Until the R32 was launched, the V-engined Golfs have been more executive express than hardcore driver's car. The original VR6 was a once-in-a-generation paradigm shift, but was pitched (an appropriate term considering the failings of the chassis) as an effortless high-speed cruiser. As were, more recently, the mk4 V5 and V6 4Motion Golfs. But the R32 is a different bag of bolts. Everything about it is sharp, direct and urgent.
Late on a Friday evening I left the evo office, heading for central London, looking forward to the 13-mile dash to the M1 and my first taste of the car. Leaving Wollaston, the A509 climbs steeply as you head south. A good hard mash of the R32's accelerator left me in no doubt that this is a very fast car. Its punch is sensibly spread by the transmission's six ratios and there's even enough torque to quick-shift - after accelerating hard - from second to fourth or third to fifth.
The performance of the 237bhp 3.2-litre V6 is very accessible, although the ultra-sharp initial throttle response can leave you with a slightly distorted sense of the engine's true potential. It spools up rapidly and the torque is spread evenly enough across the rev range to make it worthwhile really stretching the engine. Turbo'd engines - such as the Impreza's - aren't as satisfying because of their on-off, pump-action responses. MD Metcalfe also wondered if it the R32 could do with a cruise control to help reign it in on the motorway; it's keen, certainly.
Second day in, I thought I'd pootle down to the local takeaway. This is, after all, a Golf, the ultimate urban statement of classless good taste. Grown-up, yet handy. But the first tap on the middle pedal on the return trip had the cheeseburgers buried in the passenger footwell. Strapped into the high-back seats, you don't notice the vicious efficiency of the brakes. Anything that isn't tied down makes for the windscreen. But again, there's a real sense that VW's engineers have worked extra-hard to really fine-tune the underfoot response.
The only other standout characteristic is the booming exhaust note. It's fine on the run, but between 2000-3000rpm at town speeds the resonance is overpowering. Oh, and the R32 is demon around Hyde Park Corner - surely the most extreme duck 'n' dive test this side of the Monaco Grand Prix...