is an undeniable fact that Volkswagen influenced entire generations of small car chassis designs when the first Golf appeared in 1975 - the front McPherson struts with lower wishbone design is still highly regarded. The Golf R32 boasts a multi-link rear suspension with forged dual-link trailing arms. This is mounted on a sub-frame and coupled to the running gear via rubber vibration dampers.

Both front and rear anti-roll bars are significantly strengthened compared to standard Golf models. The Golf R32 also sits 20mm lower than standard models with springs and shock absorbers developed by two specialist motorsport manufacturers. The steering is also a completely new design to provide more direct feel and faster response than standard Golfs.

Volkswagen's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system is recognized as a key technological enhancement for sports and safe driving characteristics. At the system's heart is a Haldex coupling in the rear differential. Its hydraulic and electronic systems automatically detect whether the front or rear wheels have more grip and accordingly distributes the tractive force between the two axles. Even when pressed hard on tight, wet roads, the Golf R32 delivers neutral handling and no wheelspin.

And to match its high performance, Golf R32 is equipped with stunning stopping power with large ventilated disc brakes (front 334mm and rear 256mm). Clearly visible behind the standard 18-inch OZ Racing alloy wheels are Golf R32's unique electric-blue painted brake callipers.

Golf R32 also boasts ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD) and ESP Volkswagen's Electronic Stabilization Program with in-built brake assist technology that is especially tuned for sports driving characteristics.

To secure your Golf R32 - and your share of serious bragging rights - move fast to your nearest Volkswagen dealer ... before they're all gone!

Top

 

2004 Volkswagen Golf R32

By Darren Hobson
December 2004

The Good: Stylish and sporty exterior. Good ergonomics inside. Powerful engine. Sporty exhaust. Great steering feel and aggressive suspension. Functional interior.

The Bad: Made for a small niche market. Seats too bolstered for larger adults and not comfortable for long rides. Ride is too stiff for bumpy roads. Has the feeling of an import tuner, so teenagers want it but cant afford it, and the 30 something crowd is looking for something more mature. Very low production numbers means real world price quite high.

Volkswagen has been building pocket rockets since the mid-1970s. Its long-term knowledge of how to do it right in Germany has been copied by many automakers from Asia to the US. Volkswagen shows off their expertise in this new model named the R32. This little Golf is a fire-breathing dragon, utilizing the newly developed compact 3.2-litre VR6 engine. It is packed with every tweak you could expect from a manufacturer, and of course its 4Motion all-wheel drive system simply adds to the excitement of driving this little beast.

The R32, with a sharp handsome exterior and enough modifications to enter it into a SCCA race, stands uniquely apart from its other Golf siblings. Body cladding is bold and very low to the ground. The large front apron features three large mesh grills, of which the driver's side grill is filled in with plastic. The side skirts are subtle and flow with the overall design well. The rear apron features lower air channels and large dual chrome tipped exhaust pipes. Even dark tinted rear taillights and a small spoiler on the roof adds to the hot look of this little machine.

The R32 is powered by a small and compact 3.2-litre V6 making 179 kW and 320 Nm of torque. This is the same engine used in the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi TT 3.2. The R32 uses a six speed manual transmission with a smooth hydraulic clutch. A 4Motion all-wheel drive system with a Haldex differential sends power to all four wheels, grabbing the pavement without any slippage. The R32 is also loaded with anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock, and an electronic stabilization program with brake assist.

The R32 weighs less than most other cars with a V6 engine, hence acceleration is very impressive. 0 to 100 takes just 6.1 seconds, and the 400m (quarter mile) comes in at 14.5 seconds with a 158 km/h speed. The engine revs freely, with a nice soft clutch and great transmission, everything is perfect for spirited driving. The shift gate offers a nice feeling of engagement that most other cars lack today. Body lean and sway is very low, as you would expect. The sport suspension features independent front McPherson struts and a fully independent multi-link rear suspension with dual-link trailing arms. The suspension is lowered with stiffer springs and thicker anti-roll bars as compared to GTI models.

In normal daily driving the R32's setup offers smooth handling without any bounce, but hit a pothole or an uneven road surface and you will surely feel the jolt. Braking is also well done with the blue coloured 4-piston brake callipers on large front and rear discs brakes. Stops from 100 km/h take only 34.4 metres, and that brings this Golf into Porsche territory.

The R32 loves high speeds, and getting there is quick and effortless with plenty of growl. Power in every gear is there when you need it. Even in sixth gear, passing on the highway is done smoothly and with confidence. VW made this car for the autobahn and the R32 is highly stable at those speeds. Road feel is excellent and the feeling of a solidly built machine is evident.

I recently drove the Audi TT, which also features the same engine but felt much more planted with its wider track, and this great feeling is lacking in the R32. The R32 is sticky and low to the ground, but the shape of the car and seating position do not make it feel like a superb driving machine. If you look at numbers the story changes back to a high performance vehicle, we could easily pull 0.84 G on a turn in our track.

Serious wheels and rubber adorn the R32. 7.5 x 18 inch alloys with Goodyear 225/40 ZR summer performance tyres with the V pattern on their treads look great. The four-wheel drive system pushes you forward evenly, with low levels of noise from the undercarriage. The dual exhaust system produces very nice sound, specially around 3-4,000 rpm. Put the car in sixth gear and a deep growl is felt inside the cabin. The sound is also great as you get in and turn the key; a high-pitched rumble from the exhausts really puts a smile on your face.

The interior is slick and adorned with leather. What grabs you first are the very large Konig racing style seats with R32 logos. Authentic brushed aluminium trim is used in the centre console and on the doorsills, with polished aluminium pedals adding to the street-tuned machine look. We found that the seats were not very comfortable for long rides and for large people. The seat bottoms had bolsters that were just too high and were not adjustable, causing you to sit with your legs crammed together. We think that if you are going to make an extreme car, it should be adjustable to all drivers. The seats made this car very uncomfortable to drive, not to mention that they made the interior feel smaller as well. Try to turn and look at the back seat and all you are likely to see is the other seat right next to you. Because of the width of the seats, our arms had a difficult time trying to fit down the sides to adjust the backrest. Everything is manual we might add, and we think they should be powered in such an expensive vehicle; perhaps even having buttons on the door is best if VW ever chooses to follow our recommendations.

The driver's seat moves forward and aft and has height adjustment to move the back bottom of the seat up, as well as manual adjustment of back lumbar cushion to push it outward quite a bit. A lever allows the entire seat to move and tilt forward for rear entry. The amount of room in the rear passenger compartment is just enough to hold two small buddies for a quick ride. However, the high roofline and boxy design creates a lot of headroom for both front and rear passengers. Behind this is a small luggage compartment that is deep enough to hold small items. There is also a cover for this area to hide your belongings from view.

We did not like the feeling of the R32 headliner in the cabin; touch it and you might feel that scratchy feeling that makes you twinge as if someone has scratched their nails on a board. We suggest Microfibre or Alcantera, which would be more fitting for this modified car. The leather used inside did not feel or look of high quality. It was fitted tight, making for a smooth and slippery seal. In the rear passenger compartment, the large rear windows do not open, and it can get a bit claustrophobic in the back with those large seats right in front of you. It would be nice if those windows could roll down. At high speeds, we also found a bit too much wind noise entering the cabin from the front pillars and the high level of engine sound can get bothersome on long trips.

Another difference between the R32 and a standard Golf is the sport steering wheel. This has to be one of the thickest sport wheels we have ever seen. Its just has a massive diameter on top and on the bottom with wide grip areas probably double the size of a normal steering wheel. Some will like it a lot and others will think it's a bit overdone as in the seats.

The functionality of the interior is very good. The radio controls are easy to understand and use, as are the temperature controls. The only fault we could find would be to raise the temperature control area a bit higher. We liked the blue coloured lighting on the instrumentation clusters. It was a fresh change from green and red found in other cars. The Monsoon sound system with 8-speakers was just great. We liked the integrated CD player and cassette deck as one unit. There is an optional 6-disc CD changer available, but we found that using an Apple IPOD with FM transmitter beats anything else hands down. There is no need to get CD changers anymore once you experience the joy of having your entire music library in the palm of your hands.

So the hot hatchback is back from Volkswagen. Does anything else compare to the R32? Well nothing is exactly in the body style of the R32, so if that is your main concern the decision is easy. When looking at price, you can buy a whole range of other cars for around the same price with similar power and more room.

So the Volkswagen R32 is suited for a niche market. The extreme nature of the ride and handling make us believe it would fit well with the younger twenty-something crowd, but many owners in USA are around the age of 30. We found that many teenagers absolutely love this car. The exterior look, with its low profile aero package really makes the R32 stick out on the road.

Owners of the Golf, especially in Europe, routinely buy a standard Golf and tune everything: engine, suspension, aerodynamics and the interior. Volkswagen looked at this and in particular, the growing tuner market in the US, and offered the R32 as a factory tuned vehicle. Right out-of-box, the buyer gets what so many in the past have spent countless hours - and money - doing. The R32 should meet the demands of this market segment very well. We saw it first hand, from the looks and smiles that this car got. The market will be small, but for those who grew up with the Golf, this will be a dream come true.

Top

Back | Next