THE RIDE: Two-door, five-passenger 2008 Volkswagen R32 coupe.
DOWN THE ROAD: The "pocket rocket" has returned after a four-year break. Though only 5,000 vehicles will be sold in the United States, the R32 (as in Racing 3.2 engine) is a hardcore motoring enthusiast's dream come true. The all-wheel-drive coupe can scoot from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 6.5 seconds. The ride is thrilling the moment you step on the gas and hear the loud, throaty growl of the engine as it comes to life.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: Under the hood of the R32 sits a 3.2-liter V-6 engine, which cranks out 250 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 236 pounds-feet of torque at 2500 rpm. The 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox transmission is exciting to engage, especially via the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Suspension is handled by an independent strut with stabilizer bar and a multilink system in the rear, ensuring stability around sharp turns and curvy roads. The electro-mechanical power steering is quick to respond to the driver's command. Tire slippage is kept to the bare minimum, thanks to the impressive large 18-inch alloy wheels. Stopping duties are left to the capable power-assisted vented front and rear brake rotors.
LOOK & FEEL: The front fascia of the R32 sports an aluminum-color grille flanked by bixenon headlights with large mesh air inlets at the bottom. One glance at the 18-inch 20-spoke alloy wheels and you won't miss the distinctive blue-painted brake calipers. The R32 badge is prominent in the front and rear as are centered chrome dual-exhaust pipes. That this is an R32 also is evident when you step in and see the "R" logo on the backs of the front seats. Brush metal accents on the pedals, shifter knob, door lock knobs and interior door handles grab your attention. Another instant giveaway that you are occupying the seat of a speedster is the three-spoke, flat-bottomed, leather steering wheel. The trip computer, outside temperature and compass centered between the speedometer and tachometer is useful. The 60/40-split rear seat, which folds flat, opens up space to store luggage for a long trip.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, three-point safety belts, tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights, stability and traction control, antiskid system and Electronic Brake Distribution with brake assist.
OUT THE DOOR: $32,990, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. A DVD navigation system with an iPod adapter is available for $1,800.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 225/40HR18; wheelbase, 101.5 inches; length, 167.2 inches; weight, 3,547 pounds; fuel capacity, 14.5 gallons; highway, 23 mpg; city, 18 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: You've been warned. This isn't any ordinary car. The R32 is meant for performance enthusiasts who like to push the pedal to the metal. At the same time, it offers an all-wheel-drive system, which is a tremendous safety feature, an awesome gearbox and bold styling. Welcome back, R32. You've been missed.