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Long term tests

Volkswagen Golf R32: 1st report: VW Golf R32

Neil Carey follows up his BMW 130i with a close rival in the Golf R32, but it has big shoes to fill, and a DSG box with which to do it

It’s been a long wait for my new long-termer. The three months since my trusty BMW 130i was taken away seem to have dragged on forever, but when I was offered the chance to run its closest rival, VW’s Golf R32, I thought it would be well worth the wait.

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It’s not going to be easy for the range-topping Golf, though. The 130 may have suffered from a big price-tag, a small cabin and a tendency to make like Skippy on less-than-smooth surfaces, but the way it did everything else so well means it will be a very tough act to follow.

The VW is certainly less challenging to the eye but, to those in the know, the R32’s more conventional hot-hatch looks conceal something special. That still hasn’t stopped everyone in the office calling it the ‘granddad spec Golf’, but I think that has less to do with the more conventional looks and more to do with the automatic gearbox.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but don’t panic. It may have an auto slider in place of a conventional gearstick, but the little paddles poking out from behind the sculpted steering wheel mean that this is a DSG, VW’s fancy dual-clutch system that promises instant changes and total control over the half-dozen ratios.

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Like any other petrolhead, I’ve always expressed a preference for a conventional manual, babbling on about being connected to the experience and the satisfaction of achieving that perfect heel-and-toe downshift. But this is the future, and every shift, be it up or down, is going to be perfect.

Jumping into the car for the first time, I selected D and the R32 felt like a very slick auto. I’d only managed 500 yards, though, before I just had to try the paddles out. Slide the shifter to the left and the small screen ahead of you lets you know which gear you’re in. Click the left paddle to shift down, the right one for up. Well, at least that’s the case if both paddles work… Imagine my frustration as I carefully cruised home, trying to keep the revs down on the factory-fresh V6, only to miss an upchange and see the needle hit 4000rpm. A quick visit to Autohaus VW in Northampton diagnosed a defective paddle. A replacement is on back order.

So although, for now, I’m effectively running an automatic that’s limited to 3500rpm, I’m looking forward to the next 12 months with the R32. And next time I hope to be able to tell you what a full-throttle, 6500rpm upshift feels like!

Running Costs

Date acquiredNovember 2006
Total mileage821
Costs this month£0
Mileage this month769
MPG this month21.3mpg
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