It's time to get some new metal outside PH Towers. But what's it going to be..?
We’ve had some nice cars being delivered to PH Towers recently. The trouble is they tend to get taken back again far too quickly - so I decided it was time to get something a little more permanent. After giving it some thought I decided a VW Golf may do the trick – fast, practical and fun.
The Mark V has been lauded in the motoring press as a return to form for the Golf GTI, bringing back some of the magic of the first two. The Mark III and IV were not so well received, with critics arguing the GTI brand had been watered down somewhat. The problem is (if you can call it a problem) there are two variations of fast Golfs that fit the bill – the GTI and the R32. Both hot Golfs, and in GTI Edition 30 form at least, both similarly powered and priced (£24,845/ 250bhp for the R32, £23,045/ 230bhp for the GTI Edition 30). The trouble is they couldn’t be much different underneath. The R32 packs a 3.2 litre V6 and four-wheel drive thanks to VW’s 4Motion system, while the GTI Edition 30 has 230bhp going through the front wheels. Curiously, despite the R32’s bigger capacity, it only just shades the GTI 30 for torque (236 lbs ft @ 2,800rpm compared to 221 lbs ft at 2,200 rpm). I decided to try both.
The R32 turned up with impeccable timing – it was Friday afternoon – giving me the perfect excuse to get out the office on time. First impressions were good. The R32 is not a flashy car, but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t have presence. Quite the opposite – with its Deep Blue pearl effect paintwork and ‘Omanyt’ 18” alloys it has a subtle aggression. It is a manual and looks classy both inside and out. The interior feels special with leather Recaro seats and turned aluminium inserts in the dashboard.
Turning the key ignites the R32’s party piece, its V6 engine. It sounds awesome, with a bassy thrum at tickover, turning into an angry growl at higher revs, complimented by a metallic rasp. The sound is addictive and makes you want to rev the car hard all the time. But for the sake of your licence, as well as your pocket (I saw 17mpg indicated), this is probably not a good idea. The R32 happily burbles around town but
when you want to it will competently cover ground at a staggering pace. The only problem is the R32 seems a little unsure of what it is meant to be. The 3.2 makes the R32 a great GT but the ride is hard. The all-wheel drive system makes the car heavy, making it not as chuckable as perhaps you would like. It is quick but never as quick as it sounds. There is a lot to like about the R32 though. As a complete package it seems to cover almost every base. It is fast, well made, safe and, in this blue at least, turns heads. And then there is that engine. For less than £25,000 it starts to seem like a bit of a bargain.
As I started to warm to the R32 more and more I was suddenly confronted with a curve ball. A red GTI Edition 30 (again manual) was delivered to the offices. The GTI is almost 200kg lighter than the R32 and as this is the Edition 30, it is almost as powerful. The car celebrates the 30th anniversary of the GTI (yes it really is that long) and so its 2.0 litre TFSI engine gets 30bhp more. This means it will do 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds and 152mph
(6.5secs and 155mph for the R32) and it gets ‘Pescara’ 18” alloys and this one at least came in Tornado Red. It is even more subtle than the R32 but still looks great, the lowered stance making it look more purposeful than the standard car. You miss the sound of the V6 but overall the car doesn’t feel much, if at all, slower once the turbo spools up. There is more feel to the steering and the car feels more agile. The seats, in classic GTI check, are supportive and there is a golf ball gearknob, a nod to GTIs of yesteryear. After driving the GTI for a while, and in the words of ‘our Graham’ from Blind Date, it’s decision time. Hmmm….