Saturday, February 9, 2008

Takin' on the big boys

Well, yesterday I sold my GTI, which leaves me with just the R32 to enjoy. Okay, well, "just" doesn't really enter into it. The car is a blast, and sexy to boot. But don't take my word for it. Car and Driver's March issue has a comparo of this sweetest of VWs with the new versions of the Evo GSR and STI. 

Now, I understand that when it comes to performance, the R32 is not quite in the same league as those Japanese ralliers, so as I eagerly turned the pages to find the article, I braced myself for a 3rd-place finish. Not today, my good friends! The V Dub dropped a deuce in C/D, and the car that was shat upon was the Subaru WRX STI. I think readers woulda cried bloody murder had the R32 finished on top, so I can accept its runner-up status. And although the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR may have finished first, the article states that "two of our three-guy test crew admitted the R32 is the car they'd buy of this group." I call this a solid victory for the underdog here. 

Unfortunately Car and Driver is pretty slow about posting their latest articles online--obviously a strategy to maintain print circulation--so I can't link to it yet. I'll get that posted as soon as I can. But suffice to say, they loved all the things about it that I do (and that I loved about my GTI). The refinement and beautiful interior make it the luxury car of the group, while that exhaust note was characterized as "Porsche-like". An in fact, the performance that C/D was able to wring out of the car was surprisingly competitive. With a 0-60 run of 5.4 seconds, it was less than a second behind the best-in-test Evo, and over a second faster than my GTI (6.5 sec is the only published number I've been able to find for the GTI VR6). This, despite being around 550 lbs. heavier than the latter. 

As I was sifting through the performance tables that C/D so obligingly provides, I noticed a piece of data that exemplifies why I so love the R32, and VW's VR6 engine that prompted me to buy it. It perfectly illustrates the advantage of having a V6 engine so well packaged as to be able to fit in a small car. There's an oft-overlooked column in the tables that lists top gear acceleration, which is particularly relevant when it comes to day-to-day, around-town driving. In top gear (6th for the VW and Subi, 5th for the Mitsu) the last-place STI requires 11.9 seconds to go from 30-50 mph. The first place Evo takes 9.0 seconds to do the deed. But the R32's 3.2L VR6 engine blows those turbo fours out of the water. It needs just 3.2 seconds--quite fitting. 

Consider that the Tesla roadster tested in the same issue needs 2.3 seconds to do this. This is a car renowned for its instant torque due to its electric motor, so it's striking that the R32's performance in this regard is so much closer to the Tesla's than to its competition possessing 290 to 300 lb-ft of torque from their 4-cylinder turbo gas engines. It's pretty simple when you see that the R32's peak torque is available at 2500 rpm, while the turbos need to spool to 4000 or 4400 rpm to achieve greatness. 

Conclusion: My car rocks.

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