It is probably fair to say that the Golf GTI in Mk4 format, with only 150bhp on offer from the turbo charged 1.8 20v, was a little disappointing, especially as the previous Mk3 had come up short against expectation as well. So when VW announced it’s range topping V6 powered Golf R32, built from 2002-2004, most enthusiasts approached it with high expectations.

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The R32 shares some of its underpinnings with the Audi TT 3.2 quattro, packing 237bhp from its 3.2-litre V6 and boasting a smart four-wheel drive system. It was also the first production car in the world to offer a DSG twin-clutch gearbox. The R32’s main rivals were the Subaru Impreza of the time and Ford Focus RS MkI and to keep in line with these two rally bred racers, it has a more aggressive look than the standard Golf MkIV, with 20mm lower suspension and a ground-effects bodykit consisting of lower side sills, a roof spoiler and a large front bumper with three big grilles to aid engine cooling.

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It’s twin exit exhaust system doesn’t just look the fantastic either,  it also offers a sporty, barking sound-track when the throttle is pressed and with the aid of the 4MOTION four-wheel drive system, the R32 blasts from from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 153mph. The 20mm lower suspension means there’s little body roll in corners, while sharp steering and 4WD help make the handling superb.

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But the Mk4 R32 isn’t all about high speed driving, in fact some of it’s best qualities come from it’s amazing low speed behavior. When you’re not on a track or twisty back road, the VW’s big, torquey  engine, makes around town driving easy. The R32 can easily pull away in sixth at only 1,000rpm, thanks in part to a peak torque figure of 320Nm at just 2,800rpm and it’ll run up to 6,750rpm with a total lack of vibration and harshness.

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 Although the Golf mk4 R32 weighs in at 1,477kg, which is far from light weight, it’s performance is explosive. The fact that the R32 isn’t that much different physically to the GTI versions of the Golf MkIV actually contributes to the appeal of the car, as even though it is more than capable in the twisties, it is just as practical for long motorway journeys and day to day living and driving. The R32 Mk4 is possibly one of the best performance offerings in this class, as it easily keeps up with the Impreza and Rs Focus as well as having great daily appeal with a 4 door option and the fantastic DSG gear box. It may not wear the classic GTI badge, but the R32 is a proper fire breathing hot hatch…and not just a trim level!

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