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Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years (2022) vs Volkswagen Golf R32 (2002)

The most powerful production Golf ever made meets its V6-engined forefather

2022 Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years vs 2002 Volkswagen Golf R32
  • MOST POWERFUL GOLF EVER, YOU SAY?

    2022 Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years vs 2002 Volkswagen Golf R32

    Yep, in 2022 Volkswagen decided to celebrate two decades since it launched its first ever R-badged car. The Golf was the obvious recipient for the resulting special edition, not least because that very first car was the Mk4 Golf R32. 

    The Golf is also the most focused machine in the current R range, although perhaps that’s not so difficult when the others are based on everything from the T-Roc to the Touareg. Still, VW wanted to give its engineers some freedom for the celebration, and so the Golf R 20 Years arrived with a hefty 328bhp from its 2.0-litre turbo engine. That’s 12bhp more than the standard Mk8 R.

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  • THAT CAN’T HAVE BEEN THE ONLY CHANGE, SURELY?

    2022 Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years vs 2002 Volkswagen Golf R32

    Correct. We did actually mean it when we said the engineers were granted some freedom. The 20 Years was given the Mk8’s Performance Pack as standard, which meant larger 19-inch wheels (now finished in blue and matching the wing mirrors), a little rear wing and two special drive modes. Some extra thump was also added to the DSG box’s gearchanges, and the turbo was allowed to stay spooled up for longer to provide between 30 and 40 per cent better throttle response.

    Those extra drive modes are worth returning to. They’re called ‘Drift’ and ‘Special’, with the former doing exactly what it says on the tin and the latter optimising the car for the Nürburgring. Oh, and the 20 Years was rather handy around that fabled strip of tarmac in Germany – it set a lap time of 7m 47.31s making it the quickest production R model ever around the 'Ring. And no, the bonkers ID.R does not count as a production model.

  • BUT DOES ALL OF THAT REALLY MAKE IT BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL?

    2022 Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years vs 2002 Volkswagen Golf R32

    Well, even after driving these two back-to-back you’d be hard-pressed to tell that they’re siblings. Our gripes with the Mk8 Golf are well publicised and plonking yourself in the glorious bucket seats of the Mk4 and looking out onto the uncluttered, well-organised and well-built dash with its six-speed manual gearlever sitting just below really hammers home where VW has gone wrong with its latest generation hatch (and not just the hot one).

    There’s also quite the difference in noise. Whereas the R32 used a 3.2-litre naturally aspirated V6 with 237bhp and 236lb ft of torque, the downsizing trend means that the Mk8 R only gets four-cylinders and a much less meaningful sound from the engine bay.

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  • SO, YOU PREFERRED DRIVING THE R32?

    2022 Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years vs 2002 Volkswagen Golf R32

    We certainly did. Okay it may take 6.6 seconds to get from 0-62mph and it may stop as quickly as a runaway canal boat these days, but it’s so much more of an event. It’ll roll in the corners and the steering isn’t anywhere near as sharp as the Mk8’s, but that V6 is a cracking engine and there’s nothing better than big power unit/small car character.

  • HOW MUCH WILL THEY BOTH COST ME TODAY?

    2022 Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years vs 2002 Volkswagen Golf R32

    This is one of those rare occasions where values of the original car haven’t gone completely bonkers. You can pick up a tidy R32 for somewhere between £10,000 and £20,000. Do save some cash for the inevitable fuel and repair bills, though.

    On the other hand, the price of a new Golf R has got completely out of hand. The R is no longer the performance bargain that it was in previous generations. In fact, the 20 Years edition will set you back £48,095 before you’ve added any of the necessary options. There’s no chance you’d want to spec one without the Akrapovic exhaust (£3,500), the head-up display (£680) or the adaptive suspension (£850), so this is easily a £50k+ Golf.

    The 20 Years may be a special edition, but trust us, you’d feel a lot more special running around with a beefy V6 up ahead of your toes.

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